Weary of being at home in dreary weather, we two empty nesters decided to go do a little exploring one day last month when the sun showed its cheery face for a while, but temperatures remained chilly.
What we uncovered on our little jaunt day-tripping was a surprise. In a county within driving distance, we discovered it boasted 23 covered bridges, the second most of all Pennsylvania counties. Something we didn’t know!
We found three different driving tours to see these historical structures, but since we had already devoted most of the day elsewhere, we knew time wouldn’t let us visit them all.
So, we settled for one tour of four covered bridges in the eastern part of Washington County. We encountered another pleasant surprise when we realized two of the bridges were situated in 2600-acre Mingo Creek County Park, about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh.
And that park was yet another nice surprise. Well-maintained and operated by Washington County Parks and Recreation, there are plenty of trails for walking, running, nature hikes, mountain biking, and even horseback riding.
For families, picnic shelters and playgrounds are located throughout the park, even a designated spot called Cozy Cocoon for those with autism spectrum disorder. Outdoor sports enthusiasts can make good use of ball fields and a disc golf course.
Or for those who enjoy flying remote model aircrafts, the Washington County Model Aviation Association operates an airfield in a secluded area of the park.
And yet another surprise is the Mingo Creek Park Observatory where visitors can view the sky via permanent telescopes or bring your own.
For history buffs, two historic homes are also in the park in addition to two covered bridges. Last week I highlighted the first one we found, Ebenezer Bridge, and today’s Tuesday Tour will showcase the second, Henry Covered Bridge.
Oh, Henry, you are a puzzle though since the history of this bridge is basically not known. It’s possible Henry Bridge was constructed in 1881, but some historians think it was erected in 1841. The bridge builder also remains a lost mystery and is unknown.
Regardless of its age, this 36-foot long, 12-foot wide bridge crossing Mingo Creek is photogenic and can be viewed on all sides. And visitors can either walk or drive through the structure.
Like nearby Ebenezer Covered Bridge, Henry is a red painted, vertical boarded, Queen post structure with two windows on each side, and a tin gabled roof.
Henry Covered Bridge is also designated as a historic bridge by the Washington County History and Landmarks Foundation.
From there, we traveled to two more covered bridges on the eastern Washington County driving tour which I’ll share next week.
We can’t wait to find time to go back and discover more surprising historic bridges sometime soon. We truly enjoy finding these treasures from the past.
“If a life can be a series of perpetual surprises, that’s the most joyous experience you can have.” ~ Deepak Chopra
Often when I write posts for this blog, song lyrics come to my mind while I link words together.
I’m not sure why that filing cabinet in my brain spits out those lyrics when it does, but it happens more times than not. Say or think or write a word and a song queues up ready to sing.
This quirk of mine occurred again when Papa and I were day-tripping (oh gosh, there goes another song in my head) last month.
After our stop in a particular town to view sights there, we uncovered some picturesque and well-maintained covered bridges. Of course, I had to jump out of our vehicle and snap away with my trusty camera.
We found four historic covered bridges in eastern Washington County, Pennsylvania, but there are 23 throughout the county!
Because we had already spent time exploring a different locale that day (which I’ll share in a future post) and viewed the only remaining covered bridge in Westmoreland County (last week’s post), we were running out of daylight.
That just means we must plan another day-long road trip to see the other 18 bridges. Yay!
The first Washington County covered bridge we visited sparked an old hymn in my mind, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, written by 18th century pastor Robert Robinson at the age of 22.
The hymn begins with ♪♫“Come, thou Fount of every blessing; tune my heart to sing thy grace; streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise…” ♪♫
But it’s the second stanza that played in my head and caused me to start humming the tune: ♫♪“Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by thy help I’m come; and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home…”♫♪
Perhaps a definition is needed by what is meant by raising an Ebenezer. In the Bible’s Old Testament, an Ebenezer was a stone set up to commemorate how God intervened for His people in a significant and mighty way. (1 Samuel, Chapter 7)
In the Hebrew language, Ebenezer means “stone of help.” That stone was so people would remember for generations to come how God had rescued His people.
