Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ocean City Memories / Part # 2

Day at the Beach
Ocean City, New Jersey
Part # 2

 Katelyn's First Trip to Ocean City
When my daughter Katelyn was a toddler, Susan and I decided to try our first family vacation, traveling to Ocean City, New Jersey to create some memories.  We packed up the car and I think we even brought along some Orange Crush soda for the ride, just for olde times sake.  We were on a tight budget and I remembered my parents saving some money when I was a kid, by finding cheap lodgings during our stay.  How much time were we really going to stay inside the hotel room anyway, other than sleep?  This was before the internet came into the American mainstream, so I was going on information from multiple brochures I received in the mail from various sources in Ocean City.  I soon found a really cheap room in an old hotel in the middle of town.  The brochure portrayed the place as a classic style hotel from the bygone golden years of Ocean City as a resort town.  It was only $65 a night but it had a pool and everything.  I threw caution to the wind and booked us for three nights!  It seemed like a win-win... they didn't even require a deposit to hold the room!  Home run!

Pictures of Katelyn and Tyler Back in the Day
As soon as we pulled the car a foot out of the driveway, a single raindrop hit the windshield... a bad omen?  A steady rain followed us the whole way down into the Garden State and continued to pour down in buckets as we drove across the bridge into Ocean City.  We found our hotel and arrived before check-in time.  We decided to park the car and check out the place.  Inside, the main lobby smelled stale and appeared dim with inadequate lighting, dark wood paneling, and brown carpeting that had seen better days.  A very large hand painted sign was posted on a wall by the front desk warning no refunds would be given following check-in.  We were having second thoughts but maybe the room would be nice, after-all we weren't going to be hanging out in the lobby.  The young girl working the desk offered to show us the room and we took her up on the offer.  Meanwhile, the rain continued to pour from the sky.

Escaping the Ocean City Monsoon
We went upstairs in a freight elevator to the third floor and exited into a narrow hallway with red velvet fuzzy wallpaper complimented with a worn bright red carpet to match.  Instantly, I noticed the wooden doors we were walking past were locked with padlocks!  An elderly woman was sitting in a chair outside her room smoking a cigarette with an extended ash that was at least a inch long.  She looked like she had been there for quite a while, possibly several days.  The hotel clerk opened our door to reveal a two room suite that looked like it hadn't been updated in thirty years.  The beds were more like iron cots, the dressers were made of faded wood, there was no air-conditioning, or television.  And the bathroom... Well, it looked a little rough.  All that was missing was the classic unadorned light-bulb hanging from a black cord overhead.  We descended back down the freight elevator and thanked the hotel clerk telling her we were going to the car to get our luggage.  We passed by the tiny pool that was filled with brown leaves from last fall.

Biking Down the Boardwalk
We ran through the rain to our getaway car and drove straight to the Howard Johnson several blocks away that luckily still had a room available.  We wound up paying almost triple the price but it was worth every cent!  Our new room was on the second floor looking down on the pool that was crystal clear and void of decomposing debris.  We dried off and took a break, watching the rain drops fall into the pool below through the balcony door glass window.  Later the rain slowed to a drizzle and we ventured out to find the boardwalk a short block away.  Despite the weather, the beach and ocean looked beautiful in various shades of grey from the exiting storm.  The torrential rain had taken its toll on the streets close to the boardwalk as they were flooded in several feet of water.  When you are at sea level there is no runoff areas for heavy rain to exit.  At least we were high up on the boardwalk and began to explore the shops, stores, and got something really good to eat. 

Watch out for Angry Mr. Krabs
The next day it was still very grey and overcast with intermittent showers but we were able to go for a bike-ride down the boardwalk in one of the classic four seat buggy bikes.  We didn't hit any bike safety signs, so that was a plus!  We went down onto the beach, which was practically deserted and Katelyn touched the Atlantic Ocean for the very first time in her life.  My wife took some of the best photographs ever contained in our collection from that morning, enhanced by the stormy skies.  We continued to deal with rain but on our third morning in Ocean City the sun finally came out.  Finally, a nice summer day!  By mid-morning, Katelyn started throwing up, and throwing up, and throwing up some more.  We decided to cut our losses and depart for home early.  We loaded up the car and waited to be sure there was nothing left in Katelyn's stomach that would cause her to throw up in the car on the way home.  She seemed fine and we put her in the car seat and headed out of town. 

