Soulé Steamworks

We were in Meridian Mississippi recently and took the time to visit the Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum at the site of the old Soulé Steam Feed Works factory and went on a tour given by Greg Hatcher, executive director of the museum.  See also their Facebook page and Wikipedia page.

They have an amazing array of artifacts from the steam age.  Many of them in working condition though not all were in operation at the time we went through.

As well as preserved areas of the factory floor with examples of the casting tools used to make replacement parts

and workshop areas in much the state they would have been when the factory was an active operation.

They have several examples of the wooden patterns used when they needed to cast new parts for the steamworks.  They would create a mold in sand, using the pattern you see on the top of the block frame below and cast the new part in metal.

They have a working factory floor with the longest operating line shaft in the U.S. at 160 feet long with a single motor turning the entire shaft.  You can see this in motion in the video at the end of this post.

They also have an exhibit on the record breaking endurance flight by the Key brothers in 1935.  The flight was made possible in part due to to a plane to plane refueling invention by A. D. Hunter, an employee of Soulé Steamworks.

The Flying Keys

We were also able to go through the Soulé office area where they’ve gone so far as to reproduce the original layout using period pieces, such as an Ediphone wax cylinder recorder, as well as furniture that was actually in the office at the time.

The office also includes a steel vault from about 1914 which is no longer kept open as a previous visitor allowed his 6 year old into the vault and closed the door, not realizing that the vault was still in working order.  That would have been bad enough but then the child spun the knob from inside.  Fortunately the child was never in any danger as there was plenty of oxygen inside and once Greg Hatcher was able to reach the area they were able to re-open the door from the outside using the combination.

Near the offices are the shower and locker rooms used by the employees who would change out of their suits and into their work clothes in the morning and shower and change back into their suits in the evening.  This ensured that the people in town had a good opinion of the steamworks and the people that worked there.

They have several other artifacts such as a two-shaft loom, which needs a bit of TLC that Susan sorely wanted to give it

Broom making jigs

and an amazing printing press that would actually cast the type pieces in the machine as they were needed.

See below for a few of the machines in action and over here for many more photos.

If you find yourself in Meridian, drop by for a formal tour.  The days and times available for tours are listed on their web site.  You won’t regret the time spent.

A bit of treasure from Asheville

We liked our lunch plates from Cafe Yuzu so much that we had to take a couple home. They’re unglazed so it’ll be interesting to see what kind of character they develop over the coming years.Purchased from Akira Satake Ceramics

Well, this day didn’t suck

It was cool and flowery smelling this morning when Michael took Chip out for his morning walk.  Actually it was more accurate to say that Chip made it very clear it was time to go out and walk.  So, walk they did.

There isn’t much to recommend the area for a walk with the boy.  We have a very small RV parking area which has room for 6 rigs.  There’s plenty of grass and smells for the boy but it doesn’t take much time to cover the available territory.

There’s a “residential” street across the highway but even that has enough traffic to make a walk less that totally relaxing.  Residential is in quotes because it’s really a country road with smaller roads or driveways leading to houses, every 50 yards or so and a creek and cow pasture along the way.

On the other hand, we made it out to the local TI and got some much needed information on the largest local attraction, the Biltmore and decided that yes, we should go ahead and make a day of it.  It sounds like we could actually make several days of it.

We were considering going out on our last day at this camp, so we could drive Fay over, they have a lot for RV parking, and Chip could be happy at home while we tour the grounds, yet close enough we could check on him during the day.  We may just limit our Biltmore tour to 5 hrs and leave Fay parked at camp.  We’re not sure yet.

We also dropped by the Folk Art Center and was amazed and came away with a great looking mushroom reference and a strong desire to stay here for a few years.  Fiber, wood, clay, glass and metal arts, oh my!

By late evening we were treated to cloud lightning and lightning bug shows.  The latter were filling the trees around the camp and even going off high above our heads.  It looked like the trees were filled with stars.

Now there’s an impressive rainstorm drumming down on the roof while tree frog stowaways, we still have at least two, sing outside our bedroom.

Nighty night.

Keepin’ it 100 – fun with electricity

Recap:  Last night we pulled into a pretty camp in South Carolina, hooked up shore power and … nothin.  Would we have to sweat through the night and our shorts?  Would we share loudly rumbling diesel generator sounds and fumes with our neighbors?  Would the Hampton Inn take a mild-mannered Schnauzer?

