Tag Archives: scenic beauty

Civil War History at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

A close family member is a Civil War buff. Not a reenactor, just an interested American. We visited Harpers Ferry, WV on a gorgeous, early Spring day. At 60+ degrees, we enjoyed the sunshine and warmth.


Here’s our group with David at the left and me at the right.

The East has such beautiful, old towns. Harpers Ferry is carefully preserved for all to see.




So much history! Harpers Ferry saw the skirmish with abolitionist John Brown that is said to have sparked the onset of the Civil War.


The Federal Armory firehouse where John Brown held forth. Attacked by the U.S. Marines, Brown was captured and hanged.

Inside the firehouse. It appeared so small, considering it's importance in our history.

Inside the firehouse. It appeared so small, considering it’s importance in our history.

The town, at a strategic meeting of two rivers and the railroad, was important to the war effort of both sides.

At the confluence of the Potomac (left) and Shenandoah Rivers. The railroad and two canals (the C&O and the Shenandoah) also served Harper's Ferry and connected East and West, North and South.

At the confluence of the Potomac (left) and Shenandoah Rivers. The railroad and two canals (the C&O and the Shenandoah) also served Harpers Ferry and connected East and West, North and South.

We walked the railroad bridge across the Potomac for a hike in the woods.

We walked the railroad bridge across the Potomac for a hike in the woods.

Harpers Ferry changed hands, from Union to Confederate and back again, 8 times during the War.

The town on the hill.

Harpers Ferry, WV


Lots of interesting history was revealed in the beautiful Information Center.

Some in our crew had been to Harpers Ferry before and some were seeing it for the first time. The beauty of the day belied the tragic nature of the bloody war that nearly tore our country apart. Such was the effort required to end slavery and unite the States again.

– Jane

East Does Not Meet West!

You know the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”? In other words, we believe we might like something we don’t have better than the thing we do have. Well, that old saying does not always apply to cross country travel. Why? Because, compared to the American West, the American East is definitively greener. But, no one from the West wants to go there!

We have found, on our travels throughout the country, that this is true.

People who live on the East Coast almost universally, except for those who don’t travel at all, wish to go and see the marvels of the West. The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Grand Teton, Arches, the Redwoods. The list goes on and on.

The West contains landscapes of a staggering nature. Sheer beauty so different from what Easterners are used to seeing, it’s a shock to the system. A wonderful shock, to be sure, but of high, amazing drama. And, to know that all these natural wonders belong to every American and that we hold them in trust for all to see, well, you just have to go!


And go we do! Easterners flock to the West. But, Westerners do not flock to the East. Why, I’m not totally sure. I think they’re not saying, because “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.

We frequently asked folks we met out West if they’d ever been East. “Well, no.” was the number one answer. Most folks didn’t say anything more. Except maybe: “There’s so many trees! You can’t see but a few yards away, maybe a quarter mile at the most. I feel all closed in, in the East.” or, “It’s too crowded there. Too many cars. I can’t drive in that”.

So, the only conclusion we come to is this: Westerners don’t believe there’s anything good on the East Coast. We sometimes would tell them that we “followed Fall down the East Coast”. “Oh, yes. The leaves. It must be beautiful. I might go see that someday.”. But, they haven’t yet and didn’t make any plans to do so.


But, consider these facts, my Western friends:

1. Our country began in the East. John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson. All were born here and created the foundations of America here, in the East. There are buildings – whole towns – that are hundreds of years older than things out West. (That white guys built, anyway. Those Ancestral Puebloans built things long before white guys landed in the Caribbean.)


2. The American Civil War and the Revolutionary War took place on Eastern soil. There are hundreds of battlefield sites and there are structures still standing that saw the agonies of those wars. Come and learn something!


3. Our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C., sits regally on the shores of the Potomac River, waiting for all Americans to come see how our government works. There are many thrilling museums and monuments to behold and be proud of.


4. New York City. The Big Apple, huge and exciting, glitters on the Hudson.


5. Come see something moist, for heaven’s sake. The rivers, creeks, stream beds and reservoirs are full! Of water! Hard to believe, but true. The East is waterland! Down South is steamy, with hanging moss and palm trees. And very friendly people with a great cuisine. And they’ll show you how people used to live, before we found all that space, out West. Up North, you’ll find a different culture. And those famous leaves.


So, here’s an open invitation to our new, Western friends. Travel East. Stay with us and we’ll show you around the Mid-Atlantic. Just bring along some Valium – it might be too exciting!

