I confess, I haven’t been really good about writing blog posts lately. Between a lot of short trips with quick overnight stays, doing a lot of sightseeing, having way too much fun and spending time with friends each day, it hasn’t been conducive to my usual long winded tales of our travels. Good thing we take a lot of photos to help us remember everything we did along the way!
This post focuses on some of the fun things we did along the way between Ohio and New York State, so if you happen to be heading in either direction between those areas check it out! Below is a map of our route with the featured things to do shown as green stars – Click the [ ] symbol in the top right corner to open in a full window, then zoom in for details. The red balloons represent our overnight stops.
After leaving Entegra at the end of April on our trek back to RI for the summer, we headed southeast from Indiana into Ohio. Since Betsy & Nancy were heading in the same direction we decided to caravan with each other, something neither of us had done before. We were never keen on the concept of caravaning prior to this, but wow! What a fun time we had! We stopped at places and did things we might never have done otherwise! Must have been the great company that made it so fun!
On the first leg of our journey we passed through Van Wert county in Ohio on US-30 (population approx. 29,000). Now that doesn’t sound all that exciting, but suddenly wow, everywhere we looked (hard to capture in a photo), there were huge wind turbines rising from the flat farmland landscape. Yeah, sure, we’ve seen a lot of these in our travels (I’m sure you have as well) but not as many as this all in one area. Gotta love Google when curiosity strikes. After a quick search, I learned that there were over 500 of the 411-ton giant behemoths in this area spaced about 1/2 mile apart, each one rising 328 feet from the base to the hub where the three 148 foot long blades attach. According to several articles I found each one costs about $2 million but supplies enough energy to power 500 typical Ohio homes. Who knew! Not an area that I would call a tourist destination but it was pretty neat seeing all those clean energy creating turbines.
Believe it or not, our first caravan destination was to find out how a “silver bullet” is made. Yep, “silver bullet”, “silver twinkie”, “silver snail”….call it what you want, there are numerous nicknames for the American icon known as an Airstream towable trailer. Even though we will
probably never, ever own one, we couldn’t resist stopping at the Airstream factory for a tour in Jackson Center, OH.
What made it even more appealing, right near the factory on the Airstream grounds is their own campground known as the “Terraport” (review coming). It almost looks and sounds like some extraterrestrial formation, doesn’t it? Sorry to disappoint – it’s actually a small campground laid out in an unusual spiral fashion. Customers visiting the factory for service with their Airstreams can stay overnight for free. Not having service? You can still stay here for $10/night. Full hookups are provided. Pretty funny seeing our huge beasts parked next to the smaller, brightly polished silver palaces. Despite the sites not being designed for our behemoth sized RV’s, we managed to shoehorn ourselves in.
Armstrong Air and Space Museum, Wapakoneta, OH
Since we arrived on a weekend and Airstream tours weren’t offered, we spent a day with Betsy & Nancy at the nearby Armstrong Air and Space Museum (admission $8/adult, $7/senior). Pretty impressive museum featuring many one-of-a-kind artifacts including the Gemini VIII spacecraft, Neil Armstrong’s Gemini and Apollo spacesuits and a golf ball size Apollo 11 lunar rock.
The 56-foot planetarium dome in the center of the museum houses the Astro Theater, where visitors can watch a 25-minute documentary about Apollo 11’s lunar landing. Consisting mainly of black and white video clips about the moon landing and although interesting, it was in dire need of a major cinematographic update. We were told later by one of the docents that an update is in the works. Boy, looking at the exhibits, it was hard to imagine that astronauts landed on the moon in 1969 without the sophisticated technology and communications that we have today. Think about it, we were using slide rules back then, the first (expensive) electronic calculators didn’t hit the consumer market until the mid 70’s!
Airstream Factory Tour, Jackson Center, OH
Airstream was founded by Wally Byam who began production on his revolutionary travel trailers back in 1931, which makes Airstream the oldest manufacturer of recreational vehicles in the U.S. Out of 400 manufacturers from that era, Airstream was the only RV manufacturer to survive the aluminum rationing of WWII. Today owned by Thor (another RV manufacturer in Elkhart, IN), their towable trailer production is booming along with the rest of the RV industry and is at its highest level since the 1970s. Airstream’s also have a significant customer base outside of the US.
Another part of the tour took us to a different building where the best-in-class luxury touring coaches, the Class B Airstream Interstate Series, are produced on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in either plant, but this website has an excellent commentary which explains the entire manufacturing process or if you want even more detail this website explains it all. And be sure to check out these fun facts!
Speaking of rivets (yes I know I wasn’t), but did you ever wonder how many there are on an Airstream? Probably not on your list of top 10 things to ponder, but during the tour I wondered. But now I know that approximately 3,000 hand fitted buck rivets (the very same technology used to keep airplanes from falling apart) are used in the construction of each unit. No wonder Airstreamers are referenced as living a “Riveted Life”.
