Friday, October 13, 2017

What Did You Have ForBreakfast OR Spiritual Health, Brawny Machines And A Little Dash Of Bix

I was raised on Kellogg cereal. Is there any other type of cereal? Looking at the map, I see Battle Creek, ancestral home of Kellogg's. How cool would it be to do a factory tour? I must say, I'm rather disappointed that there are no factory tours to be had. I did find something called Kellogg's Discovery Center which was interesting in it's own way. Back in the olden days (1800s) people thought fresh air and sunshine would make you sick. Fresh vegetables would kill you. In NYC, a guy on a street corner ate three tomatoes. People thought he was trying to commit suicide. Dr. Kellogg was all about health and exercise. He created a sanitarium where he could put his ideas into practice. He invented many machines that are still in use today in many gyms.

Discovery Center parking lot - evidently this was Not the hottest ticket in town

Some of Dr. Kellogg's inventions

Some of the machines we could try for ourselves. 
This foot vibrator was very relaxing although I could feel it all the way up to my fillings

One day, one of his patients at the sanitarium came to him and said “Dr. Kellogg, you owe me $10. I was eating this dry hard toast that you gave me and I broke my false teeth”. Dr. Kellogg immediately started working on an alternative to the toast and came up corn flakes. Ta-da!!!!

Dr. Kellogg also was a 7th Day Adventist and Battle Creek is where this religion came to be. I spent maybe a half hour in the Discovery Center and then I got a tour of the Historical Adventist Village which took about an hour and a half. I was really curious about what the religion was about and asked my personal tour guide to give me a quick run-down on their basic beliefs. They believe in good health practices, the trinity and when you die, you just go on mouldering in the grave until the second coming when all true believers will rise up out of the grave. I must have asked a lot of questions about the Adventists because my tour guide gave me a book all about the Adventists which should answer any other questions I might have.

Spent a few days in Indiana at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. I spent time last year here, but I stayed in the Indiana Dunes State Park where there were hookups. This time I'm in the National Lakeshore where there are no hookups at all. That would be fine because I am pretty self-sufficient, but it has been raining for the last couple of days and my solar is having a hard time keeping up. Miko and I just sort of vegged out – did a couple of hikes, found some ice cream but basically just putzed around.

Sometimes lily pads aren't all that pretty

My next big challenge was getting from Indiana around Chicago. I absolutely will not drive through Chicago which means I always end up going the long way around . I was hoping to stay at Starved Rock State Park where I had stayed at previously. The problem was that it was Sunday of a three day weekend and all the weekend warriors had taken every available camping spot. I ended up in the Quad Cities – Davenport, Rock Island, Moline and maybe East Moline? I had decided to stay at the Illiniwek Forest Preserve and as I drove up – it was packed. Not with campers but with a Renaissance Festival – jousting, flute playing, much hilarity. Illiniwek was a lovely park. On one side was the mighty Mississippi and on the other side was a huge bluff with some beautiful hiking/mountain biking trails. Miko and I would go hiking every morning up on these trails for a couple of hours.

Miko in a gnarly tree trunk

Moline is the home of John Deere. I, again wanted to do a factory tour, but you had to reserve a spot 48 hours in advance which was not going to happen, given my tendency to not commit to a plan. I did the second best thing though which was to go visit the John Deere Pavilion. I learned how John Deere got his start – he was a failed blacksmith who came to this Midwest area from Vermont to try to find work to pay off his creditors. New England soil is hard and rocky while Midwest soil is rich and damp. Farmers in the Midwest would have to stop every few feet to clean the muddy mess off of their iron plows. Mr. Deere fashioned a polished steel blade that cut like butter through the dirt and thus, the John Deere company was born.

While that was interesting, the great thing about the Pavilion was that there was so many interactive displays. I got to go into a simulator and operate a back hoe. I couldn't quite get the hang of driving a bulldozer. I built gears that twirled. I hand cranked videos (although some little kid butted in and wanted to play also – I guess I was in the children's area, but still....). I also got to climb into a few cabs of various John Deere machines.