Tyler Riding the Waves
As we passed the "Thank You for Visiting Ocean City" sign, Katelyn projectile vomited all over the back seat and beyond.  It was like a scene from the Exorcist movie multiplied by at least ten... I thought for a minute that our doctor back home just might diagnosis her as being possessed by the devil?  We drove three hours home with all the windows of the car rolled down and completely open, trying not to become nauseous ourselves from the smell.  Katelyn settled into her car-seat and drifted off to sleep... What a disaster!  Despite the hardships and challenges of our first family vacation, we were not discouraged from attempting future trips after the birth of our son Tyler.  We learned from past mistakes and booked a room at the Impala right from the start.  We made several trips with semi-success but we just didn't fit into the mold of an extended multiple-day vacation family.   

 Chillin by the Sea
Vacations, like Christmas, and most other events... are a lot more fun when you are a kid... because all you have to do is show up.   You are oblivious to all the planning, cost analysis, stress, reservations, pet watching arrangements, mail collecting detail, long distance driving, etc... As is sometimes said, you often need a vacation from your vacation, a few days to recover after you return back home.  Over the years we evolved into a day-trip family rather than leaving home for several days and nights.  I just could never get a good night's sleep in a strange bed and the kids missed their stuff back home, especially our pets.  It turned out to be a good fit.  We would leave in the early morning, and arrive for breakfast on the boardwalk as the sun came up.  We would hit the beach for a few hours, scope out our favorite shops and food spots on the boardwalk, and then head for home.  It was a little like a marathon but a lot cheaper and involved a lot less planning.  Another plus is you can go on the spur of the moment, avoiding bad weather and stomach viruses.  Our day-trips to the beach later spawned into day-trips to a lot of other destinations, many of which became the foundation for this blog.  All's well that ends well.  

The Rolling Tide
We still try to make a run at least once a summer to get our fill of the boardwalk sand and sun.  Glenn's Toys is long gone but a lot of the the old icons from my childhood are still in business.  Probably my favorite store of all is the Old Salt that sells all kinds of nautical themed gifts and souvenirs.  When I was a kid they had a real whale skull right inside the store along with an early diving suit with a brass helmet.  Those curiosities have disappeared for additional shelf space but many of the same items are still present for sale, including the old carved wooden sailors that my mother bought back in the 70's and still has on display at home.  And you can't leave without stopping in to buy some salt water taffy at Shriver's, where you can still see it being made in their factory on site.  A large glass window reveals several old machines making and packaging the taffy.  Back in the day you could only buy it by the box of assorted flavors.  Now, you can buy individual flavors by the pound so you don't wind up fighting over your favorite flavor with your selfish little brother in the back seat the whole way home!    

Where Have You Guys Been?
Every year there is something new worth checking out and I heard from a friend that Chickie and Pete's from South Philly now have a food stand this year on the boardwalk, featuring their famous crabbie-fries.  A new must-have item on the day-trip agenda.  Saltwater taffy and some fudge from Shriver's in hand is the signal to depart and time to hit the road back toward home.  Car travel is made much easier today because the kids can watch a movie on their individual iPods or other electronic devices.  Recently my son's iPod battery went dead and he asked what he should do... I told him he should look out the window to entertain himself, like I did as a kid!   It is a full day and you are tired when you pull back in the driveway late at night but you are rewarded by slumber in your own familiar comfortable bed.  Somethings you just can't put a price on!  Our three dogs and three cats may keep us limited to day-trips but we don't mind... aren't they precious? 