After that very informative stopover, our two beast caravan continued eastward, stopping at several campgrounds along the way, specifically Delaware State Park in Delaware, OH and West Branch State Park in Ravenna, OH (reviews coming soon).
Of course, we couldn’t leave the state of Ohio without separate visits to Betsy’s (a native Ohioan) favs for lunch – Frisch’s Big Boy for burgers and Skyline Chili (known for their chili served on top of spaghetti). We opted for the healthier (ha!) Cheese Coneys instead. Followed a few days later by a visit to one of our favorite restaurants in Kent, OH, Mike’s Place, where reading the menu and place mat can be an all day chuckle generating event. Not only is this place crazy and funky but the food is good too! Corned beef hash for Rob and half a Reuben for me (hate to see what a whole one looks like)! Delish! Read more about Mike’s Place in our 2012 blog post!
Just about every night Betsy and Nancy would invite us over for dinner. How could we refuse, after all Nancy attended culinary school and is a master at preparing delicious gourmet dinners!
Another stop near our route was the South Shore Wine Company in the town of North East, PA near the shores of lake Erie. We had a fun time doing a tasting and learning about the history of the operation. Even if you don’t care for wine, the partly underground stone structure is quite interesting. We were even treated to a full span rainbow here after a rain storm passed thru!
Zippo Case Museum, Blanford, PA
A spur of the moment suggestion by Betsy & Nancy was to detour 20 minutes off the interstate (I-86 in New York) and visit the Zippo Case museum in Bradford, PA. As we pulled up to the Zippo Case Museum (which is free btw), just from the exterior setting, I immediately knew this place was going to be pretty cool! Fourteen custom-made Zippo street lighters line Zippo Drive leading up to the main building. Over the entrance is a 40-foot Zippo lighter with pulsating neon flame and an enormous Case Canoe three bladed pocketknife. Pretty neat on a somewhat overcast day but it must be really cool seeing it aglow at night!
American George G. Blaisdell founded Zippo Manufacturing Company in 1932 and produced the first Zippo lighter in early 1933, fashioned after an Austrian cigarette lighter of similar design made by IMCO. Blaisdell named his “windproof” lighters Zippo because he liked the sound of the word “zipper” but felt that the word “zippo” sounded more modern.
We didn’t realize that the name for the museum had nothing to do with Zippo “cases” but instead Zippo acquired W.R.Case and Sons Cutlery Company, another Blandford company in 1993. Case manufactures premium hand-crafted knives from traditional folding pocket knives and fixed blade sporting knives to limited-production commemoratives and collectibles.
Along the entrance walkway was a Zippo car with a sign about it’s very interesting history. The original car, produced in 1947, had mechanical issues and was dropped off in Pittsburgh for repair where the car disappeared, never to be found again. What does one do with a car that has two Zippo lighters on top I wonder? The present day car is a replica and is still used in various events.
The 15,000 square foot building houses the Zippo Case flagship store, the museum and the world famous Zippo Repair Clinic which supports the unconditional lifetime guarantee “It works or we fix it free” philosophy established by the original founder, George Blaisdell. The corporate web site boasts: “in almost 75 years, no one has ever spent a cent on the mechanical repair of a Zippo lighter regardless of the lighter’s age or condition.” Near the Repair Center, they had a display of some of the returned lighters, destroyed in a commercial dishwasher, a taxiing airplane, an earth mover and a sledge hammer. Did they really fix those?
On the wall at the start of the museum was a real eyecatcher – a 7 foot tall, 11 foot wide American flag, made in 2000 for the Zippo International Swap Meet (who knew there was such an event). That may sound pretty ordinary except that it was made out of 3993 Zippo lighters!
As we wandered around, ogling the displays showcasing hundreds and hundreds of lighters, it was pretty clear that through the years Zippo lighters have always been a reflection of the culture of each era, from lighters used in each war honoring the armed forces to lighters depicting the music world to those used in the movie industry. These earlier Zippos are collectors items selling for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.
In 2012, the 500th million Zippo was produced. We were curious if the decline in the smoking population had impacted sales but according to one of the staff members in the store, sales have actually increased because people consider Zippo lighters novelty items and collectables. In addition, they have a strong international market where smoking may not have declined as much.
For you big rig owners reading this, be aware that there is very limited parking for big rigs near the Museum and turning around can be a challenge. Fortunately we were there on a Saturday so we were able to turn around (without unhitching our tow vehicle) in an empty shipping/receiving lot next to the museum. Not sure how easy that would be during the week.
Fascinating museum, so glad we made the time to stop here!
