Week 12: Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island is a barrier island in north Florida just south of the St Marys River. We drove 100 miles south to reach our next campsite at Ft Clinch State Park. As you may have guessed, Ft Clinch is an old fort and is one of Florida’s first state parks (1935).

Florida has done an outstanding job with their state parks. There are 161 state parks and 10 state trails. In comparison, Georgia has around 50. The State of Florida has preserved historical and beachfront lands over the entire state. The parks are reasonably priced at around $30 with water and electric, and they are half price for Florida seniors. They book up early, especially on the weekends. I booked around June and was able to find sites during the week, but not on most weekends.

Fort Clinch State Park is located on the top of Florida’s northernmost barrier island at the site of a Civil War-era fort. It is surrounded by the Amelia River, the St Mary’s River and the Atlantic Ocean. We parked on the river side under a canopy of live oaks dripping in Spanish moss. We could walk to the fort along the water. The fort was named after General Duncan Lamont Clinch, a prominent figure of the Second Seminole War. Construction began in 1867 and it was built at the mouth of the St Mary’s River to protect the natural deep-water port of Fernandina. It is an excellent example of the Third System of Fortifications. Although it was never completed, it still served as a military post during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War II. The fort is well preserved and the rooms in the fort are full of period items.

The Egan Creek runs along the park and is a wildlife preserve. The Egan Creek Greenway was purchased by the city of Fernandina Beach for conservation and passive recreational use. The Greenway was a great place for a hike and wildlife viewing. I was told there were alligators in the creek and that they were very tame. And sure enough we came upon one sunning itself near the edge of the water. Ralph spotted it first and it didn’t move at all when we approached it (at a safe distance). We were told there was an entire family of gators further up the trail. The Greenway is a beautiful place for hiking and biking. A little gem I would never have known about if I hadn’t taken a trolly tour of the area.

Greenway Hiking Trail

Greenway Hiking Trail


Cited on our Greenway hike

Cited on our Greenway hike

My morning walks along the water were full of sea life. There was a pod of dolphins hanging out in the area for the entire time we were camped here. The first morning I was startled by them swimming about 10 yards from the beach. They were so close I could hear them exhaling through their blowholes. It was thrilling! I’ve had the opportunity to swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key and I’ve supported the center for many years. I just love dolphins and the center does excellent work with dolphins,  manatees and seals.

View of morning walks

View of morning walks


Horseshoe Crab found on the beach

Horseshoe Crab found on the beach

I also found a HUGE horseshoe crab lying on it’s back. I turned him over so he could get back to the water. Ralph took a walk later and found him still on the sand so he gave him a ride to the water. I also found a jellyfish one morning. Didn’t touch that sucker! I’ve been stung by one many, many years ago and have never forgotten the feeling. Mr jellyfish was one his own. There is also a fishing pier at the park and it’s a half-mile long. That’s a very long pier!

I went into Fernandina Beach the small town at the top of Amelia Island. The town is pronounced like two women’s names; Fern and Dina and is rich with history. Amelia Island has 4,000 years of recorded history under eight flags. They say, “The French visited, the Spanish developed, the English named, and the Americans tamed. And let’s not forget the natives, the Timucuan Indians.

We went to the Amelia Island Museum of History in the old jail building and had an informative talk by one of the docents. We learned so much about the area. Many of the houses and buildings in Fernandina Beach are listed on the National Register, as is the entire 50-block historic district. I wandered around the town for a couple days and took it all in. I stopped at the Palace Saloon, supposedly the oldest bar in Florida, for a White Cosmo. Delish!

In jail AGAIN!

In jail AGAIN!

Before these historic buildings lined the streets of Fernandina Beach, pirates roamed the town and the island. The likes of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Pierre and Jean LaFite, Calico Jack Rackham, Stede Bonnett and others all called on the relatively safe haven of Fernandina Harbor at some point. Pirate use of the island came to a head in 1817 when the French took control of the harbor.

Amelia Island is a wonderful place to visit and I will be back sometime in the future. I kept thinking, “What a great place this would be to live.”

What's left of a dock

What’s left of a dock


Another beautiful sunset

Another beautiful sunset

Next stop Hanna City Park in Jacksonville Beach.

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Week 11: Savannah, Georgia

We drove 125 miles south from Charleston to the Skidaway Island State Park just south of Savannah. After you enter the park there is a 3.5 mile drive under an arch of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. It looked like the motorhome was too high to make it under the canopy, but it wasn’t. The trees are trimmed to allow a clearnace of 14 feet. We need 12 feet in order not to scrap the top. It was a  beautiful drive. This was another park where they let you drive through and find your own spot, hang your receipt and park it. Hiking trails in the park take you through marshes, live oaks, cabbage palmettos and pines. It rained for two days and of course, 100% humidity. I don’t have to use moisturizer here. It’s like living in a rain forest! Quite a change from home.

Three and a half mile tree lined drive into the campground

Three and a half mile tree lined drive into the campground

My morning walk was through the swampland looking for alligators and then it opened  to the savannahs. Each morning walk is different. I love it! And it was National Sandwich Day and Subway had two for one on sandwiches. We took advantage of that!

The savannah

The savannah

I went into Savannah for the day and visited:

Jepson Center (art museum)

Owens-Thomas House (house built in 1819 designed by William Jay of Bath, England)

Owens-Thompson House

Owens-Thompson House

Telfair Academy (historic house with a museum)

Forsyth Park (large city park in the historic district with a beautiful fountain)

Forsyth Park Fountain

Forsyth Park Fountain

Colonial Park Cemetery (burying ground from 1750 -1853, became a park in 1896)

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Most of the city squares (Savannah was founded in 1722 by James Oglethorpe and he laid out the city with many squares that were intended to provide colonists space for military exercises. Now they are beautiful parks in the city)

George Washington Statue

George Washington Statue

Leopold’s Ice Cream (best ice cream in the area)

Jones Street (historic street with houses occupied by the well-to-do; where the phrase “keeping up with the Jones” originated)

Jones Street - Keeping up with the Jones

Jones Street – Keeping up with the Jones


Steps covered in vines

Steps covered in vines


Wrought Iron Work

Wrought Iron Work

River Street (the area along the Savannah Front River)

River Street

River Street


Memorial for Mariners

Memorial for Mariners

Cathedral of St John the Baptist Catholic Church (built from 1873 – 1896)

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Alligator Soul (great place for dinner)

Bonaventure Cemetery

We toured this very old cemetery made famous by the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”  In 1867 John Muir began his Thousand Mile Walk to Florida and the Gulf.  In October he sojourned for six days and nights in the Bonaventure cemetery, sleeping upon graves overnight, this being the safest and cheapest accommodation that he could find while he waited for money to be expressed from home. It has several notable burials including Johnny Mercer (co-founder of Capital Records and composer), Edythe Chapman (silent film actress), James Neil (actor).  It is an erringly beautiful cemetery.

