Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Holidays, Museums & Tours, School, Sightseeing

Visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

We went to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center yesterday.

They have free admission on 1/17/22 for MLK Day, but we were worried it would be too crowded, so we went the Sunday before.

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“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”, Winston Churchill wrote. Everyone has a bias, even the history books and museums; we wanted to expand the kids’ views and to expose them to all different views of history so that they could learn, research, think for themselves, and listen to all points of view. Each museum has been a different experience, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect of the Freedom Center.

I will say we were pleasantly surprised. I thought the spacing throughout the Center was very nice and that there was nice mix of props (statues, cotton bales, buildings, maps, a few artifacts). There was a lot of factual information, along with some personal anecdotes.

The third floor is where most of the exhibits are and where they recommend you start your visit. The Center did a pretty good job with decorations around the exhibits and movie screens to set the scene. There is an outdoor terrace that has a great view of the Ohio River and Suspension Bridge. It also has Freedom’s Eternal Flame (a gas fueled flame). The Terrace was closed while we were there; of course, it was about 28 degrees outside.

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The 3rd floor also had an modern day slavery exhibit that went over Forced Labor, Child Labor, Sex Trafficking, Bonded Labor, and Domestic Servitude. The crazy statistic that I saw was that 59% of online recruitment for sex trafficking victims was on Facebook.

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The second floor had a Pavilion, which is currently closed. There was a Slave Pen (an original structure brought into the Center) that you could walk into. The inside was very empty, other than a wooden box that had some shackles in it. There were several films available on the 2nd floor. You first walk into a waiting room and listen to a short film with Oprah Winfrey. The doors automatically open to go to the next theater. I thought the movies were well done. One of the theater rooms was even decorated with trees to help set the mood for the film.

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There were only a few interactive exhibits. I think there is a lot of opportunity to do several more interactive exhibits. (For example: an example of hidden stairs and rooms that you could walk through, touching cotton plants.) There were some visual aids, but it was mostly reading. It was definitely an older child/adult type of museum in terms of attention level and retention. It would have been nice to see a map of known Underground Railroad stops in Cincinnati. Ben and I both knew of two, but I’m sure there plenty more.

There is small store on the main floor. (The postcards were $3 each, which I think is the most expensive postcard we have bought!)

DETAILS:

  • WHERE: 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202
  • HOURS: Wednesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • COSTS: $15/adult, $10.50/children ages 3-12, under 3 free. (Family Season Pass is $65)
  • PARKING: Yes (Paid parking available on-street or nearby parking garages.)
  • BATHROOM: Yes (On our visit, only the 3rd floor bathrooms were open.)
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2-3 hours
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: Masks are required (as of January 2022).
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.

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Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing

The Voice of America Museum: Exploring Ohio

We have driven by the Voice of America Museum for years, but have never gone through it. As part of our New Year’s resolution to act more like tourists in our own home state and to see more local things, we finally made it there.

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As you turn onto the long driveway, you get a great view of the Museum building. The museum is housed in the former Voice of America Bethany Station. There is parking along the front and side of the building. They are only open Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. During your visit, you can walk around on your own or go on a guided tour with a docent (included with admission). The Docent provides a lot of helpful information and can answer questions you might have during the tour. The Voice of America Bethany Station (named such due to its proximity to the Bethany phone exchange) opened in 1944.

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The Voice of America began broadcasting different radio programs in 1942. The purpose of the radio station was to send news and the “truth” to other countries where information was limited and outside radio contact was frequently banned. Although you can hear the broadcasts (including a program where they teach basic English), the broadcasts are meant for international audiences.

During World War II, Germany sent out propaganda over the radio. To counteract Nazi propaganda, The Voice Of America sent out broadcasts through five different transmission stations, including the VOA Bethany Station. All content was created in Washington and sent out via special lines to the Bethany Station. The broadcasts were sent out in over 50 languages. The VOA Bethany station would send out the programs through their multiple antennas, including two curtain antennas (a new type of antennae at the time that could send radio waves out farther than before). There were also several relay stations located throughout the world.