The RV park had another 50 amp spot available and allowed / suggested we move there, to the edge of the campground where running the gennie all night would disturb other campers less.  They even offered us a refund, if we decided to go to a hotel instead, which was especially gracious and not something every park would do.  So Michael unplugged stuff, stowed the landing pads, and off we went to another spot.  Turn off the engine, the generator, and all air conditioners.  Plug in to this 50 amp pole, and wait for the fancy surge protector to run its checks.  It’s only 88° now but a zillion % humidity.  Wait.  And…. it works!  Happy, happy, joy, joy!  Turn on the cool air and break out the gin, ’cause the thing magically fixed itself!  OK, it didn’t really.  What probably happened, to get technical for a sec, is voltage dips at the old site made the transfer switch say “No way.”  South Carolina’s had flooding and a tornado recently, and maybe this power pole is corroded.  Contacts on our reel probably need cleaning too.  Many points of failure have to agree that today is not a good day to die, in order for the bus to have power.  It turned out fine, nothing caught fire, no misery this time.  Well, none apart from wondering whether essential utilities would function, after a day of driving with another travel day coming in the morning.

Speaking of the morning, guess what?  The generator didn’t feel like it, so it went … On?  …no, how about Off.  Ha ha!  *sigh*  No gennie while driving means no AC in the bus while driving six hours in upper 90° temps, except what blows out of the dash.  Trust me, that won’t cut it.  Parboiled ain’t a good look for Chip.  Experience told Michael to force a hard reboot on the generator’s brain.  Is there a switch for that?  Yeah right.  Here’s the switch: pull open the gennie drawer, take the cover off, remove a coolant reservoir, release a catch with a screwdriver, then lever a ribbon cable off the computer, count to five, and reconnect everything.  That’s how you reboot.  Thankfully, it did the trick and appeased the motor gods.  For now.

It’s another fun filled day of driving along the interstate.  What could go wrong?  Shush.

Keepin’ it 100

…as in keeping it real and honest.  Until now, we have posted mainly happy photos and fun discoveries here on The Great Wander.  Do you want nothing but sunshine and buttercups blown up your hind end?  Hmm, go watch a Disney movie, only not Toy Story 4 because that’s supposedly a tear jerker.  The last thing this big kid needs is more tears.  To all the people we meet who say they’ve always wanted to travel the country in an RV and how amazing it must be, sure, sometimes it’s great.  No, it’s not all gleeful, wacky Hollywood schadenfreude spectacle.  Now and then, usually on travel days, the bad thing happens to you, and that’s not so funny, is it chucklehead?

Today’s RV adventure is electrical.  We arrive in South Carolina (state #19 – whee) on a 90 degree day at a camp wooded with majestic pines and a wonderfully long and level pull-thru site reserved for us.  We’re only staying one night, but we have full hookups with 50 amp electric.  The dog park beckons, and we have fresh peaches, tomatoes, and cobbler in a jar bought this afternoon to entertain us before a long drive tomorrow.  Great!  Michael hooks up electric and water, Susan pushes the Auto Level button, Fay does her magic, no problem.  Turn off the air conditioning units, let the generator run a couple more minutes to cool, check for 50 Amp Service on the monitor panel in the cockpit, then switch the cool air back on.  Thump!  thump-thump—thump.  Nope.  No Service.  An hour and 20 later, after phone calls and Internet searches, we got nothin’.  Stay tuned to hear how tonight’s adventure ends.

The mushrooms of Sumter Oaks – Mr Bracket

We’ll have a review of the Escapees Sumter Oaks RV Park in Bushnell Florida later but for the moment I want to introduce you some mushrooms that we enjoyed watching during our stay in June 2019.

First up is Mr. Bracket.  A bracket fungus though the specific type of mushroom is currently under debate on the Florida mushroom forum.

I’ll update this post once we have a firm ID.

We first came across him in our wanderings in the camp after some good rains started waking up all the fungi.

He was a stout fellow, not very large and was destined not to grow much more because the rains were soon to stop.

When the rains stopped he quickly dried out on the surface.

And aged more and more as the days progressed though he stayed somewhat flexible but did firm up as the days went by.

By this point we had some requests for more data on the mushroom so measurements were in order.

The specimen I cut off was an outlier.  I was careful not to bruise it but the bottom turned out to be brown rather than the pale tan shown above.

Looks to me like there are about 2-3 pores per mm.

And the pore depth about 5mm

As we leave the area, Mr. Bracket is still hanging on but he’s got some friends to keep him company which have shown up on the same tree.

More of his pictures over here.

