Saturday, September 10, 2016

Sept. 10, 2016

Amana Colonies

Last few days we have been taking a sleight detour on our way back west.  Went to a small town a little east of Iowa City.  Home of HWH Corporation.  They make leveling jack systems for motor homes. Also actuators for slide outs and other things.  About ten weeks ago one of our leveling jacks broke a retraction spring.  Replacing it on the road at a RV repair shop or even at home would be a challenge.  HWH makes many systems using several different springs.  Choosing the correct spring and then having it shipped to somewhere and then installing if in fact correct spring was chosen would be a large investment in time and possible $$$.  I figured that we would be in the same half of the country and when traveling from Florida, Iowa is not much out of the way, so why not go to the source to get the job done.  Exchanged a couple of emails and when we left Florida called to set up an appointment.  Very nice lady set up a time that we could make by traveling a little harder for a couple of days and would get us in before the weekend (and a two day layover in nowhere).  Got there a little before noon Friday.  Basically drove right in to repair bay.  Two hours later, including their lunch break, the springs on all four jacks were brand new (turned out two different springs were required) and the system was checked out as fully functional.  They only charged for a half hour of labor although he was working on coach over an hour.  Fast, friendly people, and the job done right with the right parts.  Good experience from start to finish.

35 miles west of HWH is the Amana Colonies.  Group of small villages established by a religious group long ago.  Not Amish, Quaker, Mennonite, or other ‘name’ religious group.  One of the colonies is where the Amana appliances were developed and made.  Still are made there but are now part of Whirlpool company.  Although tourism is certainly a goal, the feel is more historical, educational, and hand made talent.  The colonies are home to a number of fine crafts.  Rug weaving, wood working, furniture making and repair, clock making, fine arts, quilting, wine making, craft brewing, year round live theater (non profit !!!) doing Broadway level productions, several very good restaurants (good hearty food served in a simple setting) at reasonable prices, museums, and more.  There is also a very large, very nice RV campground also very reasonably priced.  We stayed there and spent today touring much of the colonies.  Many of the establishments have craftsmen working in them during the week.  It was a weekend so we only saw a couple of spots with activity going on.  Visiting during the week would be a lot of fun.  Standing only a few feet from a loom weaving a rug for example or watching fine furniture being crafted from the shop floor.  We had a good day and saw lots of interesting things.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sept. 7, 2016

Helen Keller Birthplace

Last night we stayed in a RV park in Tuscumbia, AL. Happens to be the birthplace of Helen Keller.  This morning, before heading up the road, we visited the site.  Very nice!

We went early and were the first visitors of the day. Received a very good talk and tour by the very nice docent.  She told the history of the house and grounds (nearly 200 years old and looks new) and a very good enlightenment on the lives of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. 

On many tours we hve taken of historic places and homes the sites have been furnished with period era replacement items. Here, more than 85% of everything is original. Pictures, furniture, tableware, rugs, bedspreads (hand embroidered, pieced, and quilted crazy quilt that is the most impressive quilt I have ever seen), clothing, and much more. All the very items touched and used by Helen Keller and her family.

Highly inspiring visit.  I recommend  anyone anywhere near this area go out of their way to visit this spot.


Clothes worn by Helen Keller and her mom.  Rug (hand woven) is a gift to Helen from a foreign country – don’t remember which.  Bedspread is a crazy quilt done by her aunt. It is amazing!  Sue has some close up pictures.



See photo below.




Small cottage next to main house.  Originally used as an office but the Keller family lived in it for a while.  Actual birth place of Helen Keller.



Room and possibly the bed where Helen Keller was born.



The loblolly pine in the center background of this picture was grown from a seed that went to the moon and back.  The seedling was given to Ivy Green (name of Keller estate and grounds).  They call it the ‘moon pine’.



No comment needed




Stage near rear of property where productions of “The Miracle Worker’ are given every year.


If any one is interested, here is a map of our trip so far.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sept. 6, 2016

U.S.Space & Rocket Center

Headed toward northwest Alabama.

Stopped off in Huntsville at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  Very cool place.  Most are more aware of the Kennedy Space Center and the Space Center in Houston. The displays and attractions in these places are more geared toward tourism and  entertainment. Huntsville is where all the research and testing of all phases in the development of rocketry was and is done.  Outstanding museums clearly explaining the evolution of rocketry and space travel from the German V2 to the Saturn V and beyond. The emphasis here is more toward education but done in a very fun way.  Lots of hands on and simulators and interest grabbing displays.  This is also the home of Space Camp.  Facilities we saw for that looked like it would be lots of fun.


Mockup used for size and weight testing


Saturn I rocket.  Used to test many systems in preparation for development of Saturn V.  There is a Saturn V on display mounted horizontally in a huge museum building.


Lots of rockets and aircraft on display.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sept. 5, 2016


We are now headed north in Alabama. Today we spent a couple hours touring the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.  Very interesting.  Actual buildings - restored, rebuilt, of ‘ghosted’ – where Black pilots were trained during WW II.  Many displays, videos, and movies, inside and out, on the function of various locations on the site and on the many trials these men faced both in action and and at home.   Well worth a visit.


Further north on US and state highways (avoiding freeways) through eastern Alabama.  Sue’s comment, ‘'Looks like rural America’'.  Smile