As Willie Nelson sang it “On the Road Again”. We departed Flagler Beach on Monday morning July 8, after John picked up his new ears at the VA, yes, John has hearing aids and he says he can now hear me, so he says!
A long day of driving, but worth the eight hours on the road to arrive at Tallula Gorge State Park in Northern Georgia.
We arrived and set up camp! Let’s see that means back in the Roadtrek, plug in power hook, up the water, and enjoy a drink at the picnic table.
The Tallulah Gorge is about two miles long and has several falls that total about 500 feet of drop. We got an early start in the morning and hiked over to the dam. It was built in 1913 as one of a six dams along the Tallulah River generating hydroelectric power for Georgia Power.
L’eau d’Or Falls
We hiked down the river to the various viewing stands. The above being the first with “no view”! We walked the few miles along the river to get to the L’eau d’Or Falls. it was only a few miles and the falls were beautiful from above.
We could have walked down the 1,200 stairs to the bottom with another 600 steps to a lower level. As Issac Newton is quoted as saying: “What goes up must come down.” We took a pass on the trip down since there was little phone service and we were sure Uber was not available to pick us up! We hiked back up to the camping grounds, fixed some breakfast and headed out for Beckley West Virginia.
Tallulah Gorge was a beautiful stop and a wonderful first visit on our trip north
Getting an EZ Pass isn’t so EZ!
As we arrived in West Virginia we apprached the first toll in the town of Cool Ridge. Florida has “Sun Pass” but has not coordinated with all the states that use EZ Pass. In Florida you can buy the passes at stores everywhere, so we figured it would be easy to pick up an EZ Pass.
The fun begins as we get off the highway to pick an EZ Pass up at the local store. Two stores later we were told we had to go to the state capital to get one. One nice lady told us if we took a right out the driveway to the store and then took another right, two lights up at the MacDonalds we could get by the toll. We laughed and went off on the tour. Two lights in rural West Virginia is 10 miles, but we found the turn!!
We figure somewhere along the road we will pick one up.
Beckley, West Virginia – Exposition Coal Mine
We enjoyed the tour last year of the Soudan Underground Mine in Minnesota. Since we were visiting the two-state parks in Georgia and West Virginia we read about the town of Beckley, WV with a tour of an authentic, restored, turn-of-the-century coal mine and village.
The Exhibition Coal Mine, Coal Camp, and Youth Museum are built on The Philips-Sprague Mine which was first opened in late 1889 but didn’t start mining coal commercially until 1906. It was a “drift mine,” where you access the coal seams underground through horizontal tunnels dug into the hillside.The restoration consists of 1,500 feet of restored passageways and entries with 3,000 feet of vintage track. The restored village included homes, a school and church that had been moved from other small coal mine villages in the area.
Our tour guide was a coal miner for over 20 years, at another coal mine in West Virginia. As he towed us through the mine on the tracks we stopped and he told stories about the mine and the miners who worked it. We were taken down about 500 feet into the mine on a small train called a “mantrip”, an underground personnel carrier designed specifically for the safe transport of personnel and their supplies into the underground work areas. Our trip was a luxury when compared to how the miner’s road the tracks on what would be best described as “lay down” skateboards, with their lunch bucket and equipment strapped on!
The miner’s lunch bucket was a metal food carrier, They were layered with the water in the bottom. Since the water had to last the full 12 hour shift. The mines are at a constant 58 degrees. There are many rats in the mine, good news to the miners. With the rats surviving, the miners knew the air was safe.
Miner’s Pay and Work Area
In the early 1900s, mining was an individual effort, each miner worked his assigned spot. He worked a 12-hour shift six days a week. Nothing was mentioned about vacation time! The miner was paid 20 cents for a ton of coal. The wagon
load was measured for the height above the rim of the wagon and reviewed for any stone. He was penalized for any violations of the stone or height, making less than the 20 cents per ton. During the shift, the miner was expected to produce 6 tons of coal for $1.20 per day in pay.
The coal deposits were only 30 inches high with stone above. Our guide described it as working under a kitchen table for the whole day on your knees as he undercut the face of his work area. He had to bore the holes for the blasting material, set the blasts, dig and load the coal by himself. He then stacked the coal onto a car to be dragged out of the mine by the mules, that car also carried his identifying board since they were paid by the ton.”
There was no lighting except for the light on his helmet, initially, the light was a small oil container with a wick. to be refilled in the dark every hour. After the turn of the century a new carbide light was used. The mixture of calcium carbide with water made acetylene gas, which burns a clean, white flame. The guide told us the new miners would practice at home in the dark getting the right water and calcium mixture.
The Company” is the village
After touring the mine we walked around the area and looked at some of the old mining homes, school and other interesting artifacts The exhibition mine (town of Beckley) has done a great job finding these houses, schools, churches in other mining areas and had them taken apart piece by piece and reconstructed at this site.