Head over here for all the posts from The Great Wander

Floral arrangement…with shrooms

Exploring things that grow takes a park from basic to brilliant. Case in point is here in rural Sumter County, Florida, where it rains buckets, lizards and frogs skitter behind every fern, and mushrooms sprout behind cypress trees.

Benchmark Coach & RV Park in Meridian MS

If you find yourself passing through or needing to stay in Meridian Mississippi for a bit, you won’t go wrong by stopping at Benchmark Coach & RV Park in Marion (Facebook).

The park is surrounded by trees and is small by most standards but well kept.  It’s mowed regularly and the washroom and showers are clean and functional. The owner, Randy Spitzkeit is friendly and helpful.

We moved a table over after the picture was taken

The site we were in was plenty large enough for our 40′ class A and had both a concrete pad for the coach and gravel area for the toad with full hookups and 30/50 Amp power. There aren’t enough tables for all the sites but if you want one, Randy will likely give the ok to move one from an empty site.

The surrounding trees didn’t block the satellite signal from Dish. There’s not a lot we watch on satellite but if possible, we prefer to get local channels that way since we don’t have to futz with the OTA antenna.

Camp wifi is what you’d expect.  Available but often overloaded.  You might be able to do simple browsing and email during the day but at night you can forget doing anything once people get home and start streaming video.

Cell signal with ATT and Google Fi is weak so bring a booster if you need a strong connection to the internet or cell network. We were testing out a new router from OTA Mobile (ATT) and had no problems getting and staying online when using our WeBoost Drive 4G-X OTR.

The camp itself isn’t great for walking dogs. The roadways are all gravel and the field at the East end does have ticks. Make sure your dogs have their treatments and check them before getting back into your RV if you walk them down there.

To the point, without being obnoxious

They have a nice dog park though, which is a large grassy area but be aware that if it’s rained recently there will probably be some standing water.

Better for walking your dog nearby will be Marion Dr. where there isn’t a lot of traffic and most of the residents are friendly. There are a couple of dogs along the way but most are restrained, though exceptionally barky, or are off leash and harmless. I’m talking to you, Mr. Dachsund.

You’ll also find a nursery and the McInnis Pottery studio at the South bend of the street across a private railroad crossing.

A crossing that’s quite pretty at blue and golden hours.

We stayed for nearly two weeks and found it quite comfortable (excepting some minor problems we had with our AC). There were a good number of people that stayed only a week or even just a night and several Tiffins came through on their way to or from Red Bay, which is where we were headed after finishing up in Meridian.

Benchmark from the roof

For more pictures and larger versions of those above, head over here.

Here’s also some video of the park and walk along Marion Dr.

While you’re in the area, give the Dentzel carousel, Temple Theater, Mississippi Industrial Heritage Museum (Soule Steamworks), Captain’s Amish Store and Sciple’s Mill a visit.

Moving Day June 9 2019

Moving day tomorrow. We’ll be going from this to a one night stopover in Georgia and finally on to Bushnell FL

Ride the Dentzel Carousel in Meridian MS

If you find yourself in Meridian, Mississippi you’ll see pretty carousel horses around town – in front of shops, the train station, City Hall – all over. Plenty of towns have painted statuary animals, like the buffalo in Custer, SD and cats in Catskills, NY, but Meridian actually has a working carousel. It’s not a recent thing dreamed up by a tourism bureau, either. The Dentzel Carousel in Highland Park is over a century old, and the best part is you can still ride it. Whee!

Gustav Dentzel built the grand old carousel in 1896 for the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. The city of Meridian was a happening place in 1909, full of culture and commerce, when they bought the carousel and had it installed in its own special house, made from a Dentzel blueprint. Generations have grown up riding the carousel horses at birthday parties and on happy summer days just ’cause. In 1977 the carousel, Carousel House, and Highland Park were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and they became National Historic Landmarks in 1986. Highland Park, with its gazebos, duck pond, swimming pool, and Jimmie Rodgers museum, is worth a stroll, remembering the gentlemen in suits and ladies wearing long dresses and feathered hats who used to promenade along the paths when the Queen City enjoyed prosperity.

Follow this link above for more information on the carousel and when it’s open as well as the Wikipedia and InYourState pages.

For more pictures of the carousel 110 years after it arrived in Meridian, head over here.

While you’re in Meridian, check out the shrimp and grits at Weidmann’s or a refreshing salad at the Harvest Grill. The Soulé Steam Feed Works is pretty awesome if you have time for a tour, and the belt-driven machines look a whole lot like the carousel’s works. If you only have a few minutes on a weekend afternoon or a summer day when the carousel is open, you gotta ride the horses – or the antelope, or even the lion.