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During the Cold War, the radio broadcasts were aimed at countering Soviet propaganda. One of the coolest relay stations during this time was a Coast Guard vessel called the USCGC Courier. This wartime vessel was converted to be an unarmed ship with the ability to transmit strong enough signals to get through the Iron Curtain. It was stationed at Rhodes, Greece from 1952 to 1964. It received the VOAs signals and would then broadcast them into the USSR and nearby countries.

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There were a lot of entertaining things to look at during our tour. They had a mix of informational signs and original equipment (control room, transmitter room) from the days when the station was still up and running. There was even some of the original copper grounding throughout the building, including in the floor.

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Behind the museum building, you can walk out and see the antennae switch station. When engineers had to go outside to switch the antennas, they could only be near the switch station for 10-15 minutes a day! They had to do this even in the cold and rain. Could you imagine having to be near those electrical currents while it is raining or snowing around you?

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Click To Enlarge. WLW tower Corona Ball. It sat at the top of the tower. The holes are from lightening strikes.

Because of the changes in technology, the Bethany station became outdated and closed in 1994. The antennae towers were removed beginning in 1997. The Voice of America still transmits programs, but it is now done digitally and by satellite. The original land of the Voice of America Bethany Station has been converted to a shopping area, a county owned park (Voice of America Metro Park), and the Voice Of America Museum. You can still see some of the concrete antennae bases throughout the Voice of America Metro Park.

If you really want to see a large radio antenna, you can still see the huge WLW tower further down on Tylersville Rd.

There were other exhibits at the museum as well, including a room full of inventions made by the man who helped make VOA Bethany possible. Crosley was a native Cincinnatian who began in his work in the automotive industry. He then transitioned into radios, where he made radios cheaper and more available for everyone. He began his radio station WLW radio. WLW had its first broadcast in 1922 and also helped with broadcasting during World War II. After World War II, Crosley began making appliances, including a refrigerator with an ice maker.

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There was also a History of Radio and Broadcasting in Cincinnati room. It had items from several local shows like the Uncle Al show, Ruth Lyons, and Nick Clooney. Ben even starred on one of the Uncle Al shows and it was fun to show the kids something from the past.

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The museum is also now home to ham radio/amateur radio enthusiasts. Their current set-up includes ham radio, Morse Code, digital, and a high-powered broadcast. They use about a dozen amateur radio satellites. The white dish that remains outside the museum is used to bounce the signal off of the moon! There are competitions for amateur radio and the current VOA amateur radio has quite the cool collection of QSL postcards from around the world. These postcards are from around the world, from South America to Asia!

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There is a small gift shop in the museum. It has some note cards, books, etc. No postcards though!

DETAILS:

  • WHERE: 8070 Tylersville Rd., West Chester, Ohio 45069
  • HOURS: Saturday and Sunday, 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm
  • COSTS: $10/person. Under 16 free.
  • PARKING: Yes
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2-3 hours
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: Masks are required (as of January 2022).
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.

If you would like more information on The Voice of America, check out these sites:

Posted in: Christmas, Exploring Ohio, Holidays

Light Up Middletown

Ben and I had a date night and went to Light Up Middletown. The drive through Christmas light display has lots of displays. Some of our favorites were the Calling Birds (on cell phones) and the reindeer with whales. There were a few unique ones including a steel smelter and an OH-IO.


We have a YouTube video of the drive (about 16 minutes long) or the super sped up version below.

The light display entrance fee is by Cash Donations! For more information, here is the link to their website. I would recommend going early, as the line gets very long to get in (we were in a line for about 45 minutes).

Posted in: Christmas, Exploring Ohio, Food, Holidays, Sightseeing

Exploring Near Home: Doscher’s Candies

One of the things I really wanted to do when we got back home was to explore our area more, just like we would if we were visiting the area. Our year of travel showed me that we get to be complacent and set in our daily schedules when we live stationary.

I happened upon an article about Doscher’s Candy Company while scrolling through my social media feeds. When I saw that they were the makers of the French Chews that Nick loves to get at the grocery store, I knew we had to check them out!

