Monday, June 30, 2008

What Bridge?

Since Ron's fishing license ran out, we had to find something interesting to do. One of the handouts from the visitors center talked about the Cut River Bridge. It sounded pretty interesting and was right on US 2, just west of where we are staying. Well, we came from Manistique on that road and I think we would have noticed a 641 foot bridge, 147 feet above the river. Then we remembered the detour and guessed that the bridge is having some work done.

We didn't let that stop us, though. The section of the road that was closed was only about two miles long, so we decided to park at one end and walk it. I was hoping for the east end, but there was no place to park there, so we went to the west end in the little town of Epoufette. After walking about a mile, we came to the bridge. Sure enough, they were resurfacing it so we couldn't go out on it. However we did don our fashionable mosquito headgear and hike down to the river. It turned out to be more like a creek, but it was amazing how deep the valley was since it was just a culvert on the detour we had taken.

More bad news after all our efforts, the sun was wrong for both sides of the bridge. This is the best I could do. It's a cantilever bridge - rare in Michigan which doesn't have the steep valleys of other states.

So I settled for a shot of where the Cut River trickles into Lake Michigan.

After hiking back up and returning to town, we stopped at the Cut River Inn for lunch and they had this incredible 3D carving of the bridge on a Moose antler. It doesn't show up very well in the picture, but it was better than the real thing. Picture me standing on the chair to get this shot.

Ron had one of the famous UP pasties. Brought to Michigan's Upper Peninsula by the Cornish miners over 150 years ago, they actually date back 800 years. Ron's was filled with beef, pork, potatoes, and rutabagas. I told him the gravy wasn't traditional (I was going to say kosher,) but he said it was very good that way.

This picture demonstrates just how much photography has changed since digital came on the scene. Ten years ago, I never thought I would be taking pictures of half-eaten food. Or that anybody would look at it!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What is that sound?

It's the sound of thousands of wings beating in harmony. Sounds poetic, right? Not when they're mosquitoes. Yesterday we moved from Indian Lake to Brevoort Lake about 20 miles from St. Ignace, MI. We're still on a lake and only about two miles from Lake Michigan so I thought we'd be okay. I was wrong. Yesterday I waited with the car saving the spot we wanted while Ron went to get the RV. I had a choice of braving the mosquitoes or roasting in the car. I chose to cook. (Actually, I wouldn't have been so hot if I hadn't been running from them.) Hiking is out as is walking around the campground. Our entertainment is watching them beat their heads against the screen trying to get in.

I make no secret of the fact that I don't get up early. This morning I was wide awake at 5:30 just in time for sunrise. It might have been nice to see it rise over the lake.

Instead, this was the view out the front window. You might have to blow it up for the full effect. It's kind of impressionistic, don't you think? (Well, I couldn't go out to take it - mosquitoes, remember?)

Note - We have our own put in spot just kayak size. Cool, huh?

Since I was up and it was raining, we drove into St. Ignace for breakfast, then explored a bit. By then it had stopped raining, but I thought the overcast sky was the right mood for this shot. The statue is an ironworker and was erected in memory of the five men who died while building the Mackinac Bridge (in the background.)

Good news! Ron stopped at three different stores before he found what he knew I needed - this stylish headgear. Don't I look happy now?

By the time we returned from town, the sky had pretty well cleared and Ron could go out fishing.

And guess what? He has the same fashionable hat! We're going to start a fad. (Although so far we're just attracting strange looks.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Surprisingly there are several interesting things to do and see around the modest town of Manistique, MI. We had been moving so quickly that now we are ahead of schedule and able to relax a bit. Yesterday we left the friendly Moose lodge and moved just about across the street to an RV park right on Indian Lake. (Hum, do you suppose they know that name is not 'PC'?) I know, you're saying 'RV Park!!!' But we have a waterfront lot for $13 a night! Can't beat that!

The other evening, we stopped at Palms Book State Park, just a few miles from here. This is the site of Big Spring, a pool two hundred feet across and forty feet deep. With over 10,000 gallons a minute flowing from cracks along the bottom, it is Michigan's largest spring.

They have a very clever way for visitors to experience the spring - a self-operated observation raft. You can see the cable that guides it across the pool.

And here is Ron providing the manpower. The big wheel turns a hard rubber wheel that moves the raft along the cable.

Through the center section, we could see the fish and clouds of sand kept in motion by the gushing water. Because it was evening, there wasn't enough light for pictures - you'll just have to go see it yourself.

Manistique has a lovely two mile boardwalk along Lake Michigan which we utilized to see the lighthouse. You can actually walk out to it, but this was my favorite of the 100 or so pictures I took.

Trust me to find a train everywhere I go.

The lady in the visitor center recommended that we visit the Seul Choix Point lighthouse and museum, so off we went. Seul Choix (pronounced sis-shwa) translates to 'only choice.'