You might have guessed by now, the name of the first Washington County covered bridge we located is Ebenezer Bridge. And now once again, I am singing this song in my head as I write this.
It’s unknown when this structure was built, but it’s safe to say long after that hymn was written. Its builder is also unknown.
The vertical boards of this 32-foot long, 12-foot wide bridge are painted the traditional barn red and there are two windows on each side.
For those who wonder why bridges were covered, the reason was to protect the structures supporting the bridge from the weather.
According to the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, keeping the wooden timbers dry from decay and collapse made a bridge last longer. When wooden bridges were not covered, being subject to the weather caused them to only last about 20 years.
So covered bridges protected a bridge’s truss – the wooden beams that make up the bridge. Ebenezer Covered Bridge is a Queen post truss style bridge, which means it uses two central supporting posts.
Ebenezer is also a transplant. It originally crossed the south fork of Maple Creek near a place called Ginger Hill in Fallowfield Township.
When construction of a major highway (Interstate 70) in 1977 began at that site, this covered bridge was saved from destruction, sold to Washington County, relocated to the county’s Mingo Creek County Park, and placed on abutments of an earlier bridge once situated over Mingo Creek.
Then Ebenezer was renovated, and its deck was covered with new planks and reinforced with I-beams. The bridge is open for both vehicle and foot traffic and is a most photogenic spot because it can be viewed from many angles.
While we were there, a professional photographer was capturing some pictures of a young lady posing with the bridge in the background.
Not only is Ebenezer a popular site for photographers and park visitors, but it is also the site of a yearly Covered Bridge Festival held during the third weekend of September. For 2023, the festival will be held September 16-17 and will run from 10 am-5 pm.
Visitors can find Ebenezer Covered Bridge, designated a historic bridge by Washington County History and Landmarks Foundation, in the southwest corner of Mingo Creek County Park, about one mile from the park’s west entrance. A parking lot is located nearby.
Perhaps someday, we might be able to say we’ve visited every covered bridge in our state. Pennsylvania has the most covered bridges of any state – 213!
Until then, I’ll raise this Ebenezer and ask God to continue to grant us good health and the means to travel to see sights that amaze us two empty nesters. And I’ll remember to be thankful.
“Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.” ~unknown
A bit disappointed that we empty nesters cancelled our road trip south for the time being, this Mama and Papa still felt the need to hit the road. So one recent day with semi-nice weather (it wasn’t rainy or extremely cold), we filled up our vehicle gas tank, and hit the road.
Where were we going? Somewhere not too far away as this was a day trip. But we found several gems in our own backyard, so to speak. And today on this Tuesday Tour, I’m sharing one of those with my readers.
Some of you recall that we enjoy discovering covered bridges; I love photographing them and featured those relics of the past in a series here at Mama’s Empty Nest.
We drove south (obviously not to the southern state we intended to visit though) with one destination in mind, which I’ll highlight in a future post. But along the way, we “uncovered” five covered bridges we’ve never visited.
Today’s tour features Bells Mills Covered Bridge near the small town of Yukon, Pennsylvania. Unlike surrounding counties, Westmoreland County, where this structure is located, can claim only one remaining covered bridge – this one.
Spanning Sewickley Creek, this peaceful bridge isn’t far from busy highways (about three miles from I-70) and Pittsburgh suburbs of Allegheny County, yet it sits in a very rural area.
Painted the typical barn red that distinguishes historic covered bridges, the span was designed by Daniel McCain, an Allegheny County bridge construction superintendent, and erected in 1850. Of note is that McCain also worked on Pittsburgh city bridges and Pennsylvania and West Penn Railroad bridges.
Depending on different sources I found online, the length of Bell Mills is reported as anywhere from 90 to 107 feet long. No matter its length, it’s a well-maintained bridge that you can drive through.
Named for the Bell brothers, who operated a gristmill near there, Bells Mills Covered Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Eight years later, the bridge was completely rebuilt and in 2009 repaired after a fire damaged it.
