" ... been on the road again"

 ... a musical, historical, leisurely trip thru northeastern USA

by Rick Mockler

Melrose resident Rick Mockler, retired from the Coast Guard with rank of captain, sent us this informal account of his recent motoring trip around this corner of the United States. Above, the Cincinnati Tall Stacks.

I have been on the road again. 2100 miles. New Jersey, Alexandria (to see Sarah),
Dayton, Ohio (revisited the Air Force Museum), Cincinnati, Fairmont, West Virginia  (to visit a classmate), Gettysburg, (toured the battlefield) and Strasburg, also in Pennsylvania. Only one minor problem -- an idler pulley for the serpentine belt on my Saab disintegrated in Alexandria. Between AAA and a Saab dealer in Falls Church, I had the car fixed by 9:30 the next morning.

All great stops, but the highlight of the trip was Cincinnati. I spent five days at the Tall Stacks Music, Arts & Heritage Festival, a quadrennial event first held in 1988. The festival featured 17 riverboats, over 75 musical acts and over 700,000 person/visits.

My hosts and I made it to the festival all five days -- heard a lot of music, rode a couple riverboats, ate a lots of food, toured the riverboats one early morning, enjoyed great weather, walked a lot, visited the other side of the river -- Newport, Kentucky, and saw fireworks all five evenings. Groups we heard included The Jayhawks, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, The Nashville Bluegrass Band, Emmylou Harris, Los Lobos, Nickel Creek, The Fairfield Four, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, & Patty Griffin, The Air Force Band of Flight, John Mayal & the Bluesbreakers and finally B.B.King (still going strong at 78 -- excellent backup band).

Attending a fair/festival five days in a row is a first for me. A little apprehensive at first, but then I was never bored. There was always plenty to see and do. It was just a great five days.

You can visit my photos of the festival at

On the way to Cincinnati, I stopped in Dayton, Ohio, to visit the newly opened third USAF Museum hangar. The Air Force Museum now has five large hangars full of aircraft, and probably would require a couple days to really see everything.  

I am now looking forward to visiting the new Smithsonian Air & Space Museum at Dulles Airport on a future visit to see Sarah.

While not a Civil War buff, I recently read "Killer Angels" and saw the Ted Turner film, "Gettysburg". Now those three horrible days in July, 1863 started to make some sense. So I wanted to see where all these actions took place.  

Oct 21 was a lovely day; I saw the electric map depicting the three days events and the Cyclorama depicting Pickett's Charge. The painting in the Cyclorama was done in 1884 (one of four) and originally was in the Cyclorama building here in Boston (which is still standing and used as a performance/exhibit space). In the afternoon I spent three hours driving around with an audio CD tour guide.  

The Army of the Potomac under General Meade had 93,693 troops; 3,149 were killed, 14,501 were wounded and 5,157 were captured or missing. Some stats: The army of Northern Virginia under General Lee had 70,136 troops; 4,559 were killed, 12,355 were wounded and 5,643 were captured or missing.

The Park Service web site is:   

A visit to this Military Park is highly recommended. Most sobering.

I then traveled to Strasburg, Pennsylvania in the heart of the  Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish country, specifically to visit the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania:  and the Strasburg Rail Road  Also in Strasburg is the National Toy Train Museum I visited all three and took a 45 minute excursion on the RR. Some photos are on my web site:  

Above, the Amistad.

December 5, 2003

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