We went on the boys’ next day off of school and got there right when it opened, but it was a lot busier in the store than I thought it would be on a Wednesday morning. Of course, it was the day before Thanksgiving. The store is currently in a cute antique home and has its own large parking lot.

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I loved the interior of the store. It was set up incredibly well, and everything looked so appealing. We saw many different types of candy canes, including dye-free. The boys were there for one thing, and one thing only: French Chews. Normally we only see the vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate French Chews at the grocery store. However, Doscher’s store had so many different kinds including were several new, holiday, and limited edition flavors (candy cane crunch, birthday cake, green apple, blue razz, orange cream).

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We had a lot of fun exploring the space and picking out some candy. The gift shop also offered non-candy gifts including candles, books, seasonal gifts, and locally sourced items. I may have went a little overboard, but how could I resist the cute mini-French Chews and all the different flavors? St. Nick picked out some candy canes for the stockings as well.

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If you are in the Cincinnati area, I would check out Doscher’s! Of course, it’s fun to look and find candy all year long, but St. Nick’s Day and Christmas are coming up as well (wink, wink).

HISTORY:

Doscher’s is the oldest candy cane maker in the US. The company began in 1871 making candy canes. They currently make candy canes, Candy Buttons, French Chews, and caramels. The location we were at makes the candy canes, candy buttons, and French Chews. They still make the candy canes by hand! The caramels are made in Bozeman, Montana by a store they own.

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Our haul

How do you like to eat your French Chews? I like mine nice and soft, whereas Nick likes to freeze and then crack his into pieces.

DETAILS:

  • WHERE: 6926 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH 45244
  • HOURS: Tuesday to Friday, 11:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • PARKING: Yes
  • NOTE: Currently, they are not offering factory tours. If they open the tours back up, I would love to go.

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Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Hi this is Nick. This a post about one of the best museums I have been to. It is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is amazing.

So, the first floor is the check in, food court and gift shop. It is where you get your bracelet/pass. It is a paper bracelet that has a barcode on it. You use it for interacting with some of the exhibits. The food court has salads and different snacks like chips. They also have coffee.

The gift shop is also really cool. It has some fun rock stuff like guitar pics and drum sticks. They also have guitar straps as well. There is a ton of other cool stuff that is also worth checking out in there.

Next, there is the bottom floor. It is where the Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson exhibits are. There are some other groups down there. Next is the 2nd floor. It is one of my favorite floors. You can learn how to play the drums, guitar, and the bass. There is also a sticker printer, where you can print your band’s sticker.

Finally, there is the 3rd floor. This floor has the Hall of Fame. On the walls it has all the band names that are in the Hall of Fame. There is also an interactive exhibit. You scan your bracelets barcode and you can submit a band that can be in the Hall of Fame. There is also a show that you can go to as well on that floor.

That is my post, hope you liked it.

DETAILS:*

  • TICKETS: $30/adults, $20/child (ages 6-12). COVID Restrictions: masks required if unvaccinated, prepay/timed entrance
  • HOURS: Hours vary by season. July to August: Daily 10 am-5pm, Thursday to Saturday 10am to 8pm. September to December: Daily 10am-5pm. Thursday 10am-9pm.
  • PARKING: Pay parking on street or nearby lots
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 2-4 hours
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Campground Review, Exploring Ohio, Internet, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

Kenisee Lake RV Campground (Thousand Trails)

We stayed about an hour outside of Cleveland in Jefferson, Ohio at Kenisee Lake RV Campground.

Kenisee Lake RV Resort Map
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The check-in area was not well laid out for larger RVs. It looks like you used to be able to pull straight forward, but now they have you turn into a parking lot. It has not been redesigned for larger RVs. The campground itself has a pond and a lake. There was a laundry room, a few planned activities, a basketball hoop, Snack Shack, putt-putt, playground, and a pool. Fishing was allowed in the pond and lake, but no swimming. The lake by the office had boats available for use. There were also horseshoes and a small baseball diamond.

Office building, snack signs at office window, laundry room

The laundry room had a lot of machines. There was no change machine, but I was able to get change at the office. Washers were $1.75/load, dryers were $1.50.