Obviously, Westmoreland County does a great job maintaining this historic treasure. The bridge was painted with fire-retardant paint, a new roof was installed in 2012, and another repair was completed in 2019 when a hit-and-run incident damaged the bridge.
Even though the bridge doesn’t look as picturesque as it might in spring, summer, or fall, our winter visit to Bells Mills was very enjoyable.
Next week, I’ll showcase the other covered bridge treasures we dug up during this day-long road trip.
“Your diamonds are not in far distant mountains or in yonder seas; they are in your own backyard, if you but dig for them.” ~ Russell Conwell, Temple University Founder
Alas, what to do when you’re in need of a road trip, not just for a change of pace but also as blog fodder for your Tuesday Tour posts, and you’re stuck at home?
We two empty nesters planned a short getaway recently. Just a little respite for a few days. We had hoped to head southward in search of sunshine and some warmer temperatures.
But the day before we were scheduled to leave, cold symptoms (not the you know what) showed up. We decided to keep our germs to ourselves and we didn’t want to travel when we might not feel so well during the trip.
So, road trip postponed until later. Disappointing? For certain. But we’re planning to take it later.
Since we haven’t ventured too far from home lately, I decided what better place to highlight today than our nearby city? It took over a week to gather the pictures you’ll see here because I literally searched through hundreds in my photo cache taken over the last decade or so. (In case you were wondering, that’s why I didn’t post last week.)
For those family and friends who live nearby, today’s post won’t showcase anything new, but for those readers who live in other parts of my state, my country, and even across the world, I’m hoping you enjoy a little slice of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The second largest city in the state, Pittsburgh has gotten a bad rap in the past, leftover from its smoggy steel mill days. But even back in 1784, apparently there were people who thought Pittsburgh would never amount to much as evidenced by this historical display I discovered.
That 18th century Congressman Lee was very wrong. And I’m going to prove that there are so many great things about this city making it more than “considerable.”
Because two major rivers – the Allegheny and the Monongahela – join in the city to form the Ohio River, Pittsburgh has been called the “City of Bridges.” That’s right – there are a lot of bridges, 446 to be exact.
Not only must you navigate over bridges, but you’ll drive through at least one of three major tunnels there: Fort Pitt, Squirrel Hill, and Liberty.
One aspect I never tire of is the amazing view from seeing nothing of the city as you enter the Fort Pitt tunnel going northward and it suddenly unfolding before you when you emerge. Either daylight or nighttime, it’s a sight to behold, and I never have been able to capture the photo well from a moving vehicle at night.
Another view of the city that never ceases to capture my attention is the spectacular sight of it from atop Mount Washington.
In the last decade, Pittsburgh was named as one of the most livable cities. It’s rich in history and culture.
“There’s so much that I like about Pittsburgh, actually. The cultural district and museums are wonderful, and I encourage everyone to check them out. And the food is excellent, too!” ~ Troy Polamalu, former Pittsburgh Steeler
When it comes to Pittsburgh cuisine, visitors surely will find something that suits their taste buds either from exquisite fine five-star dining at the Le Mont with its spectacular view of the city…
…or if casual good eats is more your style, you’ll enjoy the iconic sandwich made famous by Primanti Brothers. (Although we’ve eaten there many times, I’ve failed to get a photo but this one was found on Pinterest.)
Pittsburgh is home to some big-name universities like University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University as well as 60+ other colleges in the surrounding area.
Top-notch medical care and medical research also has a home in this city. And several technological firms have offices there as well.
In many ways, the city has something to offer for everyone, and today I’ll show you just a few more sights in this underrated city.
History buffs will enjoy visits to the 250-year-old Fort Pitt Block House, located in Point State Park right at the confluence of rivers in downtown Pittsburgh.
While you’re there, you can enjoy the Point State Park fountain too, shown below from Mount Washington.
Then head to the Heinz History Center where you’ll not only learn about the city, its people, and its history, but also about the famous Heinz ketchup.
Another must see is the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and its counterpart, the Carnegie Museum of Art. So much there to see and marvel about.