If you squint real hard, you can see me driving me a big honkin'   machine.  So big it doesn't fit all the way in the picture

Davenport is also the birthplace of Bix Beiderbecke , a famous jazz cornetist. He came up in the late twenties/early thirties. I knew nothing about him except his name, but some of my friends in the music biz thought he was the bee's knees. I really dislike the type of jazz where everybody seems to be playing a different melody at the same time, but Bix seemed to be more of the big band type of jazz which is way cool.

Pretty prolific guy

They wanted you to feel like you were actually listening to Bix as he played at Hudson Lake

I also tried to go on a chocolate factory tour, but even though the building's operating hours stated they were open, all was dark – so no factory tour. I guess factory tours were not to be for me.

Wisconsin has a bar on every corner - Davenport has a chiropractic office on every corner

I spent four days in the Quad Cities. I am learning to slow down. I am learning that I don't have to be doing something touristy every single moment. I still have a long way to go, on this slowing down stuff, but I think I am beginning to get a glimmer of how this works. My time on the road is winding down - I'm sad that I have to go back.  My time was way too short but I'm also thrilled to head home and reconnect with all that is near and dear to me. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Grand Rapids Part II

The more I travel, the more to-do lists I have acquired. The biggest waterfall in every state, every national monument, park, historic site etc. I think I'm also starting to collect Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Grand Rapids has the Meyer May house which was a treat. I felt sort of cool when they asked the tour attendees who had visited FLW houses and which one and I was able to tell them about the Rosenbaum house in Florence Alabama.  Rosenbaum House    They had not heard of it. The Meyer May is a lovely house – I think it was actually more livable than most of the FLW houses I have been in. As always, there was the lovely art glass. Interesting fact – there was one plain glass picture window and that was the fanciest window of the time. Back at the turn of the century, making large plate glass windows was difficult – the art glass windows were much cheaper to make.

Not a good picture, but you can see the art glass

Frank designed everything in the house - even the kitchen sink

In Michigan, there is a large chain of stores called Meijer. They are like Walmarts (but I think they pay their employees better). They originated in Grand Rapids. Frederick Meijer created the Frederick Meijer Gardens which is the second most visited site in Michigan ( after the Henry Ford museum over in Detroit). While they have quite extensive gardens, the main draw is the sculptures. I was quite pleased that I was able to actually name some of the pieces and/or artists. I am a most cultured person evidently.

There was an exhibit celebrating Auguste Rodin's 100th anniversary of his death. Seems sort of macabre to celebrate somebody's death – perhaps a better word would be remembrance. They had several of Rodin's sculptures on loan but they also had two actual Rodin sculptures in their collection.

I ponied up the $4 for a tram ride through their sculpture garden because if a tour is offered, I will always take it. You always learn something. Now, if I can just remember what I learn. Oh well.

Leaves are finally beginning to change

This is Eve, one of the Rodin statues

A Keith Haring - tram was moving too fast to get a good picture

Leonardo Da Vinci wrote out the plans to create this large horse for the city of Milan, but it never happened.  Fast forward to modern days time and somebody (don't remember the details) took the plans and created the horse.  It is massive.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Let's Throw In A Little Culture.....Finally

Grand Rapids, Michigan

I get sort of confused where I am in the world sometimes. I wake up in the morning, wondering. I have a mantra that I try to do each day – what year is it, what month, what day, what day of the week and where the hell am I? Sometimes it takes me a bit to figure out all of these details. Grand Rapids was a little difficult for me because we have one in Minnesota- no, wait, I'm in Michigan.

Grand Rapids has the Gerald Ford Museum. I love presidential libraries – as I've said before – a presidential library makes even the most evil, controversial person seem like a nice person. I have to say that this museum did that for Gerald Ford although I have a sneaky idea that maybe he really was a nice guy. At least his reign was short enough that we didn't really find out the truth, but maybe we did. His most controversial action was the pardoning of Nixon, which at the time, I was horrified at. In hindsight, maybe he was right to pardon Nixon – yes, Nixon got away with it, but on the other hand, we, as a nation, could move on. It cost Ford his whole political future, and that says a lot about the man. He was willing to sacrifice his future to do what needed to be done to help us all heal.