Corning Museum of Glass (CMoG), Corning, NY
And last but most certainly not least was a visit to this spectacular (and one of our favorite) museums. I can’t possibly do the CMoG justice, probably best to check out their website for photos and more detailed information.
While visiting CMoG, we stayed at the Camp Bell Campground in Campbell, NY (review is coming) and were able to buy our 2 day admission tickets there for $13.50, a 25% discount off the regular $18 fee. They also offer a combined ticket for both the Glass Museum and the Rockwell Museum which offers a mix of contemporary Native American art with traditional bronze sculptures, landscape paintings and other works that embody America. Betsy and Nancy had visited this museum several months ago and thought our time would be better spent at the Glass Museum. Note this is not Norman Rockwell but is named for Bob and Hertha Rockwell who gifted a collection to the museum. BTW, the Camp Bell Campground also accepts Passport America and our rate there for a site with water and 50A (no sewer) was $20/nite including tax.
All I have to say is WOW! I don’t know where to even begin writing about CMoG. What a totally unbelievable museum! Be aware the place is huge, requiring two full days (if not more) to see. Believe me, trying to do it in one day will cause your eyes and your mind to “glass” over!
Word of advice – be sure to go early and see the live demos first before the museum gets crowded, then move on to the hands on exhibits and galleries.
On our first day, we focused on the Innovation Center where we learned about the science and technology in three separate galleries: Windows (ie safety glass and tempered glass), Vessels (containers with heat resistant glass such as Pyrex) and Optics (how to manipulate light and use it on the Information Highway) . Hands-on exhibits and the frequently scheduled glassbreaking, optical fiber and flameworking demos explain the concepts in a very easy to understand manner. The Innovation (or Amphitheater) Hot Shop Glassblowing demos the entire process used to make larger items such as vases, pitchers, etc. At the end of each demo, since they aren’t allowed to sell demo items, they raffle off an item to the audience.
Attending all of the demos and the exhibits was exhausting, taking most of the first day. To give our feet (and our minds) a rest, we had lunch at the Cafe which offers a variety of dishes including sandwiches, pizza, daily specials, soups and salads. A little pricey but the food was decent.
On our second day, we focused on the Contemporary Art + Design Galleries and 35 Centuries of Glass collections. The Contemporary Art + Design Galleries are located in the new 26,000-square-foot contemporary gallery building which, according to their website, is the “world’s largest space dedicated to the display of contemporary art and design in glass.” Exquisite pieces in all shapes, sizes and colors highlight nature, the body, history and material. In conjunction with the opening of this wing, GlassApp was launched in March 2015. Featuring information on 70+ contemporary works of art, GlassApp includes videos, artist bios and photos to enhance the onsite visitor experience by highlighting current conversations in art, craft and design.
One of our favorite displays here (trust me there were many) was the Chess Set created by Italian master glassblower and flame worker, Gianni Toso. The pieces are made in the form of Jewish and Roman Catholic figures and is meant to reflect the opening dialogue between the two religions. The detail was incredible! Because of all the reflections in the glass, our photo doesn’t do it justice – better photos can be found here.
In the 35 Centuries of Glass Galleries more than 3,500 years of Near Eastern, Asian, European, and American glassmaking from antiquity through present day are showcased. An amazing collection!
For a true hands on experience and for an additional cost ranging from $21 to $40, you can choose to Make Your Own Glass with the help of an experienced glassmaker. These workshops fill up quickly so to ensure a spot, it is recommended that you sign up online prior to your visit.
Don’t leave without perusing their huge gift shop where there is a huge opportunity to spend your money! And there were even some good deals there too.
Be sure to add this wonderful museum to your list of “must do’s” as it is definitely worth a visit! In fact, all four of these stops are worthwhile additions to your bucket list.
Sadly, our wonderful caravaning journey with RV-A-GO-GO ended at this point and we went our separate ways. Until next time guys!
Road Notes: For the most part, roads taken as shown in our route map above were fairly decent. For those of you traveling east or west and passing thru the length of New York State, most will pick I-90 as we also used to do. I-90 is a decent road but it is tolled for its entire length and will cost you anywhere from $65 for 4 axles paying with EZ-Pass, to $93 for 5 axles paying with cash. Want to save that money? For the cost of 16 miles and about 20 minutes, take the Southern Tier Expressway via I-88 and I-86 instead (distance and time calculated by Google Maps from I-90 at the MA border to I-90 at the PA border). There are no tolls on I-86 or I-88 (although you might incur some near Albany depending on your route), the road conditions are decent for the most part, there is less truck traffic (and less traffic overall) making it an easy drive and the scenery is much better. Plus you will pass by some great tourist opportunities. This has now become our preferred route across New York State.