For more culture, visitors can take in plays, musicals, art exhibitions, opera, ballet, and symphonic concerts in one of the cultural district venues, which includes Heinz Hall. Also a visit to the 1928-era restored theater re-named the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts is a must; it’s historic and beautiful inside.
Sports fans, take your pick. Either wear some black and gold and wave the “Terrible Towel” to cheer on NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers at Acrisure Stadium (once called Heinz Field).
Or catch a Major League Baseball game at PNC Park with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Maybe you’d rather sit ringside watching NHL ice hockey with the Pittsburgh Penguins. If you’re a soccer fan, you can attend a Pittsburgh Riverhounds match.
And speaking of rivers, of course, for those who love boating, waterskiing, or any kind of water craft sport, the three Pittsburgh rivers welcome you.
You can even take a river cruise on the Gateway Clipper fleet.
A visit to Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens provides some beautiful examples of nature…
…as well as the many parks in the city, including Frick Park and Schenley Park.
“Pittsburgh. I’d been there. One of the most underrated cities in North America. People who’d never been there thought of it as a graveyard of abandoned steel mills, but it was a beautiful city, and it would be good to have it back.” ~ Steven Brust, American author
Have you noticed that mystical “they” that we all quote from time to time always have something to say? You know…”They say Rome wasn’t built in a day” or “They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”…you get my drift, right?
One of those sayings they utter occurred to me as I was perusing my cache of photos this week in search of something to highlight on today’s Tuesday Tour, since we haven’t been traveling too far from home lately.
What wisdom “they” impart came to my mind when I spotted certain pictures?
They say that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Of course, they mean Las Vegas, that neon bright hotspot in the Nevada desert.
I can say I’ve been to Vegas, but honestly, I’ve never really beento Vegas, nor do I have any great desire to visit.
Las Vegas and all it has to offer just doesn’t appeal to me even though family and friends have enjoyed their trips to that glitzy place that glows in the dark and seems to fascinate so many.
The famous crooner/movie star Frank Sinatra was once quoted as saying, “Las Vegas is the only place I know where money really talks, it says goodbye.”
If I have to spend our retirement money, I’d prefer to spend it on something I really would enjoy and that would not be gambling, extravagant shows, expensive stays at over-the-top hotels, or indulgent meals.
Twice I’ve technically been in Las Vegas having flown into the city’s airport back in 2018 when Papa and I journeyed west to visit family in Arizona and then flying back out of that same airport.
But really, all I saw of Las Vegas was the inside of the airport and its many gambling slot machines, those one-armed bandits, and the area surrounding our terminal.
We landed in Vegas at night, family picked us up at the airport, and we drove south through the inky dark desert to their Arizona home. The only sights we could see were a couple casinos here and there in small towns on the way.
We departed from Vegas a week later in the early morning, so again our drive to the airport was shrouded in darkness, although we could view a bit of terrain once the sun arose.
But for Papa, it’s a different story. Several years ago, before he retired, his job as an industrial company salesman required his travel to Las Vegas for a trade show.
He managed to sightsee just a bit, and he took some of the photos you see in today’s post.
Other than the glittery, eye-popping neon lights of the strip district of the city, he and his boss managed a day trip to Hoover Dam.
This huge dam (726 feet high and 1,244 feel long), was erected on the Colorado River in a place called Black Canyon located at the Arizona-Nevada border.
Thousands of workers constructed the dam during the Great Depression years, and a monument to those can be seen there.
Hoover Dam is the highest concrete arch dam in the United States and is a popular tourist spot claiming around 7 million sightseers each year.
Lake Mead, considered to be one of the largest artificial lakes in the world, was created by the dam, which supplies water to the area’s population, as well as hydroelectrical power and agricultural irrigation.
Papa enjoyed that little side trip; Las Vegas, not so much.
Papa and I certainly could return to the Las Vegas area for some sightseeing and entertainment, but it’s really not on our bucket list of places to go during our retirement years.
Let’s just say we’re not ones who would be prone to exclaiming “Viva Las Vegas!”
Instead, we’ll save our money for locations that provide a little more enjoyment for old fogies like us. Or at least that’s what “they” might call us.