For $2 each, we climbed to the top and toured the light keeper's house. Since there were two light keepers, the house was divided and an addition added. The most unique feature was the copper trim around the doors.

The light is still operating, although the fresnel lens has been replaced by an airport beacon and automated.

Although it's a terrible picture, I loved the colors of Lake Michigan from the top.

No, this isn't another lighthouse, but the old water tower in Manistique. I've never seen one like it.

And here is our current home right on Indian Lake. Ron's getting ready to go catch dinner.

Ah, the end of another fine day. . .

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fayette Historic Townsite

On Saturday we arrived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with the idea of staying in a National Forest campground for a change of pace. There was one only three miles off of US2 between Escanaba and Manistique. Sounds perfect, right? Well, the road in was fine and although the campground only had ten sites, they were all empty. You'd think that would tell us something, wouldn't you? As we were unhooking the car, the mosquitoes arrived. Herds of them. We didn't even hook back up - just got out of there as quickly as possible. I don't know about Ron in the RV, but I was killing mosquitoes in the car for miles.

So we went on to Manistique. Once there, we checked the Michigan campground book we had gotten at the welcome center and under a large heading that said 'Campgrounds', we found four parks in the Manistique area. Well, long story, shorter, they were parks, but overnight parking was not allowed. Luckily, there was a Moose lodge who welcomed us like long lost relatives. Amazing.

Yesterday, we followed another of my father's recommendations and visited Fayette Historic State Park. I was a little leery because he said it was a ghost town and I know what that means to him - rusty and falling down stuff to photograph. He insisted it wasn't like that so off we went. Well, it was extremely well preserved and presented. Ron and I both were very impressed.

The town of Fayette grew up around what was once a very productive iron-smelting operation, with two blast furnaces, a large dock and several charcoal kilns. Between 1867 and 1891 it was a bustling community with as many as 500 residents, many of whom immigrated from Canada, the British Isles, and northern Europe.

This is the machine shop with the hotel in the rear. The hotel originally had a two-story outhouse! Sadly, that was gone.

Here I'm trying my hand at being artistic. That's the company office behind the lovely wheel.

Although the iron ore was brought by boat into this harbor, they quarried limestone from these bluffs to purify the iron ore.

Pretty wicked-looking clouds, huh? We heard rumbles the whole time we were there, but it never rained until we were leaving.

There were plenty of signs for Ron to read - and he even remembers what he reads! This is the heart of the operation behind him.

For those of you who are wondering about the process, here's your sign. (By the way, the word that I cut off is 'it'. Oops.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Twin Cities

No, not Minneapolis/St. Paul, but Marinette, WI and Menominee, MI. I don't know if anybody actually refers to them as twin cities, but the names just flow so well together that they should. We only stayed one night in Marinette and now we're near Manistique (another great name.) More on that in another post.

Another one for Ron's relatives.

Interesting note - Ron remembers hearing that his Uncle Fabian, as a young man, took a team of horses up to the 'North woods' in the winter. We're assuming that he worked with a logging operation, maybe hauling logs on a sled just like the picture.

I'm thinking I should start a collection of the tops of buildings. I seem to be drawn to them - not to climb, but to photograph. This is the courthouse in Menominee.

Another side note - Ron had heard somewhere that his Great Uncle Frank had died in Menominee and was buried there. We stopped in the courthouse and, sure enough, there was a death record that he died at 57 of a burst appendix! How sad.

Now for a couple of things that made me laugh. Have you ever seen a vending machine that dispenses live bait?

And this cute guy was in the gas station. He constantly moves back and forth, turning his wheel. The clerk said all the kids get a kick out of him. What does that say about me?

For all the inquiring minds out there, a motorized crank raises and lowers the wire, causing him to travel back and forth along it.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Five Minutes

What is the saying? That everybody gets 15 minutes of fame in their lifetime? Well, this is probably about five of mine. I submitted a couple of pictures to Roadtrip America (which I would describe as an online travel magazine) for their 'Funny Signs!' feature. One of them is this week's sign. I took it over a year ago in the Everglades and thought the sign was pretty funny by itself, but be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the picture.

It's at

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Green Bay Area

Wisconsin - an ancient native word meaning 'land of giant barns with many silos.' Or maybe 'land of bone-jarring roads.' No? Well, both are true. We are currently in Green Bay and have been having fun visiting more of Ron's friends and relatives.

This is Jim, Ron's good friend from his youth, and his wife Helen. We met them for lunch and ended up spending the whole day. They took us out on their boat. I love boats.

Ron looks like he's enjoying the ride too.

Well, I don't know about congested, but there were some really low bridges. Duck!

Jim and Helen go on safaris in Africa. Their house is full of exotic animals. This is a kudu (with the beautiful horns) and an impala.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking and I just want to present the big picture here. Obviously these hunters bring in big bucks to a struggling country like Zimbabwe. Besides the food and lodging, which provide employment, they also hunt with a whole team of natives. And when they shoot a trophy animal, they pay the local chief ($1000 was mentioned) and donate the meat which helps the locals on a basic level. It seems to me that the pros outweigh the cons in this situation.