The Snack Shack had some ice cream products, shaved ice, and some drinks. It was only open on the weekends when we were there.

Our hotspot and phones worked…kind of. If it was cloudy we lost a lot of reception on all 3 networks. Some spots were better than others in the park for getting a signal. We ended up buying the campground WiFi for the week ($19.95). Phone calls seemed ok for the most part, but internet was definitely spotty.

The campground did have a lot of nice amenities. The boys really enjoyed the putt putt and basketball hoop. It was a nice destination campground and there were grocery stores within a 20-30 minute drive. Cleveland was about an hour drive and Cuyahoga Valley National Park was also about an hour drive.

NOTE: The campground was included in our Thousand Trails membership, but charged us a 50 amp fee at check-in (not stated ahead of time).

VIDEO: Kenisee RV Campground Walk Through

SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:

Our rating: 2.5 out of 5 hitches. Great amenities, but farther out and bad internet signal. Would be good for destination camping if you do not need reliable internet.

Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile. All were spotty. We ended up buying WiFi.

Laundry: Yes

Bathrooms/Showers: Yes

RV Sites: A few Pull Through, mostly Back-in (grass)

Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: Yes

Amenities: picnic table/fire pit at site, playground, pool, snack bar, putt-putt, basketball, baseball, horseshoes, pavilion

Cabins: 2

Tent Camping: Yes

Full Hook-ups: Yes

            Amps: 20/30/50

Pool: Yes

Food On-Site: No

Camp Store: Yes, very limited. Office was closed, you have to ask if they have items at the walk-up window.

WiFi: Free at office and pool, otherwise pay for internet

Accepts Mail: unknown

Fishing: Yes

Posted in: Broken/Damanged Things, Exploring Ohio, Maintenance, Newbie Tips, YouTube Video Link

Sands RV

We were finally able to get our bathroom fan repaired. MaxxAir had sent us a computer board and a motor, as either one of those items could have broken. We were able to find a mobile RV Tech who came out and replaced the computer board for us. As we were talking, he recommended a RV shop that he thought we might like: Sands RV.

We stopped in a couple of days later. This store was really neat! It had a little bit of everything: curtains, furniture, toilets, fenders…

The store was owned by Bob, who also worked on the Ungers RVs. The picture below was 1968 and Bob is the one on the far right.

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As we were leaving, they also gave us a flame color changing stick for the fire. The boys got a big kick out of it at our next camp fire. It did work really well and lasted a long time (much better than the packet we had bought at a campground store).

We had a great time exploring the store. Everyone was very friendly. If you are in the area, I would definitely check out this store. It was like a RV treasure chest with something for everyone! We did a quick video walk through of the store (link here).

Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Hiking, Sightseeing

Connecting with Cleveland Cousins

We had family in the Cleveland area and they invited us over to dinner. The night was pretty amazing. The weather was great, they made a taco bar for dinner, and we had and great company. The boys got to meet their younger cousins.

They introduced us to a new (to us) game called Ticket To Ride. They boys played the Ticket To Ride First Journey* with their cousins. It was a lot of fun and I think we will be picking up one of the versions of the game when we get back home!

After dinner and a game, we took a walk to Lake Erie. There was an ice cream place on the way, so we picked up dessert.

Thank you J and K for such a great night!

*Affiliate link

Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, School, Sightseeing

James A. Garfield National Historic Site

Hey guys here’s another blog post with Will! Today I will be talking about the James A. Garfield National Historic Site! For those of you that don’t know who James A. Garfield was, don’t worry I didn’t either! Apparently he was the 20th president of the United States of America. We learned all about him from the park center that is actually located inside of the carriage house of Garfield’s farm.

Garfield was the last president known as a log cabin president which means that his family were settlers and built their house themselves. He grew up on the land his father had bought for two dollars and fifty cents an acre. His father was a farmer and a canal construction man, but sadly his father died when Garfield was just 2 years old. His mother tried to educate Garfield and his siblings, and convinced Garfield to go to the nearby school. Garfield learned of his love of education and earned money to go to college and high school through odd jobs, teaching, and working on the farm. He stayed at the school teaching and learning for 4-5 years and then went to college for 2 years. After that he became president of the school he went to originally, but soon grew bored. This was how he started his career with politics. He was in the House of Representatives for 17 years. He was then nominated as president by surprise. He was visiting to nominate a fellow senator when he found out he had become nominated. He immediately rushed home to tell his family and get started.