Thanks for the Memories Mom and Dad

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ocean City Memories / Part # 1

Vacation at the Beach
Ocean City, New Jersey
Part # 1

 Surf's Up
When I was a kid, the highlight of the summer was a four day family vacation to the Jersey Shore.  No reality television Snookie or The Situation here, just good wholesome family memories.  And no commentary to bleep out, with the exception of when we got lost on the road every year in Philly, somewhere around Spring Garden Street... Just ask my Dad, I'm sure he will be happy to tell you all about it!  Sorry Dad!  It was an exciting week leading up to the big event, with all the packing, planning, and recalling past memories.  Pulling out of the driveway without forgetting anything was quite an accomplishment!  The drive was long by kid standards in the mid 1970's, especially without all the electronic devices kids have today to entertain themselves for extended periods of time, while confined in the prison of the back seat.  My brother and I played games trying to count certain types of cars and reading new comic books purchased especially for the trip.   It was exciting to pass through the big city of Philadelphia and cross the Ben Franklin Bridge, giving us a bird's-eye view of the busy river filled with ships far below. 

Biking on the Boardwalk
To increase our travel efficiency on the road, my mother always packed a cooler with sandwiches to eat and Orange Crush soda to drink along the way.  Good stuff!  We knew we were getting close when we began to see small waterways filled with tall reeds and really cool privately owned boats.  Soon the bay came into view and we crossed the Stainton Memorial Bridge that could open up at the high point to let tall boats pass safely through below.  The signal to open the bridge put drivers in an impatient mood but my brother and I thought it was pretty cool to see the two halves of the bridge rise up to let a large boat through the gap.  In the early years we usually stayed at a home in town with a family who rented out rooms to seasonal visitors.  We often shared a common bathroom with other guests on the second floor.  This was a common practice back in the day and much cheaper than staying in a hotel.  When my mother was little, she remembered staying on the second floor of a car repair garage outside of town year after year.  Later, we upgraded a level up to the Impala Motel.  That was a lot more fun because they had a private swimming pool! 

The Famous Music Pier
The Impala was a first class experience as far as my brother and I were concerned because we often stayed in a room on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the beautiful pool below, which was especially cool lit up at night.  Another plus was air-conditioning, something my brother and I grew up without back home.  The hum of the commercial window unit produced a soothing hum that eased you off to sleep.  Today central air systems don't have that soothing humming noise, so I run a fan for white noise to help me drift into a deep sleep every night.  Zzzzzzzz.... The first official morning of vacation on the Jersey Shore we would head up to the boardwalk to take in the view of the vast Atlantic Ocean.  I am still in awe, when standing on the beach and looking out over the ocean, imaging that there is land somewhere beyond the distant horizon.  You can't help but feel small in the scope of nature, just another mere speck of life on the face of the world. 

Shriver's Salt Water Taffy
One of the must do morning activities on the boardwalk of Ocean City, New Jersey is renting a bicycle to ride the length of the boardwalk.  The practice continues to the present day, where the boardwalk is transformed into one of the most congested bike paths in the state for a few hours every morning.  It was a fun activity because you could take in the sights and check out places that you wanted to come back to visit later on foot.  You also had a great view of the ocean as the sun was just making its way above the horizon.  Sometimes the view was too much of a distraction, as you lost focus of what was right in front of you.  One memorable year as I was absorbing the abounding scenery, I rode straight into a concrete anchored metal sign that read Please Bike Safely!  Major crash with minor injuries with the exception of my pride.  My father thought me running into a sign promoting safe bike riding was hilarious and still brings it up at my expense at every possible opportunity... about once a month!   It was one of many stupid things you do as a kid that your parents just never let you forget. 

Ocean City Beach Patrol
Looking back, why would you make a warning sign out of metal and concrete and place it in the middle of the boardwalk.  Really... In my defense, isn't that counter productive to your message?  I noticed they are now made of soft foam or plastic and are colored bright orange.  The change in sign construction materials was probably made through legal litigation verdicts over the years...  I think I still have a winnable case in civil court against the committee in charge of promoting bike safety in Ocean City!  On second thought... Hey Dad, stop laughing already!  One morning of our stay was always set aside for breakfast at Bob's Grill, where my brother and I were introduced to Taylor Pork Roll, which is still a family favorite!  On other mornings. my brother and I would venture across the street from the Impala to the motel restaurant and order breakfast on our own.  It was such a grown up thing to do all by yourself!  Did we leave enough of a tip?

