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2019-05-12 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Big South Fork Scenic Railway – Day #18

Our first excursion in the London area was to the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, about one hour south of here, in Stearns, KY, near the Tennessee border.  This is also adjacent to the Daniel Boone National Forest…

Stearns, KY, is another one of the many small, thriving, towns which died in the 1950s.  At one time Stearns was a bustling industrial town of 10,000 – 15,000 people.  Today there are fewer than 1,600 people here.  The only remnants of the town, besides the few houses, are the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, along with the few remaining buildings that were once operated by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company.

Stores adjacent to the train depot:

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This building now houses the museum; it once was the headquarters office building of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company; it also housed the telephone exchange and the local bank…

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The train was awaiting our arrival…

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We had a lovely drive again, through miles and miles of tree-covered hills as far as the eye can see… After we arrived and procured our train tickets, we toured the museum.  There was the usual assortment of memorabilia plus photos showing the once-thriving town…

We enjoyed our box lunch, then waited for the train…

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And here it is!

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The cars may be vintage, but they are nicely finished inside… Soon we were underway.  The train’s planned destination was the Blue Heron Mining Community – a National Park Interpretive Center.

Blue Heron, or Mine 18, is an abandoned coal mining town.  It was a part of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company’s past operation in what today is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service.  Most of what we know about life at Blue Heron, and the other Stearns coal towns, has been handed down through oral history.  Blue Heron mine operated from 1937 until it closed in December
1962.  During that time hundreds of people lived and worked in the isolated community on the banks of the Big South Fork River.  Their story is the focus of this interpretive tour of the Blue Heron Community.

When the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company abandoned Blue Heron in 1962, the buildings were either removed or they lapsed into decay.  There were no original buildings standing when the town was “re-created” as an interpretive center in the 1980s.  Consequently, the town was restored in an “open-air” museum format, and new structures were constructed on the approximate site of several of the original buildings. These new structures are open, metal shells of buildings, and are referred to as “ghost structures.”  Each ghost structure has an audio-tape station with recorded recollections of some of the people of Mine 18.

Unfortunately, recent winter storms damaged the train tracks, so Blue Heron is no longer reached by the railroad.  Big South Fork Scenic Railway is now the railroad to nowhere.  We rode about 1/2 hour, enjoying the scenery…

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Some passengers took a nap…

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Plenty of green…

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And wet… The train announcer told us that yesterday the creek was running slow and crystal clear… Remember the rain we had last night?

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And then the train stopped, and we backed up for 1/2 hour until we returned to the depot.  Some caravanners drove on to Blue Heron, but we, and others, returned to the campground…

There were many happy hours groups at several of the Airstreams this evening.  Some Airstreamers were happier than others…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-26 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY – Day #2

After raining all night we awoke to a lovely morning.  We carpooled to the National Corvette Museum.  Not only were we Airstreamers doing this tour today, but it was the 25th anniversary of the museum and hundreds of Corvette owners were coming to gather as well…

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Even our campground was not immune to this invasion of Corvettes…

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The museum is located only a quarter mile from the Bowling Green Assembly Plant, where Corvettes have been made since 1981.  Unfortunately, the plant is closed for re-tooling; rumor has it that the newest model Corvette will be revealed at this event this weekend…

(Spoiler Alert:  Yes, the new C-8 Corvette, with a mid-engine configuration, was revealed at the Museum on 4/27/19!)

This yellow structure is called the “Skydome”.  It contains a large exhibit hall inside, as an addition to the main museum.  More about the Skydome later…

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We gathered in front of the museum for a group photo, then went inside for a tour.

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The exhibits started with a display of a 1953 Corvette, showing its innovative framework and chassis design.  Note how light the structural framework is.  These cars were clearly designed for performance, not for safety…

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We proceeded through the exhibits, seeing the Corvette design evolve.  The first years were difficult, and very few cars sold in 1953-1955, but the 1956 model caught on and sales sky-rocketed.  However, they have never reached the 1,000,000 cars per year that were originally envisioned…

The 1956 – 1962 years (Model C-2, as the aficionados call it) are my favorite Corvettes…

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This is the interior of the Skydome:

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A particularly interesting exhibit centers around an event that happened a few years ago…

On February 12, 2014, a sinkhole (40-foot-wide and 25-foot-deep) opened under the floor of the Skydome area of the museum.  Video from the museum’s security camera shows the collapse occurring at 5:38 AM local time.  Since this did not occur during visiting hours no one was injured although much of the Skydome area concrete floor collapsed.  Eight rare and one-of-a-kind Corvettes, portions of the display stands and rails, large concrete floor slabs, boulders, and dirt fell into the sinkhole, causing serious damage to all eight of the Corvettes.  The Corvettes involved had an estimated value of a million dollars.  The remaining 20 cars in the Skydome were immediately removed from that area.  All eight of the Corvettes were recovered from the sinkhole.