– Jane

DAY 182 – 03/12/2013 – Two Last Ski Days in Colorado

“I noticed the carny nature of your trip”, said the gruff-looking security guard as he allowed us to camp in the ski area parking lot overnight.

I won’t name him nor will I name the ski area where he works. We don’t want him to get in any trouble for his kindness which I’ll describe below.

I wrote down this quote as soon as he said it. It was too good not to note. At one time in his life, he was a ‘carny’ – a carnival worker and a vagabond himself.

After we left Sequoia National Park, we turned Eastward for home. Marfa, the 4Runner, faced one more great challenge: getting back over the Rocky Mountains! But, David wanted to ski a bit more. We were right there, where all the big Colorado resorts were. And, we had a good line on a discount for some of them.


Up and up and up, over one of the passes through the Rockies

So, we picked one and it was a beauty! Fresh snow all over. Deep and puffy and so much fun! Certainly the deepest powder we skied all winter.

But, the one barrier to enjoying all this snow was the Tramper itself. We were in Summit County, a very chi-chi area of Colorado. We were actually rejected by the only campground open. Because the Tramper was too small!! Tiger Run has a HOA (home owner’s association) and I guess the trailer owners have an attitude because they live in an expensive resort town. Phhfftt! It’s still a trailer park, for heaven’s sake!


Soon we will say goodbye to the beautiful West!

We checked into the La Quinta that night. Seemed simpler than driving around looking for a place to park. What a nice hotel! (We have only used a hotel one other time on The Tramper Voyage. In Kayenta, on the Navajo Rez. Because the Navajo Nation has their own laws which we do not know.)

Still, we couldn’t leave skiing behind, yet. So, we decided to do what we’ve done successfully before. Park overnight on the ski area parking lot. Did we ask anyone if we could do this? Nope. Sometimes, it’s better to ask forgiveness than for permission.


As snow kept piling up around us, we settled in and made dinner. Then, an authoritative knock on the door! David opened up to reveal the ski area security guard. “There’s no overnight parking here. Didn’t you see the sign?”

Well, no, we didn’t. David got out and began talking with this gentleman, explaining why we parked here. David is one of the most personable people I know. He didn’t try to convince the guard to let us stay. He simply began sharing some of the Tramper Voyage with him. Soon, there was a smile on the guard’s face. He turned out to be a kindred spirit; one who had wandered with a carnival! He said that which is quoted at the beginning of the post. He could see then that we were not some 20-somethings who would get drunk and do something stupid. (Apologies to my 20-something friends who would never do this!)


Dawn. In our ‘secret’ location.

The guard showed us to another parking lot. A bit higher up. A bit more secluded. Nicer. Wow! I’m so lucky to be traveling with David. He connected so nicely with the guard. OK, maybe part of it was my sad face!

– Jane

PS –  In her ever accommodating and sometimes apologetic way, Jane insisted I “take a few runs on my own”.  I don’t always agree to those suggestions, skiing or biking entirely with her is a joy and only slightly slower or less intense than I’d do alone.  But today, up I went above the treeline and into a bowl.  A bowl is a huge open area of snow, usually “bowl-shaped” and exposed.  This one had filled with snow!  Lots of snow!  I like the exposed nature of these places as there are always surprises. High mountain winds can scour one place to an icy plank while, with a little thought, you can find where all that snow was deposited.  Several turns of each of my runs found that familiar ice.  I kinda like ice, having grown up skiing Pennsylvania boilerplate.  But then I found it, each run was also buoyed by the knee-deep glee of a powder day.  Bounding up and down til I was near spent, I laughed my way back to our meeting place before leaving the western slopes!

– David

DAY 178 – 03/07/2013 – Moab, UT Slickrock Bike Trails

So, we arrived at the world-famous Slickrock Trails in Moab, Utah. We set up camp across the road from the entrance.


Gorgeous campsite! Right across the road from the trailhead.

Even though it was about 40 minutes until dark, we tried out the trails, intending to ride more extensively in the coming days. Or, rather, I tried out the trails. David had already been to Moab several times before. He loved this technical riding and looked forward to introducing it to me.  He calls it riding on Velcro!


The 11 miles of Slickrock Trail routes climb up and down the petrified sand dunes, actually Navajo Sandstone. It’s not recommended for unskilled mountain bikers. The scenery is gorgeous, with the snow-covered La Sal Mountains as a backdrop.