“Retirement is like a long vacation in Las Vegas. The goal is to enjoy it the fullest, but not so fully that you run out of money.” ~ Jonathan Clements
If you’re stuck in the middle of a dead, drab winter season like we are here at Mama’s Empty Nest – no snow, just rain and bleak skies and landscape – maybe you’d appreciate a little island getaway. Just for a change of scenery.
Last week, my Tuesday Tour transported us to the ABC Islands via my oldest daughter’s recent journey there. Today, thanks to my son, we’re virtually traveling to another set of islands thousands of miles away.
Many years ago, when Son was in college, he dated a girl whose family lived in Hawaii. (For those of you who are curious, no, that young lady did not become my daughter-in-law.)
On a winter break from college one January, Son flew to the Hawaiian Islands to visit that young lady and meet her parents who lived on the Big Island, also called Hawaii. Only there for a short time, he didn’t get a lot of sightseeing done, but he did take some photographs with a film point and shoot camera.
Some of those pictures were scanned into our old computer and saved onto an external drive. I ran across those the other day and decided to borrow them for today’s Tuesday Tour since Papa and I haven’t been traveling much of late, a fact that makes me a little bit blue.
I know Son enjoyed views of the ocean and the warm break away from cold, winter weather.
He took a number of photos of the waves crashing against the rocky shore.
The volcanic rock was also something that amazed him, along with interesting critters found on them.
And catching sight of sea turtles.
The lush green landscape including a jungle-like rain forest was also amazing. Actually, he was impressed to learn some scenes from the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull were filmed nearby.
One aspect he found just a bit annoying was his early morning wake-up calls produced by Hawaii’s state bird – the nēnē, pictured below. Apparently, this type of goose was loud and plentiful on the grounds of the family’s home. However, nēnēs are considered an endangered species.
Of course, who wouldn’t enjoy just walking out on the lawn to pick a banana for a snack? The fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coffee grown there were also a treat.
Hawaii is one of the states Papa and I haven’t managed to visit, so this virtual visit will have to suffice for us…for now at least.
“Coming to Hawaii is like going from black and white to color.” ~ John Richard Stephens
What can you do when every week you publish a blog post entitled Tuesday Tour, but you start running out of examples because you haven’t traveled much lately, or you’ve written about so many of your past journeys already?
You borrow from your grown-up kids (with permission). As easy as A B C.
Maybe it’s because our family of five lived in different areas of the country when our young’uns were growing up or because we took them on trips and vacations when they were small, but our three became accustomed to travel at early ages.
Whatever the reason, our now adult offspring enjoy traipsing here and there as much if not more than their parents.
Eldest daughter was bitten by the travel bug early on and her first big excursion was traveling to France in high school. After she graduated college, she traveled solo to Africa via London.
Blessedly for her, she married a wonderful guy who loves to journey as much as she does. Case in point: they actually met in Honduras on a mission trip.
Did that prove to be a catalyst for all the adventures those two have taken? I’d say so.
These two world travelers tucked some exciting trips under their belt so far – climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, hiking to Machu Picchu, sightseeing all over Australia, to name a few.
Recently, they celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary with a trip to three islands in the Caribbean Sea.
As easy as A B C.
They traveled to Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, the three westernmost islands, often called the ABC Islands, of the Leeward Antilles, which are north of the South American country of Venezuela.
Papa and I learned these islands have a distinct Dutch influence, especially when we opened a gift box daughter and son-in-law brought us from their journey.
The box included pancake mix, syrup, and powdered sugar. But when we examined the items closely, we realized the pancake instructions were written in Dutch as were all the labels on each item.
Hmmm…thank goodness for online translations. As easy as A B C.
Today on this Tuesday Tour our daughter graciously gave me permission to share some beautiful photos taken on their amazing trip to Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao.
There they celebrated their anniversary, enjoyed delicious meals, sightseeing, their accommodations, and managed to take three hikes (one on each island) for inclusion into their participation in the year-long 52 Hike Challenge for 2022.
