Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Indiana and Ohio

Traveling through northern Indiana and Ohio was an opportunity to take in the views of awesome farm country. This area hosts a large Amish-Mennonite population. Along one section of roadway in Indiana, we witnessed the incongruity of many large RV dealerships and farm houses without electricity.  We drove beside horse and buggies riding along the roadway.

Even after a pancake breakfast, when we happened upon Ben's Bakery we just had to go in. We found a large selection of locally produced jams, jellies (not spreads,) baked goods, including pies, cookies and granola. They had the best home-baked foods ever. Our cabinets were overflowing with the goodness that we took with us on the road.

Across the street from the bakery was a furniture factory.   Horse and wagons were parked outside. Next door, we saw a horse and buggy go through a bank's drive-through window.  What an interesting community balance of religious beliefs and modern society. 

Driving back toward the north, we found our next Great Lake, Lake Erie. We happened upon a fabulous Huron River Valley Resort just south of the cute little town of Huron, OH . The driveway into the campground looked like a golf course. The campground, nearly empty, was home to large redwood pines. We parked at one of the few 30 amp sites and made our home for the night.

We were hardly settled before driving to town to explore. We followed beach signs that lead us straight to Lake Erie. We put our feet in the water, It was cool but the day was warm.  We walked along the beach until we found a park bench and sat and watched the large group of seagulls picking through the pile. As we watched the birds above we noticed we were being watched as well. Wouldn't you know a woodchuck was preparing for the fall nearby. He was making sure Frances didn't see him as he darted along the bushes.

We decided to find some ice cream. We found the Pied Piper Ice Cream Shop which obviously had been in business for a long time and had some terrific ice cream. It reminded me of what Dairy Queen used to be like back in the 1960's and 70's. 

On the drive home, we noticed a large bird sitting atop a street lamp near the railroad tracks. We stopped to observe further. Sure, enough,  it was a bald eagle. We parked nearly straight underneath it. I don't think we had ever been so close to a bald eagle!

Back at the campground, we explored the large wooded area as well as the grassy area that was used for family reunions and large family picnics. We got a great night of sleep in the quiet woods and were ready to travel again.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Education Day

Both of us are proud not only of our own education but of some of the valuable educational institutions that influenced our desire to obtain our advanced degrees.  

Kathy had wanted to visit Notre Dame University.  She had been influenced by the movie Rudy.  It was one of her dad's favorite movies that they watched together each holiday season.  It is the real life story of a janitor who not only got to attend Notre Dame University but also got to play on the legendary football team, The Fighting Irish.  This heartfelt story, plus the fact that her Dad was fond of the school, motivated her to want to see the Notre Dame football field and campus so  Southbend, Indiana became a destination. 

We found a Walmart parking lot, disconnected the jeep and drove to campus.  It was summer so we were able to drive around the campus,  including the football field.  Each entrance gate is named for famous Notre Dame coaches.  We parked at the campus store and information center and rode our bicycles across campus and walked inside the Main Building, one of the most recognized campus buildings.  We gave ourselves a tour to appreciate the architecture and the history.  We saw the beautiful art work and even the Rosary Crown, which was designed to be placed on the golden statue on top of the building. The crown was so beautiful that they decided it needed to stay inside and was never put on the statue.

Another campus with history we wanted to get more in touch with was Kent State. Four hours east of Notre Dame and across the Ohio state line it was our next destination. Growing up during the Vietnam era, Joy had heard about the Kent State Massacre and had always wanted to see the campus which survived such violence as a response to peaceful protest.  

By accident we pulled in and parked the RV and Jeep next to the parking lot where the four students had died during the May 4th, 1970 shooting.  Immediately we were connected to the event. The locations where the students fell were marked by iron posts and their names carved into brick pavers.  This area used by students daily before and since the shootings made us reflect not only on our own mortality but on the lives of those lost and what they could have been had they lived.  

Next we walked up to the student building where the museum is.  The building reminded me of the student union at my own alma mater, Bemidji State University.  The front side of this building faces the knoll where the Victory Bell stands - the same bell that had witnessed the riots the days before the shootings. We learned the protests were not entirely peaceful as some students had looted local business and started fires, which is why the National Guardsmen were called in, eventually coming over the knoll and firing tear gas to disperse the protesters. After retreating back down the hill, they fired their rifles wildly into the air before they fired at students in the parking lot.  