The T-Shirt Shack
The boardwalk was one of the best things about vacationing at the Jersey Shore!  It's kind of like a long wooden strip mall with incredible ocean views!  You won't find more different kinds of themed t-shirts for sale anywhere else in the world.  We always picked up a few, with at least one sporting the must-have Ocean City, New Jersey logo.  The most recognizable structure in easy view is the famous Music Pier, which is the only major building that exists on the ocean-side of the boardwalk.  The Spanish style building was first built in 1828 and has been the home to the Ocean City Pops Orchestra ever since.  The stage within the pier is also used for live theater productions and even the Miss New Jersey beauty pageant... sorry I missed that as a kid!  The Music Pier is a throwback to the classic golden days of a bygone era, still thriving in the rich history of the Jersey Shore.  

Surf Pounds the Pier
Back in the day, my brother and I would rent inflatable rectangular rafts right on the beach, while my parents picked up a colorful umbrella to escape the constant rays of the sun.  We rode the waves all day, while my parents relaxed on the beach reading a choice paperback novel purchased on the boardwalk from one of the busy bookstores.  We always joked that we couldn't go home until my mother got her hair wet, which usually happened at the end of our final day on the beach.  It was always fun to go hunting for exotic critters in the wet sand and pools of water around the protective rock jetties that projected out to sea.  It was a lot different than catching minnows and crayfish in the creek behind our house back home.  It was like we were on a National Geographic expedition in a far away land with marine biologist Jacque Cousteau.   My seventh grade science teacher Mr. Wanner would be so proud!  On one memorable quest, I was trying to corner a crab in a deep pool by a jetty when he got my big toe in his claw.  The pain was incredible and he wouldn't let go despite me howling in pain and hopping on one foot across the beach!  Mommmmmm!  After that incident, biology and science just weren't my thing!
Rock Jetty Barrier on the Beach
One of the fun things to do on the beach was to watch the constant parade of airplanes pulling their long banner advertisements high above the beach.  What a great way to get your message out because you couldn't help but read them.  One year we were watching a bright yellow bi-plane pull a banner high above the beach, when the plane began to sputter and backfire loudly.  Suddenly the banner separated from the plane, cut by the pilot, and fell from the sky.  Several quick seconds later the engine quit all-together and the pilot was seen jumping from the plane without a parachute into the ocean far below.  The plane went into a steep  dive and crashed into the far end of one of the rock jetties about a hundred yards from the beach, nose first.  The bi-plane appeared to plant itself into the rocks with its body and tail sticking straight up in the air.  The lifeguards of the Beach Patrol were already in the water, frantically rowing the rescue boat out to pull the ejected pilot to safety.   Spectators on the beach seemed stunned... did we just really see that happen?  The pilot was rescued and was rowed back to the beach, where he was received by hundreds of onlookers.  I remember he somehow appeared unharmed but was taken by ambulance to be checked out by a doctor.   Wow... what a memorable event!   Over the past several years, drastic changes have taken place on the beach as the rock jetties have been removed and replaced with natural sand dunes and accompanying habitat.     

Umbrellas Standing Sentinel
As the sun began to sink in the sky, it was time to pack up and head back to the motel with several hours of browsing the boardwalk scheduled on the evening agenda.  One of our favorite stops every night was a small toy store called Glenn's Toys.  They had a lot of miniature metal cars and trucks for sale, one of which was sure to go home with us, purchased from our saved allowance money.  My dad's first name is Glenn and my brother and I thought it would be so cool to have your dad own a toy store at the beach.  It seemed like a dream occupation!  We would hit one beach themed souvenir store after another, play miniature golf at Jungle Adventure, and hit as many arcades as long as our stash of quarters held out.  Then there was the food!  One night of our stay was affectionately called Junk Food Night where we could eat anything we wanted.  Mack and Manco Pizza was a top priority followed by a slice from Preps Pizzeria after a short digestion break.  It was a night of eating that was more like grazing from one end of the boardwalk to the other!   