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Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski is a Third System of coastal fortifications developed during the first half of the 19th century and is characterized by greater structural durability than earlier forts. Nearly all of the 30+ Third System forts built after 1816 still exist. We visited a few of those forts. Fort Pulaski and Fort Clinch are two of the best preserved.

However well-built Fort Pulaski was the quick fall of it during the Civil War surprised and shocked the world. Fort Pulaski was considered the “most spectacular harbor defense structures in the United States.” Many considered the 7.5 foot solid brick walls with massive masonry piers unbreachable. All previous military experience had taught that beyond 700 yards smoothbore cannons and mortars would have little chance to break through heavy masonry walls, beyond 1,000 yards no chance at all. With the nearest Union battery on Tybee Island, more than one mile away, Fort Pulaski felt secure. What they didn’t know was that the Union had developed “rifled guns/cannons” which were more accurate and could go longer distances. After one battle that damaged part of the fort, Col Charles Olmstead surrendered. Bad for him, good for us. The fort is completely intact and can be toured. Very interesting place for both Ralph and I.

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski


Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski


Fort Pulaski preparations for Veteran's Day

Fort Pulaski preparations for Veteran’s Day

The next day Ralph and I toured Pin Point, the home of Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice (don’t get me started on this guy) and an historic shrimp and oyster factory. Pin Point is a rural settlement founded by freed slaves after the American Civil War. It is predominantly African American with a group of Gullah speakers. The historic creole language of the Low Country was drawn from West African languages. Most residents of Pin Point worked in the shrimp and oyster “factory” in the area. We toured the little factory and museum. It was a very interesting stop.

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Wormsloe State Historic Site is colonial estate founded in 1736 by an early colonist, Noble Jones (1702-1775). There is a ruin of his first tabby construction house. The house took six years to build and required mixing more than 8,000 bushels each of lime, sand, oyster shells and water to make tabby. Large shell middens left behind by Native Americans were mined for oyster shells, some of which were heated in kilns to produce lime-rich ash. The wet tabby was poured into wooden molds to dry and then the mold was removed and moved up the wall, ready to take more tabby. Tabby provides a very strong and long lasting building material, as evidenced by the ruin left today. Unfortunately I cannot find the photos from Wormsloe.

I LOVED Savannah and will certainly return sometime in the future.

Next stop Amelia Island, Florida.

 

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Week Ten: Charleston, NC

I’ve been looking forward to visiting Charleston  the entire trip. Several years back I visited Charleston for three days. While I was working in Washington DC I flew to Charleston and drove up to Myrtle Beach to meet up with my friend Dianne and her family. Three days in Charleston was only a teaser and I’ve longed to return. Finally the time was here. I love the vibe of the area and the way they have preserved the architectural history. When the colonists settled Charleston in 1680 (yes, you read that right, 1680) an urban development plan called the Grand Model established an orderly grid of streets. It’s easy to find your way around.

Charleston is known as The Holy City because there are so many churches.   Most very historic and beautiful.  Here’s a few examples.

St Phillips Church Started in 1681

St Phillips Church Started in 1681

EAM Episcopal Church - site of the shootings by Dillon Roof

EAM Episcopal Church – site of the shootings by Dillon Roof

Pink church with black iron

Pink church with black iron

We camped at James Island County Park about 10 miles south of Charleston for five days. It was a very nice park with large sites, nicely separated by trees. Live oaks with Spanish moss covered the entire park. It’s a very large county park with the nicest dog park I’ve encountered. It was huge, had a side for big dogs and a side for small dogs and both sides had a small beach and lake the dogs could romp in. One day there was a dog agility competition that entertained me for a while on my walk. With our camping pass we could also visit and park free at the two other country parks in the area. On one of the few sunny days we had, we drove out to Folly Beach and spent the afternoon on the beach. It was wonderful. I learned that in 1934 George Gershwin stayed in Folly Beach for a summer. He absorbed the joyous music of church revivals and tones of Gullah spirituals, which became the musical score for Porgy and Bess. More about the Gullah a little later.

Folly Beach

Folly Beach

Folly Beach

Folly Beach

We took Uber into Charleston from James Island. We went straight to the Visitor Center and signed up for a mini-bus tour of the historic city. This helped me get the lay of the land and determine what I wanted to visit on my own over the next few days. We make it a practice to go to the Visitor Center when we first arrive. The people in the centers are knowledgeable and very helpful with their recommendations on what to see. And taking an organized tour provides an overview and the history of the area. We had the tour bus driver drop us off at Fleet Landing for a delicious dinner before taking Uber back to the campground. When we pulled into the park it was dark and Christmas lights were on EVERYWHERE! I noticed the park folks were installing Christmas lights here and there, but I had no idea how elaborate the lighting was. I thought “Wow, this is really early for Christmas lights; it isn’t even Halloween yet!” I was going to come back the next night and take photos, but, alas, no lights were on. On my walk the next morning I talked to one of the installers and he told me we got lucky. They test the lights on Thursday nights and then make appropriate repairs. The show doesn’t start until Nov 13. And lucky we were! The lights were really something. He said it takes them 2.5 months to install all the lights and it is a BIG money maker for the county.

Starting Christmas Decorations

Starting Christmas Decorations

On Halloween I went to the Low County Bistro for dinner and the Dock Street Theatre for Little Shop of Horrors. The play was fantastic! I’d forgotten the plot. They brought the “plant” in from New York where the play ran for several years on Broadway. It was the perfect thing to do on Halloween.

Little Shop of Horrors at the Dock Street Theatre

Little Shop of Horrors at the Dock Street Theatre

The next day we went to the Charleston Museum, which is the oldest in the country.

