Monday, May 21, 2018

The Road to Maine

We left our house in Medina, Texas on Friday, March 2, 2018 and traveled to Weslaco, Texas. We were going to stay in Weslaco for one week but with spring break starting the next week we decided to just stay put for another week (miles traveled 309).

We spent the two weeks visiting friends, playing disc golf and checking out all the birding hot spots.

March 9, 2018 we traveled From Weslaco, Texas to Pleasanton, Texas (miles traveled 215).

This was a 2 night stop over to get us through the weekend.

Monday, March 18, 2018.  Pleasanton, Texas to Burnet, Texas where we stayed at Inks Lake State Park for four nights (miles traveled 139).

Mark played a lot of disc golf, had lunch with a friend and we visited his mother. We've volunteered at Inks lake two winters and have stayed in the park numerous times.

Thursday, March 22, 2018. Burnet, Texas to Athens, Texas (miles traveled 215).

A short 2-night stop to play a new disc golf course.

Friday, March 24, 2018. Athens, Texas to Homer, Louisiana (miles traveled 195).

After three weeks we finally left Texas. We stayed at Lake Claiborne State Park where Mark played 2 disc golf courses.

Louisiana State Line

Tuesday, Match 27, 2018.  Homer, Louisiana to Toad Suck, Arkansas (miles traveled 204).

We left Louisiana a day early to avoid impending weather. Turns out Toad Suck was having bad weather also. We visited the Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs and Arkansas was the 26th state Mark played disc golf in.

Arkansas state line

Saturday, March 31, 2018. Toad Suck, Arkansas to Branson, Missouri (miles traveled 151).

More disc golf, freezing weather, and tourist spots.

Missouri state line

Thursday, April 5. Branson, Missouri to Columbia, Missouri (miles traveled 206).

Clydesdales, disc golf, snow, birding, and a new water pump.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Columbia, Missouri to Cape Girardeau, Missouri (miles traveled 220).

Extended our stay because of strong winds.

Sunday, April 15, 2018. Cape Girardeau, Missouri to Wildersville, Tennessee (miles traveled 200).

Stayed at Natchez Trace State Park where we stayed in 2011. Very cold and windy.

Tennessee state line

Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Wildersville, Tennessee to Crossville, Tennessee (miles traveled 222).

Weather still cold and windy.

Friday, April 20, 2018. Crossville, Tennessee to Greenville, Tennessee (miles traveled 140).

Our first time at Smokey Mountain National Park. Mark played the #1 disc golf course in Tennessee.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Greenville, Tennessee to Lexington, Virginia (miles traveled 222).

Disc golf between rain showers.

Virginia state line.

Thursday, April 26, 2018. Lexington, Virginia to York, Pennsylvania (miles traveled 247).

Stayed at Gifford Pinchot State Park with 2 disc golf courses in the park. Extended our stay to accommodate all the factory tours we wanted to take.

Pennsylvania state line

Thursday, May 3, 2018. York, Pennsylvania to Binghamton, New York (miles traveled 215).

A short stay with lots of rain.

New York state line

Sunday, May 6, 2018. Binghamton, New York to Brattleboro, Vermont (miles traveled 202).

Disc golf, cheese and maple syrup.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Brattleboro, Vermont to Freeport, Maine (miles traveled 201).

More birding and disc golf.

Maine state line

Friday, May 11, 2018. Freeport, Maine to Ellsworth, Maine (miles traveled 146).

We have arrived! Green Lake National Fish Hatchery.

Miles traveled pulling RV: 3649
Mileage put on truck: 7773
States spent at least one night in: 10
Disc golf courses played: 24
Factory tours: 9
Tourist Attractions (not including parks or wildlife refuges): 5

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Say Cheese!

We picked up a brochure for the Sugarbush Farm in Woodstock, Vermont.  The brochure boasts “At the end of a scenic Vermont road lies a cheese lover’s paradise.”

Besides having 14 varieties of cheese - all with free samples, they also have 4 grades of pure maple syrup.

It was almost a two hour drive but with a disc golf course in the area we could make a day of it.  We hit the disc golf course first then headed to the farm.

The 550 acre farm was established in 1945.  It was a beautiful drive up to the farm.  There was a wonderful covered bridge to drive through.

This is the Taftsville bridge.  It’s a timber-frambed covered bridge that spans the Ottauquechee River.  It was built in 1836 and is one of the oldest remaining covered bridges in Vermont.

Our brochure indicated that this was a working farm.  We had the impression that they made cheese and maple syrup. 

When we walked in we were immediately offered a chance to taste all 14 samples of cheese.

We were surprised to learn that most of the farmers in Vermont belong to one of many milk marketing co-ops (groups of dairy farmers who band together to form a business to market their dairy products).  The Sugarbush cheese is made into cheese at a co-op cheese plant.

Sugarbush visits their co-op’s aging rooms and taste different batches of cheese.  They select the cheese they feel will age to the best flavor.  It’s then brought back to their own aging cooler.