Sand Dune Protection Barrier
After heading back to the Impala we still had time for a quick dip in the pool that was thankfully void of angry crabs.  It was really a treat to go swimming at night with a good chance you had the whole pool to yourself.  We would always set aside an evening go eat at the Point Diner, an essential tradition on our vacation itinerary.  This is where I was introduced to snapper soup, which I still try to order every chance I get.  My meal of choice was always turkey, filling, mashed potatoes, and french fries.  Hey, potatoes are vegetables and there is nothing wrong with a little Thanksgiving in the middle of the summer!  Our four days seemed to fly by far too quickly and on the morning of our departure we would always head down to the beach to look out over the ocean one last time to say goodbye.  We were sad to go but all good things must come to an end.  On the way home we recalled details from our stay, discussed what we liked most, and planned our agenda for next year. 

My Brother Scott and I on the Beach
Tune in next time for more Ocean City memories...
Where I attempt to create some with my own family.

Come on Mom, when are you gonna get your hair wet?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Robert Fulton Birthplace

Robert Fulton Birthplace
New Britain / Lancaster County

Farmhouse of Fulton's Birth
One of the famous Americans I teach about in my eighth grade American history class is a local namesake, Robert Fulton.  He is honored by having many things in Lancaster County named for him, including businesses, institutions, schools, and roadways... just to name a few!  There is the Fulton Bank, Fulton Theater, Fulton Steamboat Inn, and the Robert Fulton Highway... just to name a few.  He is most famous for being an inventor who created the first successful steamboat named the Clermont.  However, that is open to historical debate, depending on what craft really gets the distinction as the very first real steamboat.  In any case, he is probably the most famous person in history from Lancaster County.  Well, there was that Buchanan guy who was President of the United States but there isn't a bank named after him.  Apparently, when you are ranked as the worst president in history by most presidential historians, your market value goes right down the privy! 

Fulton Commemorative Stamp
I was curious to see if the Fulton family still had a homestead that survived and was pleasantly surprised to discover the Robert Fulton Birthplace was still in existence and open for public tours.  I was glad I researched the site online because it is only open on weekends for 4-5 hours a day during the summer months from Memorial Day through Labor Day.  The colonial era home is located in Quarryville area at the southern tip of Lancaster County, a few short steps from the state border with Maryland.  I was expecting the home to be right near the center of town where you usually find the oldest buildings in any given area but I was wrong.  The home was located about 7.5 miles out in the middle of nowhere.  Thank goodness for GPS!  I traveled south down the Robert Fulton Highway, which seemed more like a well paved country road.  I passed a small modern school building appropriately named Clermont Elementary School... I was getting close!

Farmhouse Front Parlor
It was a bright sunny summer day and the drive was beautiful, right through the middle of rural Lancaster County's farmland... God's Country.   Aside from the macadam roads and modernized housing, the landscape had probably changed little over the past two centuries.  I came to a bend in the road and the blue Pennsylvania State Historical Marker announced I had arrived.  The home was beautiful, an unmistakeable classic colonial home constructed with irregular shaped stones pulled directly from the surrounding fields, as they cleared them for crops.  I instantly realized I had a problem because I had my wallet but forgot some cash for the four dollar admission fee to tour inside the house.  I doubted this place took debit or credit cards.  I checked my cell phone and the closest bank ATM was a 12 mile round trip.  I ducked inside a small side barn, which was a makeshift gift shop for the local Southern Lancaster Historical Society.  The cash register turned out to be an old school... self-serve... honor system... little metal box with a small slit on top.  No way to accommodate my debit card here...  Now what?  

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin
(Painting Credit / Robert Fulton)
I decided to get out to stretch my legs and check under the seats on the outside chance there was four bucks worth of change... Just some petrified french fries, several used tissues, and a Taylor Swift CD case.  No greenbacks or coinage!  I got out and took some pictures of the exterior of the house and surrounding grounds.  I was soon approached by a friendly museum volunteer and we exchanged some historical small talk about the property.  I decided to play dumb... I'm good at that... and asked him if they took plastic for admission to see the interior of the house.  No dice... but after hearing I was a teacher and wrote a historical themed blog, he was kind enough to give me a quick walk through.  It is always my hope that my postings will increase interest and visitation to local historical points of interest.  The rural location of the house puts it out of reach to most tourist visitors, affecting the site's funding.

