Traveling Along with Steve & Jan
From the Hills of Ohio to the Valley of Texas
If you want to see breathtaking colors, come to Ohio in the fall season. Reds, yellows, oranges and a touch of green on the leaves greet your eyes as you travel across the state. The days are warm and the nights are cool. Ohio is beautiful in the fall.
Coming back to Ohio is a treat. Not only is the weather and the landscape wonderful but we have the opportunity to connect with our friends. Over the past three months, we have had a chance to spend some quality time with Denise Moore, George and Emma Williams, Jim and Linda Needham, Bill and Mona Reuscher, Jim and Barbara Daisher and Jerry and June Sloan. Over dinner, we have caught up with the events taking place in their families and shared our experiences.
We attended the wedding of Tom and Jackie Kozarevics’ son, attended a fund raiser for the Daisher’s son Scout Troop and attended a political fund raiser with the Reuschers. What great luck we had to be in Ohio when these wonderful events took place
Three months went by quickly. There was the new washer, dryer and sweeper to purchase, the trees were to be trimmed, the office building was to be painted and the parking lot was to be asphalted. A deep cleaning of the house from the basement to the garage to the second floor was long overdue. We even had a chance to rid ourselves to unwanted “stuff” by renting a booth at the Hartville flea market for a day. While at the flea market, we bought some fresh Amish bake goods, fruits and vegetables. What a fun day!!
One evening before Halloween, we got the courage to participate in a Haunted Walk around the town of Canal Fulton. Canal Fulton is home to the once bustling canal trade along the Tuscarawas River in Ohio. Today, Canal Fulton is a tourist attraction due to the horse drawn, restored canal boats people ride along the River. But, this old town is full of interesting and spooky happenings. Our excellent tour guide lead us on a two hour walk through the streets telling us about the eerie sounds and unexplained sightings folks have heard and seen throughout the years.
What a coincidence that both of our computers became tired and cranky at the same time. We had only am few days to order and receive two new computers before embarking on our next great adventure. Much to our surprise, both computers arrived in just the nick of time. Jan’s has not enjoyed internet access over the past few years as her computer did not have the capability to connect to the web. Now, she looks forward to researching subjects for our volunteer programs and obtaining information for her craft and sewing projects. Look out web here - comes Jan!
We left Barberton for an overnight stay in Cincinnati, Ohio. While in there, we had no choice but to indulge ourselves with Cincinnati’s famous chili for dinner. Two of the better known diners are Skyline Chili and Gold Star Chili. Each diner has its own unique flavor and taste. We are partial to Skylines version with the add-ons of cheese, onions and sour cream. What a gourmet delight!
From Cincinnati, we drove through Louisville, Kentucky and arrived in Nashville, Tennessee to visit with our good friends, Charles and Pam Davis. The Davis’ are the proud Grandparents of Katie Jean, their first Grandchild. Katie Jean weighed in at almost four pounds and has the most perfect tiny hands and feet you have ever seen. Katie Jean is growing by leaps and bounds and getting cuter every day.
The Davis Family prepared a delicious Thanksgiving dinner including all the fixings: turkey, stuffing, Cranberry salad, corn, cheese asparagus, green beans, mashed potatoes, rolls, pecan and pumpkin pie! What a feast! We shared some of our photos of our travels during the past twelve months and talked about the events that have taken place in our families over the past year.
While in Nashville, the Radio City Rockettes were performing their 2006 Christmas Spectacular at the Grand Old Opry. The origins of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular date back to 1933 when New York’s newly built Radio City Music Hall began presenting 20 minute holiday-themed stage shows with feature films. That show continued until 1979, when an all live 90 minute production was performed combining favorite material from previous shows with new programs never seen before. This year, the performance at the Opry featured the classics “The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, “The Nutcracker, “A Little Girl’s Dream” and “The Living Nativity Scene”. The show was spectacular and the Rockettes were fabulous.
At the Gaslight Theater in the Opry Plaza, we found ourselves in a winter wonderland of 1.5 million pounds of ice. The show was titled “ICE”. Before we entered the exhibit, we were given a long, thermal coat with a hood. Then, we began our self guided, interactive tour of ice displays such as sculptures, the candy house, an igloo and train all made out of ice. But, we were not brave enough to take the slippery ride down the gigantic ice slides. The glistening, all ice Nativity scene was breathtaking. It was difficult to stay much longer than 30 minutes as the inside temperature was 3 degrees. We decided to have some hot chocolate at the gift shop to warm our bodies. We felt the whole display was “really cool”!
Saying our good – byes to the Davis’, we drove to Hot Springs, Arkansas to soak our stresses away in the hot waters of Buckstaff bathhouse. The buildings on bathhouse row were decorated for Christmas and the town park had trees strung with flashing Christmas lights. Jan found a real bargain outlet for shoes. Muroe shoes are manufactured in Hot Springs and overruns or last years styles are for sale in their outlet store for a third of the retail price. It is difficult to find high quality merchandise made in America at a reasonable price. Plus, the outlet was having an advertised half price sale! For sure, we will return in the spring to check out the inventory of casual and dress footwear.
Many times we have driven past the road leading to Atlanta State Park. We checked the internet for information about the facility and we noted that RV’s up to 70 feet would fit into the sites. Oh lucky us! This time we thought we would have a day to explore this Park and the surrounding area. We drove about nine miles off the beaten path. As we pulled up to the gatehouse, we were saddened to learn that we had arrived during hunting season and the Park was closed to overnight campers. It looks like we will have to wait until spring to explore this region. After making a U-turn, we decided to head to Rusk State Park, where we will be volunteering.