This guy did startle me draped over the back of the sofa.

Ron and I also went to the National Railroad Museum. They had lots of engines and related stuff. I could tell you about these three, but I won't.

I just thought this model was clever. Since there was no sign on it, I don't know if it was ever a reality or just an idea. Reminds me of putting containerized freight on a train.

And then my camera battery went so I had to buy postcards of their top attractions.

This British Rail #60008 was built in 1937 and capable of 100 mph speed.

After WWII, the British named it to honor the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, General Eisenhower. Although this engine never pulled them, two cars from Eisenhower's command train are also on display. Fascinating to imagine him sitting in the tiny lounge planning D-day.

They also had one of the two ten-car Aerotrains ever built.

Built in 1954, General Motor's Aerotrain was an attempt to lure travelers back to passenger trains. Although capable of 100 mph, the air-ride suspension caused an incredibly rough ride at high speeds. They were also in competition with the American people's love of the freedom of the automobile and the emerging interstate road system. I guess it's no surprise that some of those same interstates need some major work 50 years later.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kewaunee, WI

According to the visitors guide provided by the Chamber of Commerce, Kewaunee means "we are lost" in the Pottawatomi language. According to other sources, it means "prairie chicken", "river of the lost," or "to go around." All are interesting, but "we are lost" is my favorite.

Kewaunee, which is located directly east of Green Bay on Lake Michigan, had its beginnings way back with the French-Canadian fishermen and trappers. After the U.S. government had the present day channel dug in 1881, Kewaunee became a deep water port. In 1892, a railroad track was built from Green Bay to Kewaunee and with it came more changes. That November, the first (train) car ferry, the Ann Arbor No. 1, sailed into the harbor and loaded 11 box cars of flour from the Pillsbury Mills in Minneapolis, which were designated for the British Isles, thus making Kewaunee an international port of call.

Ron wanted to see the town because his grandfather was a County Commissioner of Kewaunee County. Here's the courthouse where he attended meetings.

We had to check out the local sights, like this, reportedly the world's tallest grandfather clock.

We saw several gorgeous mansions that appear to have been built by successful merchants long ago.

This was the sight that stopped me in my tracks. Ice cream, chocolate, and candy - what's not to like?

The sign inside talks about their award winning ice cream (and it was yummy,) but warns you not to ask about the nutritional value. It says, "If you want nutrition, eat carrots!"

I had to get up at 6:30 to get the sun on the right side of this lighthouse. To my surprise, the sun was already up before me! A sunrise shot would have been nice.

There were some fancy new houses right along the harbor. Although they are positioned behind the breakwater in the previous picture, I wouldn't feel very safe when the storms whip across Lake Michigan.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Ron's Turn

Yesterday Ron showed me around the picturesque village where he grew up outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It takes a special place to produce such a special guy and Greendale is certainly that. Greendale is one of three "Greenbelt Communities" begun in 1936 by the Roosevelt administration, during the Great Depression. It was a WPA project to provide work for unemployed adult males and housing for middle income families. In 1938, when the original 572 units were completed, the government-owned houses rented for $19 to $32.50 a month. A garage was $2.50 extra (that seems a bit steep to me.) The family income had to be between $1000 to $2400 annually to be considered. Ron's family was in the first group of 100 to move in. At the time, Ron's parents rented a two bedroom house for themselves and their two sons. However when their first daughter was born, they had to move to a three bedroom since there was a rule against boys and girls sharing bedrooms! In 1949, the government put the units up for sale and the original owners were given the first option to buy.

The original downtown area included one of each basic business needed with a couple of them run as co-ops. Today, Greendale is still a lovely, thriving community with a main street lined with every type of business. The houses are well maintained and you can feel the wonderful sense of community.

Even the wind is unique - look at the flags flying in front of the Village Hall.

This sculpture by Alonzo Hauser is the base of the flagpole in front of the school. At first glance, I thought they were construction workers, but they are actually students with sports equipment.

Several of the houses had these cute 3-D decorations. I hope the wolf doesn't keep Santa from the chimney.

Reiman Publications (Birds & Blooms, Taste of Home, etc.) is based in Greendale and was instrumental in promoting the town. Mr. Reiman was a fan of Norman Rockwell and commissioned this sculpture of his famous 'Triple Portrait.'

He also bought this collection of all 322 Saturday Evening Post covers that Rockwell created.

My favorite is the last one with the gossip chain.

Then Ron took me to Boerner Botanical Gardens, where he actually worked for a time while in high school. Even after recent torrential rains, it was quite lovely. Here come the flower pictures. . .

They had quite a profusion of peonies.

My favorite. . .

These alliums were nearly basketball size.

And I couldn't resist this fringe tree.