Detailed Model of the Clermont
Robert Fulton was born in rural Little Britain Township in Lancaster County in 1765 to immigrant parents from Ireland.  Robert Fulton Sr. had moved west out of Philadelphia, where he first entered the country and put down roots in the rich farmland near Quarryville.  However, his father was not a good farmer and the family sold the farm the following year and moved the family to Lancaster city.  Two short years later, Robert Fulton Sr. suddenly died, leaving a wife and five children without someone to care for them.   As a child, young Robert was very gregarious and was often known to tinker with anything mechanical, developing an eye for innovation and design.  He later found an interest in art and began painting landscapes and miniature portraits.   Robert was later apprenticed out to a jeweler in Philadelphia.  However, he continued to paint and developed a friendship with fellow local artist Benjamin West, who was originally from Springfield, Pennsylvania and had previously worked in Lancaster.  Fulton had talent as an artist and gave up his apprenticeship to concentrate on his art skills.  His artwork paid the bills and he was even able send money back home to help his family. 

Fulton Experiments with Steamboats
(Painting Credit / Quarryville Historical Society)
Benjamin West was able to help Fulton make contacts with some of the elite citizens of the city of Philadelphia and he even painted a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.   His artwork in landscapes and industrial sketches enabled him to save enough money to purchase a small farm in Washington County for his mother and family.  At the age of 22 Robert Fulton left America's shores to travel to Europe to take up residence with his friend Benjamin West, who had grown to become a world renowned artist.  How many sons could say they were able to return back to the Old Country after their father had departed the continent to escape poverty within a single generation?  He was proof of the American Dream and a living tribute to the fact great things could happen to those with talents in the New World.  In Europe he continued to paint with West but was intrigued by the new technologies being created in the realm of the mechanical world within the evolving Industrial Age.  

Backyard Herb and Vegetable Garden
English Inventor James Watt had invented the first practical steam engine in 1763 and made subtle improvements over the next two decades.  Many other inventors jumped in to apply the new power source to a useful purpose, including Peter Cooper with the locomotive, Edmund Cartwright with the power loom in the textile industry, and various others, including Fulton, who focused on steam powered watercraft.  About a decade after residing in England as an artist, he moved to Paris to focus on his interests as a civil engineer, learning much about man-made canals as a transportation system.  As he studied, he devised improvements and communicated his findings to contacts back in America, including George Washington.  Fulton's interests and creativity seemed to exist without boundaries as he began designs on the worlds first submarine.  After several failed attempts he received approval and financial investment from the French Government in 1800 to begin construction of his concept of the submarine.

Submarine Design / Nautilus
(Illustration Credit / Robert Fulton)
 The Nautilus was tested extensively with success in 1801, able to submerge down 25 feet below the surface for over an hour.  It was self propelled by hand cranks and was supplied with fresh air from the surface by a leather snorkel.  He continued to make improvements and even destroyed a ship target provided by the French Navy by attaching a explosive mine to the ships hull underwater.  The Nautilus was able to speed away from the target before the device exploded.  Many credit Fulton with inventing an early version the first torpedo.  As talk of Fulton's submarine continued to gain attention, Napoleon wanted to see it for himself.  However, he was not impressed as it began to leak and his opinion of Fulton matched his assessment of his invention.  Fulton was later swayed back to England who saw value in the submarine and did not want the French to further develop the concept.  Fulton planned to build his second version of the Nautilus for the British Government but there was no room for it in the Royal Navy, who continued to have success with traditional war ships.  Fulton viewed the Nautilus project as a failure and abandoned the idea all-together.  He left England frustrated in 1806 and returned back home to America to start over.    
Clermont on the Hudson
Back on American soil Robert Fulton connected with an old friend, Robert Livingston, who was famous for negotiating the Louisiana Purchase for America and later becoming the United States Ambassador to France.  While in France, Livingston and Fulton developed a friendship through similar mechanical interests.  They worked together to design a paddle wheel steamboat and tested it successfully on the Seine River in 1803.  Upon returning home, Livingston was able to get an exclusive patent for steam vessel service on the Hudson River in New York.  He reached out to Fulton and together they built the North River Steamboat, later named the Clermont by the New York press.  As she was being built, skeptics nicknamed the strange looking vessel Fulton's Folly, never imagining it would actually work.  However, on August 17th in 1807, the North River Steamboat / AKA: Clermont made its way against the current and the wind of the Hudson River from New York to Albany at a steady pace of five miles her hour.  The trip home went equally well and proved mechanical steamboats could be practical and profitable.  Livingston and Fulton capitalized on the opportunity, expanding their service with several additional ships.  The rest is history!  Bon Voyage!