One of our favorite venues in East Texas is the First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas. Trade Days is a gigantic flea market selling anything and everything your heart desires. Texas styles furniture and nick knacks, to clothing and shoes, to pet supplies and perfumes, you name it and you will find it at First Monday. So you wonder why this collection of new and used items for sale is called First Monday. The reason is this flea market is only open on the weekend of the first Monday of the month. Another Park Host couple, Walter and Nadine Evans, rode up with us and together we “shopped till we dropped”.
There are many reasons why we enjoy volunteering at Rusk State Park one being the Texas State Railroad. What better time to ride a steam train than during the Holiday Season when the train is decorated in the Victorian style for Christmas. For the first three Saturdays of December, the City of Palestine rents the train to run the annual two hour Victorian Christmas Train. Each of the three trips had almost six hundred guests riding! All aboard – we are riding the train!
At four o’clock sharp, the antlered steam engine pulls its eight railcars (a Texan take-off on the eight reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh) into the Palestine Train Station. The Victorian Christmas Train takes its riders back to the turn of the century when ladies wore bussels and feathered hats and men wore top hats and tails. What a dashing couple we became with Jan in her black and burgundy long dress and her black and burgundy feathered hat. Steve was dressed in his black tails, burgundy tie and black top hat. We enjoyed volunteering with the Palestine high school drama students and serving eggnog, lemonade, wassel, brownies and cookies to the riders. Entertainment on the train included a ventriaqist, a singing cowboy and cowgirl, Scrooge, a clogging elf, Father Christmas, the Grinch, Santa Claus and a Choir singing Christmas melodies. What a great way to enjoy the holiday season. We are so blessed to have been driven the opportunity to help the Texas State Railroad and the city of Palestine.
Our nearest city, Rusk, is only three miles north of the Park. For Christmas, the town’s square was decorated with zillions of Christmas decoration and lights. One of the town’s Christmas activity included the reenactment of the Nativity. The Choir sang Holy songs as Mary and Joseph, the three Wise Men and the Angels walked down the road to the manger - gathering to celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus. Another Holiday event is the Christmas parade. Although the night air was chilly, the parade was colorful and lively with fire trucks, marching bands, floats and yes - a Hummer with antlers on it - only in Texas! Together, these activities really put us into the Holiday mood.
Wanting to learn more about the area, we took a short drive to Mission Tejas State Historical Park and Caddoan Mounds. We also wanted to visit with Walter and Nadine Evans, who are volunteer hosts at Mission Tejas. We had the good fortune to have a tour of the grounds by the Park’s Interpreter, John Tantum. He explained to us that the original San Francisco de los Tejas mission was dedicated in 1690. A smallpox epidemic in the winter of 1690 – 1691 killed almost 300 people living near the Mission and nearly 3,000 others in the surrounding area. Historical interest was added to Mission Tejas in 1974 when the Rice Family Log Home was moved to the Park. Joseph Rice, Sr. built the home between 1828 and 1838 and the Home is a good example of pioneer log housing. Traveling the Old San Antonio road across pioneer Texas, immigrants, adventures and local residents enjoyed the hospitality and comfort of the Rice Home.
Caddoan Mounds State Historical Site, part of an ancient Indian settlement, was the southwestern - most ceremonial center of the great Mound Builder Culture which spanned the length and breadth of the woodlands of eastern North America for over 2,500 years – ca. 1,000 B.C. to A. D. 1,500. Caddoan Mounds was a frontier settlement of the Early Caddos, the western – most group of the Mound Builders. The Caddos chose this site for the establishment of a village and ceremonial center because of the good sandy soil for agriculture, abundant natural food resources in the surrounding forest and a permanent water source in the nearby Neches River. Caddoan Mounds flourished until the 14th century, when the Early Caddos suddenly abandoned the site. We toured the Mounds Museum and the burial mounds located on the site. We should note that periodically excavations will continue and with each turn of the archeologist’s shovel, more about the Early Caddoan life will be revealed.
We wanted to a chance to see our many friends in the Houston, Texas area during the holiday season. We celebrated Christmas with Jerry and Ellen Hopkins by attending a church program titled “A Christmas Spectacular”. The choir sang songs, the orchestra played music and costumed actors reenacted the story of the birth of Christ. We were reminded of the real reason we celebrate Christmas - as this time of year is an important event in the timeline of mankind.
While in the area, we stopped by San Jacinto State Historical Site to visit with some of the staff and volunteers, shopped at our favorite grocery store, Central Market. It was also time for Steve, Jan, Angel and Precious to don our Christmas Santa hats and garb for the Holiday Family photo. After wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, we hopped into our sleigh (red truck) and headed back to Rusk State Park for one more ride on the Victorian Christmas Train.
Our third ride on the Victorian train was very enjoyable and so much fun. We have met so many wonderful people. We would like to thank the Palestine Convention and Visitor Bureau, especially Heather, for making us feel so much part of this fund raising event. Also, we would like to thank the Palestine High School Drama Students for supporting and volunteering in their community and their interests in saving the Texas State Railroad. Riding the Victorian Christmas Train has given us great memories and we shall treasure our newly found great friends in the communities of Rusk and Palestine, Texas.
It was time to return our costumes and say our “good – byes”. We started the Coach’s engine and pulled out of the Rusk State Park campground heading towards our next adventure, Roma Bluffs World Birding Center in Roma, Texas. We can hear the fresh grapefruit and oranges calling our names as we drive south to the Lower Rio Grand Valley of Texas.
Do keep in touch as we enjoy hearing about events happening in "your neck of the woods”. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May the New Year bring you good health and much happiness.