This is where I am going to pause in the story for a minute to tell you about his house as most of the story after this involves his house. James A. Garfield rented houses for his family, but soon realized that they needed a stable home where they could set up home base. He also wanted his children to learn the morals that he had when living on a farm, and so he bought 160 acres of land out in the countryside. The farm he had bought was run down, but with some hard work he and his family fixed up the house and grew it. He started growing orchards and plants to sell, and he also was very interested in making his farm a modern farm. He bought the latest equipment and pure bred cows to make his farm the most modern farm around. He expanded the old house that had originally been on the property and added new rooms for him, and his wife, and 5 children, and his mom. Once he was nominated for President, he went into the craziness of trying to win. He was told by a former president that to win you sit back, cross your legs, and look wise. This was how most presidents did it. They let the speakers of their party run their election campaign and sat there looking wise. Garfield felt this was not good enough because he was one of the best speakers in his party, so he started having campaign speeches on his porch. Many different people started coming to his house, and since he was near both the road and the railroad many people had access to his house. This caused the railroad company to make a new stop that was right on his property. Over 17,000 people came to see him talk and he won the election! The problem with having so many people come to see his speeches on a working farm, was that when people got hungry they would eat his crops. This left the farmer devastated and he had to re-sod all of the grass that had been trampled.

Now we come to sad part of the story. 120 days into his presidency on his way back home, the president was shot twice in the back. One only clipped his shoulder, but the other buried itself deep into the president’s back. 200 days into his presidency the President died. A memorial train carried his body to the graveyard and thousands of Americans lined up to grieve the death of the late President. Another late mourner of her husband sent her regards to his wife Lucretia. That person was Queen Victoria. Her husband had also died and the Queen had sent a letter of regards and a wreath for the late president’s coffin. Lucretia had the wreath laid on the coffin and then had it dipped in wax to preserve the wreath. Sadly, back then the president’s job was not as good as it is now. The President, when he was alive, couldn’t even afford a carriage for the White House horse shed. The White House was also in tatters. The Garfields had planned on fixing it up during the presidency, but he was not able to fix it up before his assassination. His wife’s friend realized that Garfield’s wife would not receive any payment, as there were no advantages or benefits the president received back then. He started a fund raiser for the wife and raised about 350 thousand dollars ,which today would be equal to about 10 million dollars. With that money his wife added extra renovations including gas powered lights and fireplaces, water running into the house powered by the windmill, and additions to the house. She also paid for her children to go to college, and bought a second house and rented it out to make easy income. She also added to the farm and kept it as modern as she could with the help of her children and brother who came to live in the house with her.

Whiling adding the extra house renovations, the team of carpenters and labor discovered natural gas which was then used to power the house by lighting the house and providing heat. This allowed the family to be entirely self reliant through having water brought to the house from the windmill, crops from the farm, milk, meat, and hide from the animals, and heating and lighting from the gas. She also finished all of the indoors of the house and later built playrooms and areas for her grandchildren to play at. Soon after her death, the house and the farm became a financial burden on the rest of the family and they eventually sold it.

Thank you guys for reading this blog post from me and please keep reading our blog for more cool stuff from around the country, and watch our YouTube channel for some cool places! Thank you guys and have a good day!

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Ohio, Food, Sightseeing

Geneva On The Lake

Ben and I drove over to Geneva On-The-Lake for our anniversary dinner. We found a location on the lake that had an outside dining area.

We ate at the Old Firehouse Winery. There was live music playing and the views were great of Lake Erie. There were a lot of tiny birds around looking for crumbs.

The food was tasty, although a little slow coming out. Ben got a steak wrap and I got the burger on a pretzel bun.

The town must be very busy during peak tourist season. It reminded me of a smaller Gatlinburg/Myrtle Beach type of town.