Charleston Museum

Charleston Museum

We walked through the Public Market and had southern BBQ at Queology. We also returned to Waterfront Park. There was no Spanish moss hanging from the live oaks because a hurricane blew it all away.

Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park

Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park

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I spent a lot of time walking around the historic part of the city and soaked in the beautiful buildings, gardens and public spaces.

Old Slave Mart Musem

Old Slave Mart Museum

George Washington Statue

George Washington Statue

Cemetery

Cemetery

Marion Square

Marion Square

John C Calhoun Statue 7th VP of US 1825-1832

John C Calhoun Statue
7th VP of US 1825-1832

We had a wonderful time in Charleston and I would have been sad to leave if I hadn’t been so excited to visit Savannah, our next stop.

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Week Nine: North Carolina

We ended up spending a lot of time in North Carolina and it was a very positive experience. We drove though quite a bit of the state; from the Outer Banks to the southwest corner and loved the rolling hills, fall colors and forest. The state parks are reasonably priced and in beautiful areas with rivers and lakes. We were able to visit friends and are very happy serendipity brought us to North Carolina. Our first stop was Williamston. We chose this area so that we could take the car and easily visit the Outer Banks and Kitty Hawk.

Williamston

We camped at the Farm Country Campground and again we were one of three other campers. It’s a very nice campground in the middle of cotton fields. I don’t remember ever seeing cotton fields before.

Cotton field

Cotton field

We drove east from Williamston for 2.5 hours to the Outer Banks. First we headed south as far as Rodanthe and Wave. It was a warm, sunny day. We visited the Bodie Island lighthouse just south of Nags Head. It stands 156 feet tall and you have to climb 214 steps to get to the top. This is the lighthouse you see in all the photos for North Carolina. We had lunch on the beach and I dipped my toes in the Atlantic once again. We hated to leave the beach but we needed to if we were going to make it to Kitty Hawk before the Wright Brothers monument closed.

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Bodie Light House

Bodie Light House

Lunch at the beach

Lunch at the beach

I was impressed with the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. The Visitor Center had exhibits that tell the Wright Brothers story of solving the problem of flight. There are full-scale models of their 1902 Glider and 1903 Flyer. The First Flight Airstrip has markers at the first, second, third and fourth flights indicating how far the plane flew.

The Wright Brothers represent the best of American ingenuity and perseverance. They never married and self-funded their flight endeavors. The brothers were from Dayton, Ohio and chose Kill Devil Hills for its remoteness, hill, air currents and soft sand for landings. There is a 60 foot marble monument at the top of Kill Devil Hill that honors the Wright Brothers and the site of hundreds of glider flights that preceded the first powered flight. If you’re in the area be sure to visit this monument.

Wright Brothers Memorial

Wright Brothers Memorial

Wright Brothers

Wright Brothers

Replica of the glider

Replica of the glider

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First woman to receive the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award

First woman to receive the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award

Mary S. Feik, aviation engineer, master mechanic, pilot, instructor, and aircraft restorer.

We had dinner at Dirty Dick’s Crab Shack and I had the best mussels, broth and bread I’ve ever had…delish!  Debated buying the t-shirt, but decided I probably wouldn’t wear it, so just took a photo.

Dirty Dicks

Dirty Dicks

Mussels were delish

Didn’t get Dirty Dick’s  Crabs, I had the mussels and they were delish!

My new look

My new look

Apex, NC (just outside Raleigh)

Thanks to our Camp Where app we found a wonderful NC state park on Jordan Lake. Camp Where only lists public campgrounds; national, state, county and city. We prefer these because they are more scenic, private and less cost than independent campgrounds. At Jordan Lake there are actually four or five campgrounds but all were closed except Poplar Point. There is one loop (loop E) that is first come, first served and it has lots of sites, some right along the lake edge. We intended to stay a couple of days, but with the weekend approaching and the nice weather (70s) we knew we might have a problem finding an open site for the weekend. The lovely ranger lady told us they were completely booked for the weekend and there weren’t many state parks open for camping so we should “ce-ment ourselves in” and stay through the weekend. So that’s what we did! And we were very happy we took her advice. It’s a beautiful state park and we had a site right on the lake. The site was somewhat private and our neighbors on one side were very friendly. Always good to have someone besides each other to talk to! Matter of fact, this post was written at the water’s edge while I was watching bald eagles fly around the lake and fish jumping. We were there for five glorious days and I know Ralph was happy to not be driving for awhile.

View from our campsite

View from our campsite

Just want to give credit where credit is due… Ralph is such a good driver of our rig. We have gone through some pretty busy cities and his driving has been flawless. I freak out just riding in the passenger seat. We take the bypasses around the cities but there is still a lot of traffic and interchanges. I’m very thankful he is such a good driver. And can fix things too! :>)

Lake Norman

We drove a couple hours from our campground to Lake Norman to visit with Debbie and Lee. They have a beautiful house on the lake and they took us out on their  pontoon boat. It was a perfect day on the lake. They pointed out their famous neighbors or former neighbors.  NASCAR is VERY popular here. Some of the race drivers that have lived on Lake Norman are Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs (sponsor and coach of the Washington Redskins a number of years ago). Also Michael Jordon has a house there too. We went out to dinner afterwards and ended up with free dinners. The service was slow and the orders were not correct, so the manager came over and comped our meals. The food was good so it worked out well in the end. We spent the night in their beautiful in-law unit and came back to the campground the next morning. It was great spending time together and we had a wonderful time.

Debbie and Lee at Lake Norman

Debbie and Lee at Lake Norman

Lake Norman

Lake Norman

On the way back to camp  we stopped by Gretchen and Ross’s Yankee Belle Farms in Pittsboro. Gretchen and Ross moved to NC several years ago. They have two small children and LOTS of animals; pigs, chickens, dogs and alpacas. It was a lot of fun observing the alpacas. Some were very interested in smelling us. Also, got the big spit when we started messing with one of the babies. Actually Ross caught the brunt of it and I got a little overspray. It was very cool visiting with them, meeting their kids and playing with the animals. Afterwards it was a short drive back to our campground.

The alpacas at Yankee Belle Farm

The alpacas at Yankee Belle Farm

Mamas and babies

Mamas and babies

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Next stop Charlestown, SC.