All Oval Offices pretty much look the same

Each seat in the cabinet room had a name tag such as President, Vice President etc.  This school group all sat down and were loudly announcing their positions in the Cabinet

Most of the museum was about his early years as an Eagle Scout and fabulous football player. Both Green Bay and Detroit wanted to draft him, but he chose to go to Law School instead. I always enjoy the presidential museums when they talk about the First Ladies. Betty Ford was also a person of integrity. From being a fashion model to a spokesperson for recovering people everywhere to a breast cancer survivor. She was an amazing person.

The week I was in Grand Rapids was also Week Three of ArtPrize Nine – a juried art show. Art was scattered all over the city. It is a very walk able city and it was great fun to wander around looking at all the different art. There were 1300 different pieces of art and people are allowed to vote for their favorites. When I was there, the top forty out of the 1300 had been selected so I concentrated on looking for those forty. Funny enough, three of the forty were all horse related – just up my alley.

One of the top forty

Last Dance On A Hot Planet by Sally Duback  - I just liked this one

Art was everywhere - even in the river

Pretty intense orange guys

One of the finalists

It was made out of glass and steel and had a red glowing belly

There is a four story place called The B.O.B. that has many bars.  This was not any ArtPrize art - this was just on a wall - crushed beer cans - very cool

This was made of raised screws

Here are the raised screws that we could touch

I think this one was called Lincoln and was made totally of Lincoln pennies - couldn't get a picture without people in it
This one won one of the grand prizes of $200,000.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Childhood Nightmare Revisited

Continuing south along the coast of the Great Lake Michigan, we come to a small town called Ludington. I've only know of Ludington as the place where you end up if you are taking the ferry as a short cut across the lake if you don't want to travel through Chicago. In my research, I found that there was so much more. I kept hearing about how Ludington State Park was the crown jewel of the  Michigan state park system. Over and over again, from many different sources, this state park was the place to be. Since I am so very, very suggestible, here I am.

It was coming up on the weekend and since I am so very averse to making reservations, there was no room at the inn for us. I found Mason County Park, a really nice county park, about five minutes away that had full hookups and was cheaper than the state park. Score!!!!

As you enter the campground there is a sign that says SLOW DOWN.  You then go around a curve and there is this sign.  It cracked me up.

Miko and I drove up to the state park. We had to drive about four miles north of the town along the lake. It felt like I was at the ocean. There were high sandy dunes between the road and the lake. I did a drive thru of the campground here and I am so glad they did not let me in. It was a zoo – no space between the campers and everybody parked every which way. The camping gods were looking out for me.

I was a little tired so I thought I would take a short little hike around Lost Lake. After we got started though, I decided I could stretch it out a bit and do the Island Trail. The island trail wanders along the shore of Hamlin Lake and hops between little islands via a boardwalk. It seemed like a much more interesting trail even though it was twice as long.

As we tool along, we meet a couple of fellow hikers who tell me the Ridge Trail was pretty incredible and lo and behold – the Island Trail meets up with the Ridge Trail. Ok, why not. I start to second guess myself when I look to my left and see this giant hill. I say to myself – I hope that is not where the Ridge Trail is. Turns out, to do the Ridge Trail, I had to climb and climb and climb that Ridge. Since the Ridge Trail goes along the top of an old sand dune (old sand dunes have trees and grasses growing on them), the ground was all sand. Walking up hill in sand is hard because for every step you take, you slid backwards a bit. It was lovely up on top though and I even got to see the Big Sable lighthouse off in the distance. Now I don't have to walk the four mile round trip across a sand desert to see that. Check that off the list – yeah, I know, I'm cheating in the sight seeing department.

Big Sable Lighthouse

Ludington also has the Amber Elk farm. This was serious elk farming. The owner sells his elk to shooting camps and also for meat, but he is really into bloodlines. You hop onto an open air wagon that is pulled by a big tractor and they take you out into the elk pens. Before we left, the guide told us that it was rutting season and if you haven't talked to your children about the birds and bees, you had better do a quick crash course. He also warned us that if a bull elk started swinging his horns around, sit down, hold on cause we are vacating the premises tout suite.

We visited with Frankie and his cows. He was the prize elk on the farm. He has blue eyes, hence the name. He was all about his girls, while the girls were all about coming to the wagon so we could feed them grain. Their coat was very stiff – almost like a wire brush.  These are some big animals - maybe about 8-900 pounds.