Exploration in the sinkhole discovered a cave passage 80 feet below the Skydome floor and that this previously unknown cave had an unstable area in its roof that collapsed.  Apparently, when the museum was built, a large storm water retention basin was dug adjacent to the Skydome, which altered the flow of ground water under the museum.  This change in geologic activity contributed to the cave collapse.

The Skydome reopened after repairs were completed on September 3, 2015.  The eight Corvettes are displayed in their original location at the time of the collapse, although only three of them have been repaired/restored.  The other five were deemed too damaged to be repaired, so they are displayed is their “as found” condition…  It is a remarkable thing to see!

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We continued to look at the displayed until lunch happened…

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After lunch we visited the Historic Rail Park, located at the historic L & N train depot…

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It was great fun…

There were model railroad exhibits that little kids really love…

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There were historic exhibits inside the museum; but the best part was the train!

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We were able to go through all the cars…

First was the engine (with the engines and generators removed…). We also could go into the cockpit and sit in the engineer’s seat.  No steering wheel!

This is the Post Office car…

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The dining car…

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The kitchen…

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We saw a 3rd class Pullman sleeping berths, the 2nd class “roomettes”, and the private bedrooms in 1st class.  Finally we saw the private car of the L & N president, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room and a parlor, plus observation platform at the rear.  This car was used by Herbert Hoover during his presidential campaign.

We also saw cars that are not on display; a caboose…

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And a hospital car, used to transport injured troops from WWII and the Korean conflict…

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We returned to the Villa in time to prepare for the first GAM – Get Acquainted Meeting.  As luck would have it, we already knew these four couples…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-04-18 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Columbia, SC…

This morning we met the VanZanens at the zoo… And you know how much I love zoos!

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Just a reminder:  Flamingos have nothing to do with Airstreams!  There is no connection, no tradition, no reason to wear flamingo-emblazoned clothing, no reason to install flamingos around your Airstream!

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Feeding the giraffe!

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After the zoo we went to downtown Columbia…

First Presbyterian Church:

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The church is surrounded by  a cemetery, dating back to the early 19th century.  Woodrow Wilson’s parents are buried here, as is the wife and four children of a man who went back to Connecticut in 1855 because he was a northerner and was unhappy with the political climate in South Carolina.  There are also numerous political figures, ministers, and church families.  Very interesting!

We then walked to the capitol building; great story on the plaque about the construction and destruction… Note that one of the broken columns from the capitol was used as a confederate memorial in the Presbyterian church cemetery…

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Lynda and Maria with George Washington…

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Inside the main lobby, looking up at the rotunda…

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Legislative chambers of the SC House of Representatives… when we arrived into the lobby it was packed with men and women in suits; the House had just adjourned; the Senate was still in session…

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We exited through the main portico and continued walking through downtown…

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Soon lunch happened at the Blue Marlin; very nice!  It is located in the old train station…

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After enjoying the streets of downtown we drove a short ways to a river-walk; we walked about 1/2 mile down, then back up along the river…

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We reconvened at Brent’s house and enjoyed happy hours; more family time…

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We returned to the Villa; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-09-14 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 27 – Bryce Canyon National Park

We slept in a bit today, then caught the shuttle into Bryce Canyon National Park…

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Bryce Canyon National Park  is an national park located in southwestern Utah. The major feature of the park is Bryce Canyon, which despite its name, is not a canyon, but a collection of giant natural amphitheaters along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange, and white colors of the rocks provide spectacular views for park visitors.  The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet.

The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874.  The area around Bryce Canyon was originally designated as a national monument by President Warren G. Harding in 1923 and was redesignated as a national park by Congress in 1928. The park covers 35,835 acres…

We took the shuttle around the main amphitheater to Bryce Point, elev. 8,300′.  We walked the Rim Trail, overlooking the amphitheater.  Along the way we passed Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point, elev. 8,000′.  Along the way were several ups and downs, so we had our fair share of elevation change.

Needless to say, the views were spectacular.  All along the way we saw, well, rocks…

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We found a spot to rest from time to time…

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And, in the event we need a picture of me for my funeral, we have this…

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We kept walking and saw amazing things…

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See the hands…

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See the cathedral with flying buttresses…

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This was the viewpoint at Bryce Point, where we started…

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Single photos don’t do it justice, so I was forced to use the panorama mode…

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This is where the path is on the ridge, with the amphitheater on one side and forest on the other…

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We arrived at the end of today’s trail…

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We found our way to the Lodge – typical National Park Lodge, only smaller.

The Bryce Canyon Lodge was built by the Utah Parks Company, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad, as part of the railroad’s project to develop tourist traffic to Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon by providing noteworthy destination hotels at each park.  The Union Pacific was following in the footsteps of other railroads’ efforts to promote the western parks of the United States and Canada.  Architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood was in charge of the design work for the Union Pacific hotels.  Construction at the Bryce Lodge started in 1924 and was completed in the early summer of 1925. The guest wings were added in 1926 and the auditorium in 1927.  Tourists were brought by train to Cedar City, Utah, where they were taken by custom 11 passenger bus-limousines to the various national park lodges.