The Happy Campers

The Happy Campers

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Week Eight: Lancaster County, PA and Lorton, VA

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

I’ve always wanted to come to Lancaster and now was my chance.  Ralph was not too thrilled about it; commenting, “What are you going to do; ride around and stare at Amish people?”.   “Well…yes, kinda”, I answered. And that’s pretty much what we did.  We drove around the entire afternoon, commenting on the beautiful countryside and looking for Amish people.  We stayed at the Old Mill Stream Campground located by the Dutch Wonderland (an amusement park for small children).  It was  right in the middle of Lancaster.  As we toured the country roads I noticed several more campgrounds that would have been nice.  I just took the first one I called with an opening.  I knew we wouldn’t be spending much time at the campground so it really didn’t much matter.  It turned out to be a nice campground with a clean laundry, of which we took full advantage.

Amish Country, AKA Pennsylvania Dutch Country is actually German!  Duetche was translated (poorly) to Dutch.

Our first observation  was the Amish are not poor.  The farms had large, beautiful farmhouses, many, many large barns and outbuildings on very large plots of land.  And there are  Amish that use some modern machinery.

There are lots of tourist attractions, which we chose to ignore.  Once again, I turned to Trip Advisor and followed the recommendation of several reviewers  to drive the roads outside of the main tourist area and enjoy the scenery and the small towns along the way.  And “scenic” is definitely an understatement.  Let me see how many adjectives I can think of to describe the Amish area: rolling hills, narrow roads, very green, lovely houses, road side farm stands using the honor system, quaint small towns with names like Bird in Hand, Blue Ball, Intercourse, Strasburg, Soudersburg, Smoketown and Paradise,  horse-drawn carriages and carts on the same roads with cars and trucks, men with long beards and women all dressed in pretty much the same garb.

Typical Scene in Lancaster County

Typical Scene in Lancaster County


Usual Mode of Transportation for the Amish

Usual Mode of Transportation for the Amish

We had a loose plan to find some of the 24 covered bridges in the county.  That was easier said than done!  We ended up finding two before we gave up and starting searching for dinner.

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge


Park with Covered Bridge

Park with Covered Bridge

We stopped to purchase some fresh picked vegetables.  I bought the largest, whitest, fluffiest cauliflower I’ve ever seen.  I added olive oil and curry powder and roasted it in the oven…yum!

We had  dinner in one of the small towns at a family restaurant.  I had a German meal just like grandma would make: pork, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and buttered beats.  Ralph had a roast beef dinner, and all for under $20!

Pork, Sauerkraut and Mash Potatoes

Pork, Sauerkraut and Mash Potatoes

Ralph had to admit, it was a wonderful day that we both thoroughly enjoyed.  So glad we stopped in Lancaster.

Lorton, Virginia

Moving south another 200 miles we landed in Lorton, VA at a public campground that is an island of solitude in a very busy metropolitan area just south of Washington DC. We didn’t visit DC; we’ve both been there.  I worked in DC with a best friend  for about one year several years ago and saw most of the sites at that time.  This time I was more interested in Civil War sites and Virginia has an abundance of those!

We visited Mason Neck State Park located in  Fairfax County, Virginia. The park is on a peninsula formed by Pohick Bay on the north, Belmont Bay on the south and the Potomac River to the east.

In 1965, the Mason Neck Conservation Committee was formed after two bald eagle nests were spotted at Mason Neck. The committee, concerned about impending development on the peninsula, recommended part of the area to be used as a site for a state park. In August 1967 the commonwealth began purchasing land parcels from The Nature Conservancy with the assistance of matching federal grants. A series of events threatened the sanctity of Mason Neck in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After plans for a proposed beltway through the area were dropped in 1967, an airport, a natural gas pipeline, a landfill and a sewer line were proposed for the area. These proposals met strong opposition from groups such as the Mason Neck Conservation Committee. Plans for the projects were dropped because of the potential negative impact each had on the federally operated Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge and Mason Neck State Park. Mason Neck State Park opened to the public in April 1985.

We went looking one day but didn’t see any eagles and left slightly disappointed.

We camped at Pohick Bay Regional Park and we highly recommend it.  And after camping in the Northeast at $50- $60 a day, The $30 they charged for full hook ups seemed like a downright deal. We stayed three days.

View from our campsite

View from our campsite

Now off to learn about the Civil War.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said “I wish I had paid more attention in school when I supposed to be learning about all these things.”  All I can say is, “Some of these names sound familiar.”   And Manassas sounded familiar.  When I used my Google brain, I found out that Manassas was the site of the first battle of the Civil War and it was only 45 minutes away!  Off I went…

Manassas National Battlefield Park

On a warm July day in 1861, two armies of a divided nation clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run.  Enthusiastic young volunteers in colorful new uniforms, gathered from every part of the country thought that this would be the only battle of the war and surely a short war.  How very wrong they were!  Spectators from the nearby towns came equipped with picnic baskets and wine to watch the battle, anticipating this to be their one and only chance to watch the spectacle. But all thoughts of pageantry was suddenly lost in the smoke, dirt, and death of battle.  Soldiers on both sides were stunned by the violence and destruction they encountered.  At day’s end nearly 900 young men lay lifeless on the field.  Ten hours of heavy fighting  swept away any notion the war’s outcome would be quickly decided. The young men were 90-day volunteers, called from shops and farms, with little knowledge of what war would mean. There were two battles in Manassas at Bull Run.  My visit concentrated on the first.

The Visitor Center runs a 45 minute film  reenacting the first battle with graphic detail.  I was sick to my stomach as I left the theatre.  War SUCKS and young men are the ones who lose their lives.  As I walked the battlefield I became even more sick and depressed as it truly sank in how many American lives were lost during the Civil War.  Visiting the cemeteries was another sobering experience. The soldiers were buried in areas designated by state.  New York in one area, North Carolina in another area, etc.

Here’s what I learned:

  • It was thought that volunteers should come from and fight together, from the same town/village.  It was assumed that would improve the moral of the soldiers.  Yes, maybe…and it would mean that the young male population from that village/town would be wiped out leaving only women, children and old men left to carry on.
  • There was no official uniform for either side.  Men from the same town wore the same uniform.  Therefore, it was nearly impossible to tell from all the uniforms on which side a solider was fighting  The flags were both red, white and blue; therefore when the wind was not blowing hard enough they couldn’t tell which side they were shooting.
  • Stonewall Jackson was wounded by his own troops and died from those wounds.

