Highlights and video from the trip together with some fooling around in GarageBand for a soundtrack.
Category: Excellent Adventure
Excellent Adventure Spring 2021
Excellent Adventure 2022 Final
Logging 5200 miles over 35 days, we wove our way along the Appalachian mountains north, west, and south again to visit destinations on my bucket list.
We headed north out of Florida with overnights in Georgia and North Carolina. The first stop was in Virginia and Shenandoah National Park and a drive on Skyline Drive. From there we drove through the badlands of Pennsylvania visiting my old nemesis Three Mile Island Along the way. This took us through the land of legends to coastal Maine.
We visited Acadia National Park and spent some time along the coast. We traveled inland to stay one rainy day at a stunningly beautiful pond in Maine on a lot belonging to my friend Bill. We then drove across the top of New England with stops at Mount Washington, New Hampshire, and the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountian. Fall colors greeted us along the way!
Driving south now we visited Watkins Glen and the famous raceway and state park there. Our new two stops were to explore my roots with stops in Pennsylvania at my father’s ancestral home in Snow Shoe and my mother’s hometown of Connellsville. Continuing south we drove through West Virginia and saw the New Gorge National Park along the way.
We ended up in Tennessee, near Knoxville, at the home of my friend Bill. We visited the Smokey Mountains and toured the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. From there I spent a day with my friend Laura in Georgia and then headed south to Panama City.
We finished up there with a great visit with my brother Dave and his family including my 10-month-old grand-nephew Theo! Back home to access the damage from Ian – fortunately not too bad.
Next trip – Excellent Adventure 2023 – The West Coast!
Babies & Butterflies 👶🏼🦋
Last stop: Panama City Florida for a week with my brother Dave and his family. Dave’s son Carl, wife Kari, and baby Theo arrived towards the end of the week.
We enjoyed Lisa’s renowned cooking and spent time in the Butterfly haven she has created in the backyard of their stunning home on the bayou.
Another great set of family memories as the Tubridy family marches on!
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bill, Laura, and I visited some museums in Oak Ridge Tennessee. Oak Ridge is the home of the Clinton Engineer Works, now called Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The uranium used in the ‘Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima was made here. The effort was herculean. The world’s largest building (at that time) was built and manned to hold the hundreds of machines used to enrich the Uranium. It’s known as the K-25 site.
There were other efforts using different enrichment techniques at other locations on the large laboratory site.
Today the Laboratory has very active programs. Especially for the production and use of neutrons for imaging and other high-tech application, as well as programs for our nuclear stockpile.
I stumbled upon a machine there which brought back some amazing experiences from my early professional work. My first job at Boeing was to test aircraft using a much more modern version of this hardware. Later I went to work for Hewlett-Packard which was making modern vibration test systems.
In the middle with the big dial is a Hewlett-Packard Oscillator. This was a version of the original product Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard made in the garage in Palo Alto in the late 1930s. One of the first customers was Disney which used them to make the soundtrack for the movie ‘Fantasia’ during the same time period. I actually did marketing work on the successor models many years later and was directly involved in obsoleting the product line.
We also visited the American Museum of Science and Energy which had very good exhibits on some of the newer efforts of the lab as well as its history and general information on nuclear energy.
Cherokee National Forrest
Located in the Smokey Mountian area outside of Knoxville. We drove up one afternoon to check out some waterfalls and the fall color. Lots of retired guys driving their motorcycles and Corvettes on a fine sunny day!
Rainy drive south
We headed south for three days driving in the remnants of Ian. Fortunately, it was mostly drizzling. It made for some almost surreal scenery driving through the mountain mists of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The mountains got ‘tighter’ in West Virginia and it seemed for a while we were always turning left, then right, then left,… Over and over again!
We stayed at a couple of interesting campgrounds. In Flatwood the campgrounds had a very nice amphitheater. I guess people come to camp and listen and watch the performances?
In Wytheville, the campground has a bowling alley! That was a first. It also offered some serious glamping opportunities in a covered wagon!
On the second day, we passed through New River Gorge National Park. This is an area famous for its white water rafting. We stopped at the visitor center to view the famous bridge covering the span in the mist. For a while after its construction the largest single-span arch bridge in the world.
The next stop is Tennesee for some time with my friends Bill & Laura. Great news it is supposed to be sunny (and colder) all week. I can finally dry out after a fairly wet trip! I plan to visit Oak Ridge while I am there. It is the home of Oak Ridge National Laboratories which had played a huge part in the development of nuclear energy (and weapons).
It was a very scenic drive leaving the State College area and heading for Connellsville just south of Pittsburg. Beautiful green, rolling hills with a touch of early Fall color.
We stayed at another large KOA getting ready to celebrate Halloween this weekend. It is on the Youghiogheny river in a hollow. A very scenic setting. The weather was cold but fair while we were there.
My Mom’s family, Mary & Michael Kovach, immigrated here in the early 1910s from Checklosovakia. My nephew Adam told me he thought they could be Rusyn Americans. According to a person I met, a lot of Slovakian immigrants came to this area as miners.
The immigrants were of an Eastern Orthodox religious background. A Byzantine Church was built in the late 1880s about 5 miles outside of Connellsville in Dunbar township. This is where the 1930 census has my mother living with her older brothers and sisters. The groundskeeper at the church told me it was the first Catholic church built out of stone in the United States. It was striking (and a bit out of place) with the onion dome towers.
Behind the church was a larger, well-tended cemetery with the graves of her mother, father, and several of her older brothers and sisters.