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We had a nice lunch to refresh ourselves after the ordeal of our “hike”…

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After lunch we peaked around the lodge to see what we could see…

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We returned to the RV Park, via the shuttle, and rested up for our evening out.

Tonight we go to Ebeneezers Cowboy Barn and Grill, for dinner and a show.  This has been a tradition of the Southwest Caravan for many years.  Remember that Ebeneezer Bryce settled this land, so the name is an homage to him… It is a very large dining room (approximately 300-400 people), not exactly a barn, but certainly as ugly as one…

Even though it is less than a mile from the RV park, everyone has to drive their truck… Because, Utah…

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We waited outside until they opened the doors…

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We did get a table up front.  I wasn’t sure if this was a good idea, or not…

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We shared the table with three other Airstream couples…

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The food was quite good for a mass buffet, and the “band” (three guitar players/singers) was very talented.  They made the show seem very casual and improvised and addressed directly to us, the audience.  However, I would hazard a guess that if we returned tomorrow night we would see the EXACT same casual and improvised show…

We returned to The Villa and turned in…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-08-29 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 11 – Silverton

We were up early and out the door at 6:00 am.  We hitched a ride with another Airstream couple, and safely arrived back in Durango.  We parked, found the depot, and picked up our tickets.  A visit to Starbucks for some early morning fortification was also in order…

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Then we waited for the arrival of the… Bus!

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Yes – we had to take the bus to the train…

Durango was organized in September 1880 to serve the San Juan mining district. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) chose the site on the Animas River for its depot following a brief and most likely perfunctory negotiation with Animas City, two miles to the north. 

The railroad arrived in Durango on August 5, 1881 and construction on the line to Silverton began in the fall of the same year. By July of 1882, the tracks to Silverton were completed, and the train began hauling both freight and passengers.

The line was constructed to haul silver & gold ore from Southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, but passengers soon realized it was the view that was truly precious.

This historic train has been in continuous operation between Durango and Silverton since 1882, carrying passengers behind vintage steam locomotives and rolling stock indigenous to the line. The ride today offers a view of Colorado’s mountain splendor  inaccessible by highway.

So after about 30 minutes we arrived at Rockwood station, the OTHER train depot.  It seems that mudslides this past July (due to wild fires) have damaged the tracks between Durango and the Rockwood station; this is where we found the train.

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We boarded the train and found our seats.  We opted for an open car so that we could take photos…

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But the enclosed cars were very nice as well…

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The train takes about 2 1/2 hours from here to get to Silverton.  It uses 10,000 gallons of water for each round trip.  We will stop twice to take on water… It also uses 6 1/2 tons of coal (hand-shoveled) to make each round trip…

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As we pulled out of the station the view was less than spectacular…

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Then we turned around and saw what going on on the other side of the train…

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For the next 2 2/1 hours we had views like this – mountains, the Animas River, bridges, rocks… I have 5,000 more photos if you are interested… I’ll try to be gentle here…

Here we are stopping for water… The spigot is ingenious – as the fireman on the train pulls down the spigot it mechanically opens the valve to let the water flow…

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We soon came to that part of the river that has still not recovered from the toxic waste “spill” that the EPA intentionally released into the river about three years ago…

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As we approached Silverton we saw the remnants of an old mine…

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The town of Silverton is the county seat of, and the only incorporated municipality in, San Juan County, Colorado.  Silverton is a former silver mining camp, most or all of which is now included in a federally designated National Historic Landmark District. The town population is about 600, and it is at an elevation of 9,318′

The town is about as old west as it gets – many streets are unpaved, buildings are, or look like they are, very old, very old west “architecture”.  Most buildings are gift shops or restaurants, plus the marijuana dispensary…

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We ate lunch at Handlebar’s Restaurant and Saloon…

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After strolling the streets of Silverton and looking at all the junk for sale in the gift shops we returned to wait for the train…

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We boarded and enjoyed the same trip as earlier in the day, only backwards…

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After we de-trained we rode the bus back to Durango, then rode back to the RV Park.  We crashed… and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-08-28 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 10 – Durango

We had a free day in Durango.  We took it easy and caught up on a few chores…

We drove into Durango, about 6 miles away.  We checked out the location of the train depot and parking – tomorrow we will be riding the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Rail Road to Silverton, about 45 miles (driving distance) north of here….

After being satisfied that we could find the depot tomorrow morning at 7:00 am, we walked up and down Main Avenue…

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For lunch we stopped in at Ken and Sue’s Restaurant.  Very nice contemporary cuisine – what we most often like.  I had fabulous angel hair pasta with shrimp and sun dried tomatoes and Lynda had a very innovative pot pie.. We shared a nice bottle of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir…

Back at the RV Park, we relaxed and did nothing.  At 5:00 we had another Fandango, where we enjoyed happy hours and met two more Airstream couples.

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We turned in early; we need to be ready to go in the morning at 6:30 am…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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