I also learned there are an endless supply of sites you can tour and  that one visit to a Civil War site was enough for me.

Civil War Cannon

Civil War Cannon


Stonewall Jackson in the background

Stonewall Jackson in the background


Confederate Burial Ground

Confederate Burial Ground


Stone Bridge over Bull Run

Stone Bridge over Bull Run


Judith Henry House

Judith Henry House


Judith Henry - only civilian causality of the first battle

Judith Henry – only civilian causality of the first battle

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Monument to Brooklyn New York Soldiers

Monument to Brooklyn New York Soldiers


Typical 22 year old soldier

Typical 22 year old soldier

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Week Seven: New England Part 2

Plymouth, Massachusetts

We drove close to 200 miles to our next campground in South Carver, Mass just outside Plymouth. Shady Acres was a funky campground with a lot of seasonal campers. A seasonal camper rents the campsite for an entire (usually summer) season. They move in and set up shop; building decks, landscaping and even adding storage buildings. It was Columbus Day weekend and most campgrounds were totally booked. It was also the last weekend that most of the campgrounds are open. So we definitely have to move south from here. We chose this area so we could visit Plymouth and Boston.

Our first stop was Plymouth and Plymouth Rock. What I learned about the rock made me a little disappointed with the whole story.

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock

The rock had lain at the foot of Cole’s Hill until 100 years after the Pilgrims’ landing in 1620. When plans were made to build a wharf at the Pilgrims’ landing site, a 94 year old elder of the church, living three miles from the spot, declared that he knew the precise boulder on which the Mayflower pilgrims first stepped when disembarking. The man claimed that his father and several of the original Mayflower passenger had, when he was a youth, identified the precise rock to him. There have been doubts hinted about the accuracy of the identification, in view of his age and the dates of the landing and his birth, but there is no doubt that he grew up in Plymouth at a time when many of the original passengers were still there. Bill Bryson in Made in America says, “The one thing the Pilgrims certainly did not do was step ashore on Plymouth Rock. Quite apart from the consideration that it may have stood well above the high-water mark in 1620, no prudent mariner would try to bring a ship alongside a boulder on a heaving December sea when a sheltered inlet beckoned from nearby.” Having been a sailor in the San Francisco Bay for 14 years, I totally agree. So you can understand my disappointment.

Our next stop was the Mayflower II docked nearby. It is a replica of the 17th century ship Mayflower. It was built in Devon, England in 1955 from blueprints held by Plimoth Plantation (a museum with the old spelling so as to differentiate it from the town) using traditional methods. The ship is 106 ft long and 25 ft wide. That’s not a large ship and it carried 102 passengers and all of their cargo as well as supplies for the voyage. And for most of the passage, those not sailing the ship were below deck. It took them 55 days to make the crossing. Sounds like a nightmare if you ask me. But they did it; and all for the right to believe what they wanted to believe.

Mayflower II

Mayflower II


Mayflower II Below Deck

Mayflower II Below Deck


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Below deck

Plimoth Plantation was the last place we visited in Plymouth. Plimoth Plantation was founded in 1947 and is a living history museum that shows the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established in 1627. The interpreters have been trained to speak, act and dress appropriately for the period. They interact with their “strange” visitors in the first person, answering questions, discussing their lives and viewpoints and participating in tasks such as cooking, planting, blacksmithing and animal husbandry. The interpreters were so knowledgeable spoke in that 17th century way; it was fascinating.

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1620 House


Inside Plantation House

Inside Plantation House


Interpreter

Interpreter

There was also a re-creation of a Wampanoag home site to demonstrate how the Native Americans lived and interacted with the settlers. It was very educational and interesting.

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Wigwam


Tree Bark Wigwam

Tree Bark Wigwam


Indian Village

Indian Village

Cranberry Bogs

I attended the Cranberry Harvest Festival in Wareham. I took a bus out to the cranberry bogs and watched as they harvested the cranberries. The cranberries grow in water on vines and when they are ready they shake the vines and the cranberries float to the top of the water. A large vacuum sucks up the cranberries and loads them into a large semi-truck trailer and off they go for processing. Ocean Spray is actually a co-op of cranberry growers. Again, educational and interesting!

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Boston and the Freedom Trail

We took the T Commuter Rail into Boston the next day. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. The 45 minute train ride gave us an opportunity to see the area outside Boston. It reminded me of riding the train in Europe. Public transportation in the East is sooooo much better than out West. We debarked at South Station and it was only a short walk through downtown Boston to the beginning of the Freedom Trail.

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile path through downtown Boston that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States. The path winds from Boston Common to the USS Constitution in Charlestown. The trail includes stops at explanatory ground markers, graveyards, notable church’s and buildings and a naval frigate. We visited Boston Common, the oldest city park in the US (1634); a cemetery founded in 1660 that is the final resting place for Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine and Paul Revere; the first public school in the US (Boston Latin School); the Old South Meeting House built in 1729 which was the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party; and the Old State House where the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony to jubilant crowds and Paul Revere’s house. The information plaques in these locations brought to life the struggle of the Colonists against British rule and taxation. The straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed the Colonists to fight for independence was that fact that the British could search Colonists’ homes and businesses at any time without cause. After many battles with the British, the Colonists won their independence. We ended our day by the harbor where the Boston Tea Party occurred.

1660 Cemetery

1660 Cemetery


Mother Goose Grave

Mother Goose Grave


Paul Revere Grave

Paul Revere Grave


Samuel Adams Grave

Samuel Adams Grave


Old Church

Old Church


Old State House

Old State House


Walking around Italian Area of Boston

Walking around Italian Area of Boston

 

Walking around Italian Area of Boston

Walking around Italian Area of Boston

The Boston Tea Party has always been a significant event for me, but not for the reason you may think. When I was in the 5th grade my Social Studies teacher asked me about the Boston Tea Party. I hadn’t done the reading so I hesitated before answering. He said, “Was it a ladies tea party with women in hats?” I answered, “Yes.” The entire class erupted in laughter and I was so embarrassed. I was never unprepared for class again! I think that event shaped me into the prepared person I am today.

Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor

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Next stop Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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Week Six: Fall in New England Part 1

Rutland Vermont

They sure don’t call it New England for nothing !  The British influence is very noticeable here.  The towns share the same names as the English towns from which the people came.  They fly British flags (in addition to American and Canadian flags) and the architecture is very British.  Vermont and New Hampshire are hilly.  They call them mountains, but compared to out west, they are hills.  Highest elevation I’ve seen on the map is less than 4000 feet.   We took the Scenic Route 100 from Killington to Stowe.  This is one of the top ten scenic routes in America and scenic it was!  The colors have not peaked yet due to warm weather.  This week it was down into the 40s and high 30s so it should get much more colorful in the coming weeks.  Sorry, to say we cannot wait around for it to peak.  We did see some color though and the small towns along the route were so charming.  I bought some local maple syrup in Stowe, so of course, we had to have banana-walnut pancakes for dinner.

Vermont

Vermont

Colorful Vermont

Colorful Vermont

Warren Falls

Warren Falls

We stayed at the Iroquois Family Campground in Rutland.  It was a field in back of a house they turned into a campground.  It had electric and water and we put that electric to good use running a heater a lot of the time. It’s been in the 50s during the day and high 30s at night.  This is getting a little too cold for our blood.  After Maine we will be heading south and I hope we’ll find warmer weather.

 

Scarborough, Maine (Near Portland)

Another 200 miles and we landed in Scarborough, Maine at the Wild Duck Campground. This was our first adults-only campground and WE LOVED IT! It was peaceful, very quiet and peaceful. This was as far north as we wanted to take the motorhome. The first place we visited was Kennebunkport, an upscale small town famous as the summer home of the Bushes. It’s a cute town with shops and restaurants. I was able to get my first lobster role and it was delish!

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The home of my first lobster roll

The home of my first lobster roll

All locks!

All locks!

The house I want

The house I want

The view from my house (in my dreams!)

The view from my house (in my dreams!)

Our main (excuse the pun) purpose in Maine was to visit the only national park on the Eastern seaboard; Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. The next day we drove about three hours north of Scarborough to Bar Harbor and the park. We stayed in a hotel overnight and drove back the next day. We visited the park on both days. As luck would have it, we had two beautiful days of sunny weather.

Bridge over the Penobscot Narrows

Bridge over the Penobscot Narrows

The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Islands in the Atlantic from Acadia National Park

Islands in the Atlantic from Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park has an interesting history. Acadia is located on Mount Desert Island. Yes, desert, as in apple pie a la mode. I was curious about the name and you may be too. When the Frenchman, Samuel Champlain came upon the island he said “The island is very high, notched in places, so that there is the appearance to one at sea, as of seven or eight mountains extending along near each other. The summit of most of the is destitute of trees, as there are only rocks on them. The woods consist of pines, firs, and birches only. I name it Isle des Monts Deserts.” The area was designated as a national park in 1919 and was the first one east of the Mississippi. John D Rockefeller purchased and donated several thousand acres to the park and built a series of carriage roads within the park. We stopped at Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Point. We had lunch at Otter Point. This part of coastal Maine is really something to see and we enjoyed our time here very much. Dinner that night was a whole lobster dinner in the restaurant next to the hotel.

Otter Point - Lunch Spot

Otter Point – Lunch Spot

Lobster carry-out

Lobster carry-out

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine

Wigwam at Acadia

Wigwam at Acadia

I give up!

I give up!

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

Sand Beach, Acadia National Park

On the drive we passed through Portland and stopped for dinner (more lobster for me!) and I learned that Portland, Oregon was named after Portland, Maine.   I like Maine very much and think I will return someday. Of course, not in the winter. Next stop Massachusetts.

The Happy Campers

The Happy Campers

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Week Five: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Cleveland, Ohio) and Niagara Falls (New York)

Cleveland, Ohio

We were only in Cleveland for one day and our sole purpose was to  visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  We drove from Saline to Cleveland in the morning and parked the RV at a Pilot Truck Stop  and took the car downtown.  A Monday afternoon in late September is the perfect time to visit the HOF; very few people were there.  The senior rate of $17 is worth every penny and more!  We were there from 1:00 until closing (5:30) and were busy the entire time.  In addition to the artifacts, there are films to watch.  My favorite film was Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.  I remembered several of the clips because I was a regular viewer of the show.  They also showed videos of the HOF inductees over the years.  It was hard not to sing along with all the music.  They  have great music playing throughout the museum and it truly is the soundtrack of my life.

The artifacts ranged from John Lennon’s report card, Roy Orbison’s glasses and original pencil and paper song lyrics to guitars, costumes and Johnny and June Carter’s tour bus.  There are exhibits groups by famous music cities: Memphis, LA, London and of course DETROIT!

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Ralph, the newest Rolling Stone

Ralph, the newest Rolling Stone

The special exhibit was Herb Ritts” Rock Portraits.  Herb was a self-taught photographer and you would recognize some of his work. In addition to photographs, there are album covers and videos.  He ended up forming long friendships with several of the people he photographed, but unfortunately he died much to young at around 50.  I very much enjoyed his work.  See more at herbritts.com.

Cher and Ralph's favorite Herb Ritt photograph

Cher and Ralph’s favorite Herb Ritts photograph

After they basically kicked us out, we headed back to the Pilot truck stop and decided to stop at Two Bucks for dinner.  We slept (not well) at the truck stop and headed out around 9:30 am for Niagara Falls.

Can anyone tell me why truckers run their engines ALL NIGHT LONG???  Even with earplugs it was very noisy.  I don’t know how the truckers get any sleep at all!

Niagara Falls

Oh the mighty falls! This has to be the big kahuna of water falls.  I’ve never seen anything like it…ever.  The photos will not do it justice.  We didn’t take the Maid of the Mist or the Wind Cave.  Neither were necessary to get the feeling of awe and power The Falls conveys. (Yes, I consider them The Falls.)  It was a chilly and windy day and mist was flying everywhere.  We wore our motorcycle water-proof jackets and they did the job well.  We walked a lot on both the American and Canadian sides.  In my opinion (well, let’s face it, my blog, my opinion 🙂 ) the Canadian side is better. The Canadian side provides a much better view of The Falls.  You can actually see both of The Falls.  Yes, there are two waterfall’s separated by an island.  There are beautiful gardens all along the viewing areas.

The awesome Niagara Falls

The awesome Niagara Falls from Canada

IMG_1217Interesting to see how the stone has eroded under The Falls.