Mom came from a large family with 10 brothers and sisters. Her mother passed from complications of the birth of the last child, George. The father, for whatever reason, did not participate in their upbringing. This left the older children to take care of the younger ones. Most of the younger children were girls and married, and left the area like my Mom.
Like in Snow Shoe, I tried to make a connection with these ancestors while there. Wondering what their lives were like in this beautiful mountain area.
Connellsville itself was a large town – almost a small city – with a lot of traffic. It sits right on the river which makes for some scenic views. I visited the waterfront and learned the Great Allegheny Passage, a 150-mile hiking and biking route, runs through Connellsville.
This ends the ‘roots’ part of the program! Tomorrow we make our way south (through the remnants of Ian 🙃) through the Appalachians over three days and a long stop at my friends Bill and Laura Zweigbaum in Tennessee.
It was a quick trip to Bellefonte Pennsylvania for two nights while I started the ‘roots’ part of our adventure. A couple of hundred miles west of New York, this area was opened to commercial logging followed by coal mining in the 1800s.
We stayed at a nice campground that obviously catered to Penn State football fans in the Fall. A lot of unattended large rigs are covered with Penn State hoo-ha. They had a game the coming weekend so a few early birds were there. The facility was very nice, had a nice pond next to some horse pastures. It also had a rather elaborate set of tracks for motocross bike racing.
My 2 x great grandfather Thomas Tubridy immigrated with his young family to the mountains just north of here in what is now the Burrough of Snoe Shoe. His youngest son, Thomas Anthony, was a successful coal miner and his son Edward Bernard – my grandfather – went to college at Penn State nearby to our RV park. More detail is on my Tubridy page.
It was a steep climb to the exit right off of Instatestate 80 for Snoe Shoe. I identified three different places in my genealogy research: Snoe Shoe, Moshannon, and the village of Gillentown which lies in between. This is where my grandfather lived with his father and two aunts in the 1900 census.
I imagined my grandfather making his way down to State College where he attended Penn State in the 1910s. Did he ride a horse or have a carriage? How long did it take?
St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetary is located near the Catholic Church in Snow Shoe. Two generations of Tubridys and some of their children are buried here. The first generation headstones were in pretty bad shape but the second generation had held up very well. The cemetery was well kept up.
It was moving to touch the headstones knowing that my ancestors had once touched them too.
Moshannon is an unincorporated community about 3 miles outside Snoe Shoe to the northwest. Right before you get into Moshannon is the village of Gillentown. There is a large facility here that is part of the Snoe Shoe Rails to Trails Association. This provides access to the old railroad bed that was vital to the extraction of lumber and coal. Membership in the association allowed the use of the trails for ATVs.
I imagined if my ancestors would ride the train into the coal mining areas.
Moshannon has a Post Office and to my surprise a small memorial to the veterans that fought in World War One – including my grandfather Edward. Like the cemetery, the monument was well kept up.
I imagined being there when the locals including my family were there to see its dedication.
I was planning to visit a museum the Lions David House museum in Snow Shoe, but alas no one showed up at the time it was supposed to be open. It has a collection of memorabilia and books on local history – it would have been interesting to see what was in there.
I spent time driving around. It is rural, to say the least. Mostly nice brick ranch houses like I remember my grandparents had. Felt pretty red 🔴.
Snow Shoe had a pizzeria, a discount beer store, and a laundromat. There is a nice Catholic Church next to the Cemetary and a Firehouse / Community Center. There was a large veterans memorial next to the Firehouse. There is a very large area with baseball fields and a pool at the edge of town. Right outside of town next to the Interstate is a large FedEx facility.
I felt I had accomplished what I was expecting to create a better connection to my past. Makes sense given the fact that it’s really all we have, and all of that is responsible for me being here, now. Pretty ethereal if you ask me.
Our drive to Watkins Glen took us south through eastern Adirondack Park and west through rolling hills in southern NY. The KOA campground outside Watkins Glen is very nice and got big bonus points with a hot tub! The next afternoon for our visit was fair with a few showers after a rainy morning.
Watkins Glen State Park
The state park encompasses the gorge carved over millennia by a river. We could not walk the path at the bottom of the gorge (no dogs allowed) so we took the high road, as it were, on the upper rim of the canyon. While we didn’t get great views it was a fantastic walk and did give us some opportunities to see the gorge at the halfway point. The views, especially toward the town, were stunning.
Watkins Glen Raceway
Many, many years ago when I was in my early 30s I became a BMW enthusiast – still am to this day. The BMW Car Club had a magazine called The Roundel which I read religiously. It regularly talked about the racing at Watkins Glen.
The facility is quite expansive and set on a beautiful hillside. All around it are places to camp. I was able to get in and watch some Porches and one BMW racing on the track. Very cool.
This was another one of those places I had heard about for years but never visited. We ended up staying in the northwestern corner of the park near Lake Placid of Olympic history. I was stunned at how beautiful the area is!
There are a lot of resorts, inns, specialty shops, and other tourist-oriented activities here than I saw at some of my previous stops. Lots of places to rid yourself of those cumbersome wads of cash 😂.
We drove to the top of Whiteface Mountian in the afternoon. It was a clear day and the views were spectacular. A toll road leads to the top where there is a granite ‘Castle’ with an elevator to the observatory, restaurant, gift shop, and museum. No dogs were allowed so Jake and I somewhat carelessly walked the irregular stairway to the top. Fortunately, I didn’t fall and my knee held up better than I expected.