The Company provided housing for the miners for rent. Bachelors could rent a small single room (10×10) building with a bed, stove and the outhouse shared by others. For families there were 1 and 2 bedroom houses depending on what you could afford. The superintendent had a mansion with many rooms, washighly paid and lived away from the mine.
All supplies for the home, medical and other services were provided by the “Company Store” and deducted from your pay.
The song “Sixteen Tons” was written by Merle Travis about a coal miner, based on life in the coal mines of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. Travis first recorded the song at the Radio Recorders Studio B in Hollywood, California, on August 8, 1946. Tennessee Williams rendition made the song famous.
The refrain: sort of says it all!You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store.
The School House
The schoolhouse was split into 2 sections one for up until 5th grade the other 6th through 8th grade. After 8th grade the boys went to work in the mine, the girls got married and started a family. This continued thegeneration after generation of miners in so many parts of the country.
If children misbehaved there were a list toff punishments depending on what had been done. These punishments continued into the 1960s before they were outlawed in the state. Schools all over the United States disciplined the children in many ways into the 1960s. Some will remember a strong ruler across the knuckles, others sitting in the corner but all were to make sure the children understood the rules and their responsibilities.
Hard working Americans providing fuel for our country and with somewhat better technology (LCD in hat instead of oil) but still few lights in the mines.
Blackwater Falls West Virginia
We had read about how beautiful Blackwater Falls State Park was. We arrived late in the afternoon and checked into the park. The person that checked us in said there were two things not to miss, Blackwater Falls and Lindy Point so we planned on both the next day. Our site was great overlooking a large open field with other campers and RVs. We met a couple parked next to us with a new American Coach Sprinter Van, we had a lovely visit over cocktails.
The next morning we headed out to hike down to the falls. Blackwater Falls, a 62-foot cascade where the Blackwater River leaves its leisurely course in the Canaan Valley and enters rugged Blackwater Canyon. The rock formations called the Pottsville Formation is a mapped bedrock unit and is a major ridge formed in the Appalachians. This sandstone is so strong that it is only the layers below this layer that crack and large pieces of rock crumble to the bottom.
The falls continuously moves upstream as the large boulders fall from the falls. We were fortunate we started out hike to the falls early in the morning and saw it while it was in it’s sunny glory! It was very beautiful and will worth the hike.
When we got back to the rig, the skies opened up and it rained for several hours. Early in the afternoon the sun peaked out so we took a ride over to the Lindy Point Observation Deck a “must see”. The hike in was about a mile and because of the rain, rather muddy. Once there it was a scenic view of the valley, in the far end you could catch a slight glimpse of the falls (very slight).
We drove into the cute town and it started to rain, so we didn’t visit any of the shops and drove back to the camping ground for the night.
We drove a lot of back roads, avoiding the Interstates to Hershey, Pennsylvania. We had a tee time to play golf at Hershey Country Club in the early afternoon. We had also made a reservation to stay at the Hershey Winery and Brewery that evening.
We had the pleasure of playing all three of the courses a few times over ten years ago so we looked forward to playing the “West” course which has views of the old Hershey Chocolate Factory and the Hershey Mansion. The course is their signature course built in 1930 by Milton Hershey, the founder of Hershey Chocolate. In 1949 Byron Nelson won his first PGA Championship on the West Course in the 36 hole final.
Harvest Host – A Fantastic Way to Dry-Camp
We were tolf about Harvest Host a website that you join ad has many farms, wineries, breweries, golf courses and other places where you can spend the night, generally one night for free. You make a reservation at least a day ahead of time and the only reimbursement to the host is the request that you may purchase something.
Having finished a wonderful afternoon of golf we headed to our Harvest Host for the night, The Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey. We walked into the Farmhouse Winery to register for the night. They invited us to taste their wies for free since we were members of Harvest House. Some interesting wine and we purchased a white wine we enjoyed.
It was Friday night and they had a band that was going to play down below at The Brewrey Patio at 7:00. They do this every Friday and get a large crowd of locals that arrive with their own food, pay $5.00 per person and drink the Brewery’s different craft beers.
We headed down to the Brewery Patio where the band was setting up, We ordered a few beers and listened to an old style folk singer and his wife (they were pretty good). Before the band began we headed back up to the RV. On our way we nnoticed a doggie day care and other things on the property.
We met Sara,the daughter of the owner. She told us the history of the property. Her father, Doug Gellatly, and mother Stephanie, had the opportunity nine years ago to purchase a 40 acre farm in Londonderry Township. They used 10 of the acres to launch Greenlin Pet Resorts. Doug had always wanted to use the rest of the land as a working farm and he ran into a group of guys who wanted to grow grapes. In 2009, the vines were planted and in 2012 the Farmhouse Winery was opened. They were told if the place had a brewery it would be a weekly stop by the locals. Doug added a local brewmaster to the team and the Brewery Patio was opened.
Wow! That being our Harvest House experience, we will stay at many along the road.