David on the Slickrock

And I hated it. Really didn’t like it at all! To be fair, we had just driven all day to get here and were tired. We hadn’t changed into bike clothes, just put on our bike shoes and set out on the Practice loop. It was scary. I could not get up most of the hills. Going down was so nerve-racking, I hopped off the bike only to find that the metal cleats on the bottom of the shoes slipped on the rock surface. Gargh!

The formations are called “Slickrock” because horses, with their own metal shoes, did not have reliable footing. Not so for the rubber tires on bicycles and motorcycles. The rock surface is similar to sandpaper. Tires grip really well.

David is a very patient man. He was disappointed that I didn’t like one of his favorite mountain biking experiences. But, he asked me to try it again the next day, this time with my running shoes, for grip when I step off the bike. Instead of heading for the marked trails, we practiced on a big rock in the campground. And, slowly, I got the hang of it.


“Grippy” shoes helped. (even a pair of old platform pedals would have been nice)

We advanced to the Slickrock Trail. Now that I trusted the surface, it became easier. And much, much more fun! Lots of ups and downs and turns. There were white dots on the rocks to mark the trail, but you can ride your own course to navigate the hills and valleys, staying near the dots, if not exactly on them.


David was non-stop smiles!

Yes, the Moab Slickrock Trail was fun! We rode the loop one way, then turned around and rode it the other way. The next day, David went back out for more.


Moab novice Jane eyes her mark.

On The Voyage of the Tramper, we have found many wonders we’d like to visit again someday. Moab is definitely one of them now, for me and for David! Future “Moab Mountain Bike Weekend”, anyone?


David goes for the top, and makes it (of course!)

– Jane



A a perpetual student of science I find myself wondering about a fairly standard “human” thing to do.  We measure everything. Sure this is critical for science, engineering, medicine, architecture and a host of other endeavors.  But should we do it every day to Every Thing!?  Should we measure the things we do for fun?

Inches, stones, millimeters, pounds, grams, Miles, seconds, bushels, pecks, hours, degrees, angstroms, dollars, increments galore!


imagesI am not wearing a watch for this trip.  Somehow I wake up every day.  The sun seems to bring me around most often, but even foiled windows at a bright parking lot don’t keep me sleeping.  We’ve found when we leave campsites in relaxed fashion after a good breakfast and cleanup, it is almost invariably 10:00 AM by the clock in Marfa.  We are noticing the sun more, tracking the distance and time we can safely hike or pedal before sunset by “feel”.  Only for the longest or most arduous treks like into a canyon do we note the take off and midway times/points for safety.


We have a nifty borrowed device from John, a hiking GPS that can track, then display every step or ride we take, then plot it out on a topographical map.  Even play the trip back in fast motion, three minute time-lapse to show the “track”, the speeds, and the elevation profile.  It would probably even show little detours for drinks, snacks or sneeky bathroom breaks.  Then we can compare maximum speeds, means, and every detail for recreation or relocating a place.  We have used it for a few hikes and a few rides. Another friend Richard, showed us his “smart phone” app that would do the same for every training ride.  You can include a heart rate monitor and track every calorie burned.  We could track and measure every inch, every experience of this whole trip.


We don’t want to.  I am beginning to feel one of the forces that drags people down is measurement applied in unnecessary ways.  I don’t measure music, art, love or any of the natural joys.  I don’t measure a sunrise or sunset.  I don’t measure the compression felt in a ski run, or the sweeping glee of twisting on a trail.  I don’t measure my cat, nor my meals or squeals.

As a machinist I measured the thickness, diameter, length etc of parts in thousandths of an inch.  For function, parts need to fit together and be interchangeable.   A human hair is ~.003″, or about three thousandths, paper is also about that same thickness.  In the right positions we can easily feel this thickness, one page of a book slipped back can easily be felt by your fingertips.  A hair in the wrong place, like your eye, seems like a log.  But it is just these innate measurement capacities that eliminate the need for a tool to measure every thing.

We have a general idea how far we have driven at the end of a day.  Should traveling less make us feel it was not a good travel day.  Mountain biking is notoriously slow compared to road biking.  We typically spend over two hours to ride ten woods miles, including breaks and pictures.  Just because I could ride 30 miles on the road in the same time, is it wasted time?  Certainly not.  In fact, now that we are alternating hikes and rides so gloriously frequently, I want measure less and less.

See if there are areas where measurement lessens your joy and throw the bum out.  We’ve even had numerous events where trying to “get a picture or capture the moment” detracts from the actual moment.