They did relax beach and poolside, shown in the photo at the beginning of this post and below taken in the A island of Aruba.
Of course, lying on a beach sounds exactly what one would do in Aruba, but our family travelers are more adventurous than that.
Exploring Quadirikiri Cave in Arikok National Park.
They found not all of Aruba is a nice sandy beach.
Viewing the rugged terrain near Aruba’s Natural Pool during their hike.
Exploring the B island of Bonaire, they located lots of beautifully different sights.
During their hike in Bonaire’s Washington Slagbaai National Park, among lots of cactus.
The “beach” was quite different there as well.
Amazing salt pyramids on Bonaire’s sea salt pans (natural areas covered in sea salt).
They may have even met a friend or two – several lizards enjoyed their company and this fella grabbed their attention.
On the C island of Curaçao, they found enough adventure and beautiful sights to satisfy their curiosity.
Beautiful Handelskade waterfront area in Willemstad.
View of the Queen Emma Bridge, a pedestrian pontoon bridge, in Handelskade.
The Queen Emma Bridge at night.
Views in the Shete Boka National Park on their hike.
It’s a good thing to travel with the ABC’s in mind: Adventure, Beauty, and Curiosity.
“We live in a world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ~ Jawaharial Nehru
Even though this is the third day of the new year, Christmas technically isn’t over. If you’ve ever heard of the 12 days of Christmas, you’ll understand that the first day begins on December 25 and the Christmas season runs until January 6.
Because the 12 days of Christmas aren’t over yet, I’m sharing just a little more Christmas with you on today’s Tuesday Tour.
Our holiday was a bit different this year as we traveled out of state to celebrate for the first time in many, many years. The journey back home was much easier than the Christmas journey away. (But that tale will be told tomorrow here at Mama’s Empty Nest.)
On the more pleasant several hours-long drive back to our empty nest, Papa and I detoured and paused for a brief stop in a very nice little town in Ohio named Grove City.
We found a convenient parking spot, vacated our vehicle after donning our hats and gloves, and relished stretching our legs a bit as we meandered down the city’s sidewalks.
Why Grove City, Ohio? Because of nutcrackers.
A Christmas decorating essential at our house has been “The Nutcracker” for a long while. Many years ago when our youngest, our son, was around four years old or so, our family of five attended the famous ballet, The Nutcracker, in Portland, Oregon before Christmas.
Our girls, who were older, enjoyed it. Our son fell asleep. Yet, the story of the nutcracker held our interest and continued to do so. Shortly after watching that performance, we purchased a wooden nutcracker as a holiday adornment while on a jaunt in Seattle, Washington.
And that was the beginning of a tradition we continued for many years. We added another nutcracker…and then another…and then…suddenly an entire army of those wooden fellows, all different, became a collection.
Some folks find them a bit creepy; we find them a festive, fun Christmas decoration reminding us of fond family experiences.
By accident on our Christmas trip this year, I learned that the town of Grove City bedecked its historic town center with a festive nutcracker hunt from December through today, January 3. All of the photos showcased here today are from our visit there.
Naturally, I mentioned to Papa that we had to visit that town on our way home so I could capture some nutcrackers with my camera.
Before we even ventured far down a Grove City sidewalk, we marveled at a huge Christmas tree saluting The Nutcracker.
As we ambled along in the brisk, fresh air with snow providing a Christmasy feel, we viewed nutcrackers at various spots in town, ranging from bigger than life-size to pocket-size, all different and all bringing a smile to my face.
A display depicting the ballet and exhibited in the windows of City Hall was quite lovely and charming.
A brightly colored large nutcracker stood tall outside the Grove City Library.
And then we spotted an entire collection behind glass inside the ticket booth of the Little Theatre Off Broadway.
What a treat! For us, it was the perfect way to enjoy a bit of respite from driving and wind up our Christmas journey. Click the dots underneath the next picture to view a slide show of just some of that collection (although I struggled getting photos because of the glass).
I hope you enjoy this nutcracker tour as much as we did.
“Believe in the magic of the holidays and a nutcracker’s tale.” ~ unknown