The American side has Niagara State Park and a high overlook to view The Falls. We parked at the Seneca Casino and Hotel and it was only about one mile to The Falls.  The town of Niagara Falls, New York surprised me.  It is not a prosperous small city; quite the contrary.  There are only two grocery stores and the one we chose via Google was a little scary. It was in a poor area of town and when we drove around  we saw more of the same.  Then I found an article about Niagara Falls and the New York Power Authority (NYPA).

Since 1957 the NYPA has controlled all the electrify generated by the Niagara River on the American side.  When the 50 year license expired in 2007, elected officials from Niagara Falls agreed to renew the rights until 2057.  After a half-century of NYPA control, the people of Niagara Falls who have the greatest natural hydropower in the world have neither the control, nor use of that power, nor inexpensive electricity. The NYPA generates a billion dollars annually from the Niagara – out of which a quarter billion is net profit, from selling power to New York City, to government agencies downstate and to seven other states and sells NONE of it to the city of Niagara Falls!  The Niagara region gets their power from burning coal and other expensive methods, purchased at high mark-up from a British company called National Grid. The New York State Legislature created the NYPA to provide low-cost electricity to the people of New York.  Instead it became an entrenched political institution with the Board of Directors appointed by Albany politicians with no accountability to the people. Over the decades the NYPA has accommodated ten-thousand back-door sweetheart deals that have diverted every benefit of having hydropower in the midst of Niagara Falls.  Instead of providing low cost electricity for the region (as they were promised) the profits  from Niagara’s  hydropower pays for thousands of high-paying “administrative” jobs mostly in Albany and White Plains (a suburb of NYC).   All Niagara gets is $850,000 per year for the next 40 years and at current rates of inflation, will be $187,000 in 40 years.  The article asks, “Where else could you find a place which produces a billion in electricity annually; has is sent to other places at cheap prices; then pays high electric rates; is all but broke; has local leaders who relicensed the same “Authority” who created the mess, and an apathetic, uninformed public?”  This is just another example how the American public does not pay attention to what government officials are doing “on our behalf”.    Rant over!

We took the River Road about eleven miles to the Small town of Niagara on the Lake located on Lake Ontario.

Niagara on the Lake

The settlement, known from about 1781 as Butlersburg, in honor of Colonel John Butler, the commander of Butler’s Rangers, was renamed West Niagara to distinguish it from Fort Niagara and it was a British military base and haven for pro-British loyalists fleeing the United States during the volatile aftermath of the American Revolution.  Niagara played a central role in the War of 1812. Niagara was taken by American forces after a two-day bombardment by cannons from Fort Niagara and the American Fleet, followed by a fierce battle. Later in the war the town was razed and burnt to the ground by soldiers as they withdrew to Fort Niagara. Undaunted by this, the citizens rebuilt the town after the war. The historic Centre had already been designated as a provincial Heritage Conservation District.

The little town is absolutely beautiful.  The buildings are well maintained and the entire town is covered in flowers. Nice upscale shops and many, many restaurants.  It made our Niagara experience complete!

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Next stop Vermont!

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The Happy Campers - a little cold and wet1

The Happy Campers – a little cold and wet!

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Week Four: Clarkston, Marine City, and Saline, Michigan

Driveway surfing at my BFF’s (from kindergarten) house in Clarkston was a great way to visit.  We really are the best house guest you can imagine…we bring our own house!  Close, but not too close!  Clarkston is a beautiful, not so small anymore, town about 60 miles north of Detroit.  Some may know that this is the “home” of Kid Rock. We passed by his gate on our daily walk.  Clarkstson was a rural area until urban flight expanded into the area. There is still a lot of open areas among the upscale housing developments.  It was great to catch up and spend quality time together.  Dianne and I meet up somewhere in the country on a regular basis and have been able to maintain a close friendship throughout the years:  one of the great treasures of my life. Dianne’s younger sister, Pam and her husband, Leon joined us for dinner one night. My fondest memory of Pam is when Dianne and I tried smoking a cigarette and Pam was there watching. Pam promptly said to us, “I’m telling mama”. So we did the only thing we could do…we forced her to smoke with us! Now we could tell on her too! Yes folks…that’s the Detroit way! 🙂

Our time together passed much too quickly and I look forward to our next time.

From Clarkston we drove a short 50 miles to my Dad and Suzanne’s property near Marine City. They have 20 acres and with a small pond and beautiful grounds. Their driveway is at least 150 feet long so there is plenty of room for us to driveway surf here. We’ve been exploring the Marine City, Algonac, Fair Haven area via the restaurant tour! I’ve concluded Michigan makes me fat! Well…maybe not fat, but I’ m certainly not losing weight on this trip. I was able to score tickets to a production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” at the Snug Theatre in Marine City. It was opening night and we were able to get three seats together, so Ralph was kind enough to sit right behind us by himself. We all enjoyed the performance and laughed at the craziness of male/female relationships from dating to death.  We also visited Port Huron and the Thomas Edison Museum.  Thomas spent some of his younger years in Port Huron and worked at the age of 12 on the Grand Trunk train that ran from Port Huron to Detroit.  He sold fruit and newspapers on the train in order to earn money to buy chemicals and equipment for experiments.  The museum has one of two Grand Trunk Railroad cars in the nation.

Dad, Suzanne and me at the Thomas Edison Museum in Port Huron inside the Grand Trunk Railroad car

Dad, Suzanne and me at the Thomas Edison Museum in Port Huron inside the Grand Trunk Railroad car

We used Marine City as our base while in the Detroit area and visited family and friends for about ten days. While in the area we ate out almost every meal. That’s certainly not compatible with my eating plan and it’s been impossible to get in 10,000 steps a day. But I seem to be holding steady and that’s the next best thing to loosing weight. I’ve been in food heaven! Buddy’s pizza, Sanders hot fudge cream puff sandals, Sanders Bump cake, apple cider and fresh cider donuts, Apple pie and lots of fresh water fish and crab cakes. Looking forward to the lobster in New England. You may surmise from this that I live to eat, not eat to live, and you’d be right!

Our spot at Dad and Suzannes

Our spot at Dad and Suzannes

Lake freighter as observed from Port Huron

Lake freighter as observed from Port Huron

Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron

Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron

Our last night with Dad

Our last night with Dad

I was able to connect with long time friends Kathy and Louie  and Roseanne and Ken for a fun night of catching up and reminiscing.  I stood up at Kathy and Louie’s wedding many, many years ago.  It was a three day, big Polish wedding that I will never forget.