Former Pasture of Fulton Farm
Robert Fulton did not invent the steamboat but his mind for mechanical innovation and creativity made the idea come to life.  It was an improvement that impacted the lives of everyday people and later led to two way travel on the Mississippi River with the iconic rear paddle-wheel steamboats of the Mark Twain Era.  The small stone house in Little Britain on the edge of the Pennsylvania wilderness was the birthplace of a great mind that went forth to make a difference in the history of America and perhaps the world.  He only resided in the home for a single year before moving for the first of many times.  It was sold by his father to the Swift family in 1766 who cared for the home, retaining the colonial integrity of the residence.  It remained in ownership of the Swift Family for two centuries until 1965, when it became a National Landmark under the care of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.  It is not a big place but the drive down the Robert Fulton Highway is filled with the beautiful rural farmland that defines Lancaster County.  Just remember to bring some cash for admission and souvenirs! 

Portrait / Robert Fulton
(Painting Credit / Thomas Sully)
Did you know that Yankee's pitcher Corey Lidle who played for various organizations over nine seasons was a direct descendent of Robert Fulton?  In fact, his middle name was Fulton.  Sadly, he tragically died in October of 2006 when the small craft plane he was learning to fly with a co-pilot instructor crashed into an apartment building in New York City.  He was in his first season with the Yankees, who wore black arm bands in his honor during the 2007 Season.

 Cory Fulton Lidle
(1972 - 2006)

Please See Additional Photographs of Robert Fulton's Birthplace at...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Boating on the Susquehanna

Boating on the Susquehanna River
Long Level Marina / Wrightsville, PA

Captain John Mattern and First Mate Emmy
A few summers ago my old high school football coach John Mattern invited the kids and I to go boating with him on the Susquehanna River.  John and I became good friends after I graduated from college and got a job teaching back at my alma mater, Warwick Middle School.  We were teaching colleagues and later worked together as partners helping out at home football games with security.  We had the important job of protecting the visiting band!  He has since retired from both and is living the life of Grandpa and enjoying his retirement years.  Katelyn and Tyler had never been boating on a river before and I wasn't sure how they would feel about swimming in the Susquehanna River since both preferred the hotel pool over the Atlantic Ocean on past vacations!  

Captain Mattern at the Wheel
We jumped in John's SUV that was loaded with snacks, drinks and various boating gear.  We made the short trip up to Wrightsville on the western side of the Susquehanna River in York County.  He had his beautiful boat stored at the Long Level Marina located on shore of Lake Clarke.  The lake was created by the Safe Harbor Dam, which was built in 1930 during the Great Depression.  The concrete gravity dam flooded the upper Conejohela Flats to store water for the nearby power station that generates hydroelectric power.  Over the years, the 11.5 mile artificial lake has become a focal point of water recreation for thousands of visitors annually.  Ahoy' Matey... We were about to join the ranks of recreational boaters of Lake Clarke! 

Katelyn Susquehanna Swimming 
We found John's boat parked in the storage yard and prepped the boat for action.  We unsnapped and removed all the protective coverings on the boat and loaded our gear from the car.  A phone call prompted a tractor to arrive that picked up the boat's trailer and pulled it to the boat launch.  It was filled with fuel and then backed into the lake with all of us already on board.  The engine came to life and we backed off the trailer.  We were now free to cast off on our adventure.   The star of the crew was John's dog Emmy who was a veteran of many voyages.  She was a Jack Russel Terrier who was all decked out in a bright florescent orange doggie life preserver.  She seemed right at home on the boat and kept us all entertained as we raced across the water. 

