By the time we left Gettysburg for our next destination, we were exhausted. The pace we have set so far this year has worn us out. I can't say it's the RV traveling exclusively because we're keeping the same pace as usual. But hitting the road after a month of near constant travel in Europe with no down time upon our return meant we were already in need of some rest.
Our destination was Hickory Hollow campground located in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Somerset County. Talk about relaxing! We ended up staying there for six days, one more than we originally planned. It was so beautiful and peaceful there and since it was still early in the season, we practically had the place to ourselves. Bliss! I don't think there is a single RVer we've talked to who hasn’t stayed here while passing through this part of Pennsylvania. It is central to several interesting sights but one of the draws here is the price. It’s a Passport America park. So, YAY!
As for sightseeing, we managed to hit up all the main ones, including the Johnstown Flood Museum and the National Flood Memorial, the Flight 93 Memorial, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater and the fun little town of Ohiopyle.
A couple of blog entries ago I mentioned that in Pennsylvania we expected to see cultures, history and tragedy. The Flight 93 Memorial, newly opened in September of 2015, captures the modern day tragedy in a stunning way. The features of the memorial and displays portray the horrific events on Flight 93 as they unfolded. Having received word that the Twin Towers had been struck by two hijacked planes, passengers and crew on Flight 93 realizing their fate, took it upon themselves to change history. The incredibly brave actions by 40 people aboard that plane very likely saved the lives of countless more and prevented an attack on our nation's capital.
This is possibly the most emotional monument or memorial we have ever visited. We knew from news accounts that members of the crew and a few passengers were able to make calls to loved ones before the crash. Some of these voice recordings are featured in the visitors center. Pick up a phone and listen. But when I saw the look in Steven's eyes, I knew I couldn't do it. It was too heartbreaking. Weeks later, as I write this, we still tear up. If you are anywhere close to this area, I urge you not to miss this beautiful and poignant memorial.
As if we hadn't experienced enough tragedy for one day, we decided to visit the Johnstown Flood Museum and the Johnstown Flood National Memorial about half an hour away from the Flight 93 Memorial. This flood ranks up there in the top ten disasters in the United States and that list includes 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. Yet, I'd never heard of it. I wondered if in a generation or two folks will say they never heard of Flight 93. How sad that would be. I understand more than ever the importance of preserving our history and I think the Park Service does a great job.
On Friday, May 31 1889, the South Fork dam failed 14 miles upstream from the town and unleashed 20,000,000 tons of water that devastated Johnstown, PA. With little warning, the flood killed 2,209 people and became the most catastrophic dam failure in US history.
There are two main venues to learn about the flood. The first is the Johnstown Flood Museum which is located in town, and the second is the Johnstown Flood National Memorial run by the U.S. Park Service located on site where the dam failed. We found both to be interesting but, to be honest, we had reached our fill of tragic events by the time we visited the flood memorial and we didn't even stick around for the film. Instead, we headed home as it had been a long day.
The weather during our stay had been a mixed bag, so we had put off visiting Fallingwater thinking that, if the weather didn't improve, we would just skip it. But once we extended our stay by an extra day that turned out to be sunny and warm, we thought it would be the perfect place to visit. Honestly, we weren't expecting to be wowed by it but we were. And we didn't even go inside!
Of course, at first I was thinking how depressing it would be to live in the forest! But the way the light fell, it was sunny and bright and just spectacular! We managed to arrive early and beat the crowds so we got to peek inside as well as get the quintessential shot from across the river.
Our tickets also allowed a visit to another Wright-designed property, Kentuck Knob, but we didn't go there. Instead, we went to the nearby town of Ohiopyle to visit the new visitors center, built over the river and facing the raging waterfalls. It's a spectacular view and the center is really nice. The little town is cute with streets lined with shops and cafes. There is the ubiquitous brewery and restaurant but the big business in town is river rafting.
We enjoyed lunch in the general store before taking a walk through town. We were so happy to be in the sun and in a place that wasn't all about tragedy.
After two weeks, our time in Pennsylvania had come to an end. Both Steven and I agree that this is one of the most beautiful states we've visited in our travels and we rank it right up there with our beloved Washington state. Now that's saying something!
NEXT UP: Ohio and finally, Michigan!