A total of 67 shots were fired in 13 seconds. Four students: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder, were killed. Sandra and William had not been involved in the riots or protests at all - they were simply on their way to class.  Nine other students were injured, one of whom was permanently paralyzed.  None of the soldiers were ever held responsible for their actions.  

Kathy and I were greatly moved and highly encourage others to visit and learn more about this piece of history.   We'd like to think that a similar incident wouldn't happen today - but we're not that naive. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Leaving Wisconsin to the north brought us to big woods.  We stopped in the Ottawa National Forest headquarters office and got map for public campgrounds.

We headed to Burned Dam Falls and found ourselves a spot for overnight dry camping and were the only campers there.  One car with a man and his son came and left after checking out the fishing hole on the lower river falls below the dam.  We hiked along the river and read about the mill that used to be here.  It was quiet and peaceful.  We got a little spooked at night being alone deep in the forest as we heard owls over head when we walked the dog and a wolf howled in the distance being answered by another further off in the depth of the night.  But morning brought a beautiful day and drive was awesome.  A touch of fall was in the air but the skies blue with puffy white clouds.  

Our next stop made it a short day so we could enjoy the luxury of a casino.  Casino camping is usually a nice change of pace and this one not only had a nice separate campground but allowed campers to use the pool inside the casino hotel.  Joy was excited. We spent a few dollars on the slots at the Kewadin Casino, Joy loosing, Kathy winning and had dinner in the restaurant.  The food was good and prices were not bad and then went home via the free shuttle, changed into our suits and went back for a swim.  We stayed until the influx of children and families began. We knew it was time to go home.  We got to watch some real TV as the campground even had cable.

The next morning it was a short jaunt to the northwest shore of Lake Michigan and the beautiful views of the Mackinac Bridge.  Growing up Joy heard stories of her parents moving mobile homes across the Appalachians and even towing one across the Mackinac Bridge which connects the upper peninsula of Michigan to the lower part.  Joy’s mother told tales of terror when relaying the trip across the swinging bridge with open grates during a storm.  We were excitedly a little apprehensive about the drive but weather forecasts were good and neither of us had been across the bridge.    

 We stopped at a few viewing points and walked Frances on the beach.  Her full sized cousin played in the water but no wet dog smell in the RV for us so Frances just got to enjoy the sand.  Then we headed across.  Of course during the end of the summer, road construction was going on so the bridge was down to one lane and yes, we could see the water through the grated surface of the bridge.  Kathy mentioned the steering was a little heavier than usual but we didn’t really feel the bridge move the way Joy’s mom had portrayed.

On the other side we stopped near the beach and put our feet in Lake Ontario and then headed back south along the east coast of Lake Michigan.  We had no idea Michigan had such beautiful tourist towns and farmland.  Since we had skipped all the cheese houses in Wisconsin it was time to find one in Michigan.  

Joy googled organic cheese and located Grassfields Cheese a dairy not far off our intended path.  A few interesting turns down gravel roads with the towed and we landed near a large red barn with black and white milk cows.  Inside the store we asked for a tour.  We saw young chicks growing into what would soon be free range, or mobile cages driven by chickens and milk cows in the barn.  We tasted some well-developed cheeses, bought a few and headed back on the road toward the beach.

 Yes, beach, Michigan’s Warren Dunes State Park along the southeast coast of Lake Michigan is awesome.  The campground was nearly full but we located a spot with a little distance between us and the large families with many loud children.  This was a bicycling park as we were nearly 3 miles from the water.  No worries we took the long bike ride to watch the sunset.  It was beautiful.  

Then we realized we would be riding our bikes back along the narrow roadway along with all the cars heading home in the dark.    More bike paths are needed in many of our state and national parks.  Getting home without incident was a good reminder that we should always be more prepared, we could have used flashlights and even a warmer jacket.  The next day we drove to the beach and enjoyed the sunshine and even the water was cold, Joy got in just to say that she had.