Emmy on Lifeguard Duty
Lake Clarke was beautiful, a wide open space of water that was flanked on both sides by tree covered hillsides.  We journeyed across the lake to a sandbar called Shad Island that provided a beach for recreation activities.  We pulled the boat just off shore of the sandbar and dropped anchor.  Now it was time to jump overboard and swim in the river.  As I expected Katelyn and Tyler were not so sure this was a good idea.  However, Emmy jumped off the boat into the water and climbed aboard her own inner-tube raft giving us all courage.   We slowly slipped into the dark water and were all soon swimming in the Susquehanna.  Katelyn and Tyler quickly adapted to the river and were even doing hand stands and swimming to the shore to explore the limits of the sandbar.  It was a great time!

Safe Harbor Hydroelectric Dam
Soon it was time to re-board and pull up anchor to set sail once again.  John wanted to give us a tour of the lake and cruised us down to the Safe Harbor Dam at top speed, which was a great way to dry off!  The hydroelectric dam had a super highway of electric wires extending outward and over the hillside to the power station.  Rail-lines paralleled the eastern shore where streams flowing into Lake Clarke became problematic for train traffic.  The problem was solved by building large metal toughs above the train tracks into the hillsides where the stream water was caught and carried over the tracks and dumped into the lake.  One way or another, there was room for all at Lake Clarke.

Water Tubing Across the Lake
Next on the agenda was the highlight of the trip, water tubing at high speed via boat!  I decided to sit this one out!  The kids however had the time of their lives.  From a distance I wasn't sure if the kids were screaming from terror or excitement?  It wasn't until we reeled Katelyn in to see how she was doing... Her one word response... Awesome!  Tyler was next and being lighter bounced up and down as the boat opened up near top speed.  He needed to hold on tight to stay aboard the tube as he had the ride of his life!  I continued to sit this one out.  I envisioned the boat at full throttle going nowhere and the engine overheating and burning up!  Maybe next time?  Anyway, Emmy kept me company, she likes her inner-tubes on the water stationary just like me!

 Katelyn Taking Off
The final activity of the day was one that I could handle with ease... floating in the middle of the lake with the life jacket on.  I can do that!  It was fun and very relaxing with the temperature of the current changing from very cold to warm every few seconds.  It was very therapeutic!   A storm looked like it was brewing up to the north as the sky turned dark with clouds so we all got back on board.  John piloted his craft back south toward the dam away from trouble and the storm did not affect our voyage.  After zipping around the lake a few more times it was time to head back in to the dock.  Tyler had the privilege of driving the boat back toward the Long Level Marina at a fast rate of speed.  In the mean time, John called into the marina dispatch office to announce his approach and intention of removing his boat from the lake.  Tyler was in his glory, sporting a serious expression of confidence as an experienced mariner of the high seas as he skillfully maneuvered his craft toward our destination.  

View of Lake Clarke from Wrightsville
Thankfully John took back the wheel of the boat as we approached the boat ramp and Tyler was once again in the real world.  A tractor with the boat's trailer was awaiting our arrival as John navigated his craft with precision onto his trailer, which was partially submerged in the lake.  We were soon pulled out and a marine employee pushed over a step ladder to make our dismount easy and without injury!  We ventured inside the boat shop to use the facilities and purchase some drinks for the ride home.  There was everything you could ever need for a boat for sale inside the store.  We walked with Emmy on a leash across the road to where the SUV was parked and John's boat was once again dry docked in its reserved storage space.  We spent the next half hour unloading our gear and re-securing the protective cloth coverings to keep the boat's interior spaces protected from the elements.   Soon we were on our way back home.
Limit / One Carry-on Please
A big thank you to John and Emmy for a memorable day on the Susquehanna River!  It was a great time and the kids had a blast and were anxious to know when we could embark on our next voyage!  I was pleasantly surprised as Katelyn and Tyler threw caution to the wind, relaxed, and tried some new activities they wound up really enjoying!  Thank you Coach Mattern!

Map of Lake Clarke Area

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