Kathy, me and Roseanne

Kathy, me and Roseanne

We’ve spent time with Ralph’s family and my family. Ralph had lunch with guys from high school and I spent time with some of my friends.

Ralph's high school buddies

Ralph’s high school buddies

We did a little more driveway surfing in Saline with family and I was able to connect with my step-daughter, Stephanie’s mother, Debbie. My heart is so full of love from connecting with everyone. We’ve been parked in beautiful country settings and have relished the greenery and moisture in the air. I’ve been cruising around in a 1953 Chevy, cruising Vineyard Lake on a pontoon boat, going to a Cider Mill for cider and donuts and doing all the Michigan things.   I’ve developed a strong desire to spend more time in Michigan in the summer. Ralph’s 50th Class Reunion is next year so we may just be back next summer.

A little float, a little wine and a lot of dog on Vineyard Lake in Brooklyn, MI

A little float, a little wine and a lot of dog on Vineyard Lake in Brooklyn, MI

A canal off Vineyard Lake. It went pack to a campsite co-op

A canal off Vineyard Lake. It went pack to a campsite co-op

LOTS of lily pads

LOTS of lily pads

Sunset on Vineyard Lake

Sunset on Vineyard Lake

Some of my favorite women: Jeanette, Joan and Cindy

Some of my favorite women: Jeanette, Joan and Cindy

Next stop Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Happy Campers

The Happy Campers

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Week Three: Traverse City, Grand Haven and Frankenmuth, Michigan

Traverse City (or as some call it Tra-verse City) is a small town on Lake Michigan/Grand Traverse Bay.  The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is very close. There are two campgrounds in the park and we stayed at the Platte River Campground. It’s a national campground so we used our National Senior Pass for half price camping. We don’t have reservations for camping anywhere except Florida in December and January and New Orleans. We read that part of the campground was first-come, first-served, so we thought we had a good chance of getting in because  it was during the week. We did get a spot for one night and had to move to another  for the second night. Ralph talked to one camper that told him you have to make reservations 6 months in advance to get a campsite. And we just waltzed in! It was a forested area near the Platte River and Lake Michigan. We did not have much time to explore due to a very strong rainstorm.

I went into Traverse City the day it rained to look around, have lunch and tour the old Traverse City State Hospital that has been redeveloped into housing, shops, restaurants and galleries. The old asylum has an interesting history. Northern Michigan Asylum was established in 1881 as the demand for a third psychiatric hospital in addition to those established in Kalamazoo and Pontiac, began to grow. Lumber baron, Perry Hannah, “the father of Traverse City,” used his political influence to secure its location in his home town. Under the supervision of a prominent architect, the first building, known as Building 50, was constructed. The hospital opened in 1885 with 43 residents. Over the years, changes in the law and mental health care philosophies brought on the decline of the institution. Use of the hospital slowly declined, and it was closed in 1989, with a loss of over 200 jobs to the local economy. Over the next decade, the community struggled with plans for reuse of the hospital grounds. In 1993, the property was transferred from the state to the Grand Traverse Commons Redevelopment Corporation. Their efforts have led to the gradual but successful preservation and re-use of the former Building 50 as part of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a residential and commercial development. As of 2015 these buildings and cottages are occupied or being close to completion. I toured Building 50 and saw photos of the converted apartments in the grand old building. It’s good to see preservation and re-use of the beautiful, old buildings, instead of destroying them.

Building 50

Building 50

The next day we had to leave by noon, so we got up early and drove up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and took the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. We also climbed the dunes. It was a very clear, sunny day and the Dunes and Lake Michigan were gorgeous.   I’m so glad we were able to see the Dunes. I would have liked to have spent a little more time in the area.   After the Dunes visit we drove about 150 miles south on Hwy 31 to Grand Haven to visit my former brother and sister-in-law, Wayne and Pat Johnson.

Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan

Footprints in the sand dune along Lake Michigan

Footprints in the sand dune along Lake Michigan

Climbing the dunes

Climbing the dunes

Grand Haven, Michigan

We were able to park on the street next to Pat and Wayne’s house. Actually it was in front of their neighbor’s house (with permission, of course) because that was the only level spot. We ran the electric extension cord to the garage and we settled in for a few nights. We had such a good time catching up and doing a little site seeing. Grand Haven is located on Lake Michigan and the Grand River. It’s a lovely, small town with a beach on Lake Michigan. Grand Haven State Park is located on the beach too. If we hadn’t been able to stay at Wayne and Pat’s we would have stayed at this “park”. It’s more like a parking lot on the beach. Pat and I walked along the break wall/pier in the morning with a few of her friends. It was a little chilly and a beautiful view. The next day they took us to the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. The park opened in 1995 and is known internationally for the quality of its collections, exhibitions, gardens and grounds. It has a permanent collection which includes more than 200 masterworks by artists from Auguste Roden to Ai Weiwei   If you are ever are in the Grand Rapids area, you must see this place for yourself.  Here’s a link to their website: http://www.meijergardens.org/

Pat and Wayne Johnson

Pat and Wayne Johnson

Frankenmuth, Michigan

From Grand Haven we drove across the state to Frankenmuth for Car Fest. Ralph’s brother Roy had a 71 Olds Cutlass Convertible in the show. There were 2500 classic cars in show. I’ve never seen so many cars in one place like this. It was fun to walk around and decide which one I/we wanted to drive off. Later in the evening Roy and his friend Joe and Ralph and I had dinner at Zhenders (known for their chicken dinners, but none of us had chicken!) We camped in a really funky campground at Otter Lake. The campground accepts seasonal campers and some  have built decks on the front of their trailers. This is the first time we’ve seen something like this. By the way, there were no otters at Otter Lake! We stayed two nights before heading to Clarkston for some more driveway surfing at my best friend (from kindergarten), Dianne and her husband, Ken’s house.

View out our front window at Otter Lake campground

View out our front window at Otter Lake campground

Me and the big guy. When I got up I realized he had a wet hand!

Me and the big guy. When I got up I realized he had a wet hand!

Fancy Clubhouse

Fancy Clubhouse

Wooden spokes...cool!

Wooden spokes…cool!

Car Fest on the river

Car Fest on the river

Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

The Happy Campers

The Happy Campers

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