Aging allows the natural enzymes in the cheese to continue to work and give the cheese more flavor and sharpness.  A mild cheese would be aged only a few months, medium 5 - 12 months, sharp a year to 2 years and extra sharp over two years.

The cheese is cut into large slices with a hydraulic wire cheese cutter.  It is then cut with a hand wire cutter into smaller sizes from 4 oz to 5 pounds.  It’s then wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it fresh then hand dipped in 3 coats of special cheese coating wax.

Each cheese has its own cheese wax color to make it easy to tell the kinds of cheese apart.  The bars are then labeled and wrapped in cellophane ready for sale.

After tasting a couple of different cheeses (certainly not all 14!) we headed outside.

Maple trees grow wild from natural self-seeding.  Where large groups of maple trees grow and are used for maple syrup production, the area is called a “Sugarbush.” 

The farm taps about 6,000 maple trees.  A tree must be a least 40 years old in order for it to be tapped.

We were late for the season which is late February or early March.

A hole about 2 inches deep and a quarter inch in diameter is drilled with a power drill.

A metal spout is hammered in then a 16 quart sap bucket is hung and a cover attached to keep out the rain and snow.

We did not take the challenge!

Most of the sap now is collected with plastic tubing.  Up to one hundred trees are connected together with plastic tubing and plastic spouts are driven into the tree.  The sap runs down the hill in the tubing and is collected in a large tub at the bottom.

Maple sap is the combination of water that is stored in the tree’s roots and natural maple sugar which was produced the previous summer in the tree.  The sap is thin and clear.

The sugarhouse contains the evaporator used to boil the sap down into syrup.  The sugar maker checks the thickness of the syrup to know exactly when it has reached the correct thickness as set by the state of Vermont standards.

It takes 40 gallons of sap, boiled down in the evaporator, to make one gallon of maple syrup.

We walked around outside a little while longer and had a lot of fun feeding the dwarf Nigerian goats (Peanut Butter, Nibbles, and Kibbles).

Peanut Butter was my favorite.

We watched the draft horses nip at each other for a while.

We headed back in to make our purchases.

We knew of another cheese company in Brattleboro where we were staying.  It was on our way home so we stopped.

The Grafton Cooperative Cheese Company was founded in 1892 by dairy farmers who gathered together in a cooperative to make their surplus raw milk into cheese.

In 1912, a fire destroyed the original factory.  In the mid 1960’s the Windlham Foundation restored the company.

The Brattleboro facility is a production facility.  It was getting late in the day so we didn’t take the time to look around the grounds. 

Production at this facility is 4 vats of cheese a day.  It takes 1,500 gallons of milk to make 1 vat of cheese.  They use 6,000 gallons of milk a day and the daily production is 5,300 pounds of cheese a day.

The inside of the store was very nice. 

We made a few purchases then headed home.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Haines Shoe House

With another cold, rainy day ahead of us we headed to the Haines Shoe House in York, PA.  They offered guided tours for $5.

The house was built by Mahlon Haines “The Shoe Wizard” of York. 

He also built a shoe dog house for his great dane, Countess.

With the weather I’m not surprised we were the only ones on the tour this morning.

We went inside and were greeted by the owner of the shoe house.  Her and her husband bought it a couple of years ago.  Mike, a friend of hers was our guide for today.

Mahlon Haines was born in 1875.  He moved to York at age thirty.  He bought $127 worth of shoes, sold them and used the profits to buy more shoes.  He built a shoe sales empire that included more than 40 stores.

Front door into the house.

The Shoe House was built in 1948 as an advertising gimmick.  The building is modeled after a high-topped work shoe.

It has a wood frame structure covered with wire lath and coated with a cement stucco.

It measures 48 feet in length, 17 feet at the widest part and 25 feet in height.

Every window has this shoe motif.

It is said he made his fortune by selling himself through outlandish antics and a flair for dramatic advertising.

It’s not certain how many different advertising fans were made but there are over 200 fans in the house now. 

Salt and Pepper shakers, shoe horns, makeup mirrors, shoe shine kits, etc.  There was advertisement on everything.

Haines originally built the house to give older couples who couldn’t afford a vacation a chance to get away for a while.  There was no costs to stay here at his invitation.  Eventually it was opened for newlyweds too.  

The sitting room or parlor was our first stop. 

There are three bedrooms.  One bedroom was for the invited guests.

The maid had her own room.

The chauffer had her own room.  She would drive the guests into town for dinner. 

The carport was in the arch of the shoe.  It is now the gift shop.

Even the original mailbox was shaped like a shoe.

Our tour ended in the kitchen.  It is unclear what color the original walls were painted because all the pictures are in black and white.

Mahlon Haines built a house across the street from the shoe house for himself and his second wife.  After his death his wife was left financially comfortable.  The rest of his fortune he gave away.

The best part of the tour was the history of Mahlon Haines.  The shoe can be seen from the road if you don’t want to take the tour.  By the time we finished our tour there were several people waiting in the gift shop to take the tour.

I did buy a magnet.