Frankie doing his best to impress the ladies

They did not take us into this paddock
"This is a rank bull - it is way too dangerous to go in with him" - look at the evil eye he is giving us

These are bulls in waiting - once the antlers lose their velvet, they saw the antlers off - they say there is no pain

This is Frankie's son - he is two years old.  He is in with a bunch of young cows.  He doesn't really know what he is doing yet, but he will next year.  I think he is sort of cute.

Onward to the nightmare part of the story.  When I was in middle school, I saw a picture in a book of a sea lamprey.  It gave me nightmares and has haunted me for years.  They attach themselves to fish and suck the blood right out of them - vampires of the sea.  Ludington State Park had an aquarium with sea lampreys.  They are even worse in real life than in that old book I read.  You can quit reading now or you can chose to look at the next pictures.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Let Sleeping Bears Lie

I have now arrived at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Another national treasure, another Junior Ranger badge.

I stayed in the campground at the park – it has got to be one of the nicest national campgrounds I've ever stayed in. Lots of space between the sites and really great neighbors. Everyday, it was Happy Hour, sitting around the campfire. If it is 5:00, you had better have your wine Sippie Cup filled and ready to go. I was actually not the only one sitting there with a wine Sippie Cup – great minds think alike, I guess. All I gotta says is life is good.

There were several good trails that meandered around the campground – one led to the beach and the other was a delightful little jaunt through a mixed hardwood forest. The main draw here though are the Dunes, which were about ten miles up the road. The first day, Miko and I wandered down an unmarked secret trail that the Ranger Lady had told us about. It led to a sandy outcropping(well, it was really a serious, no nonsense cliff) overlooking Lake Michigan. I later learned that it was 450 feet above the beach, that is like a 30 story building. Weather-wise, even though it is fall, it was a hardcore summer day – temps were in the nineties. Miko and I sat on our ledge for quite a while (me way far back from the edge, Miko right on the edge – silly dog) enjoying the nice breeze coming in over the lake.

Someplace, way down there, is a bald eagle flying by

When we got back to the RV, I jumped in the car and headed for Cherry Republic in the little town of Glen Arbor. This part of Michigan is a major cherry producer and Cherry Republic is about all things cherry. The best part is that they have tons of samples – you could almost make a meal out of the sampling. I bought cherry white wine that was actually very dry and sampled cherry salsa, cherry BBQ sauce, cherry honey and of course many different types of cherry chocolate. It was a very satisfying day.

What a difference a day makes. I woke up to a gray, overcast and very brisk day. I think the temperature had dropped 25 degrees. Miko and I walked down to the lake from the campground and then I loaded up my new foldable bike in my Cooper, said goodbye to Miko and headed out to bike the Heritage Trail - a 22 mile bike trail. I again have to thank the Ranger Lady. She showed me a spot at the Dune Climb, where I could access the trail about halfway along it's length. As she was telling me about it, she was pointing at the map. She said – this section flat, this next section flat, here at the end is ice cream. She was an excellent Ranger Lady.

The Dune Climb - no, I did not climb

This is my maiden voyage on my bike – I haven't really ridden for a few years so I'm rather wobbly. I seem to have an issue where if I turn my head to look at something, it seems to cause the bike to veer in that direction and I had some rather close calls with the ditch. Also, I distinctly remember the bike sales guy saying to me – don't worry, you will get used to the seat after a while. Methinks he lied to me a bit.

Rode by this porcupine - my foot just missed his head.  He was as surprised as I was.  By the time I could stop the bike and get the camera out, he was up the tree

It was a lot of fun riding bike again. I tooled down the path, ending up in a little historical town called Glen Haven. Most of the buildings were closed, some because the summer season has ended and others because they were having an infestation of bald faced wasps who are known to be extremely aggressive. I continued down the path and somehow I find myself at Cherry Republic again. I guess it is time for lunch.

Miko and I also did the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, a 7.4 mile drive that wanders through dunes and maple oak forests. There were about 12 stops along the way, each with their respective narrative sign telling us what we were seeing.

That strip of land in the distance is called Alligator Hill, because it looks like an alligator (try squinting)

A sign said something along the line of - While it might be fun to run down the hill, it will take you three hours to climb back up or many dollars in rescue fees.

The Legend of Sleepy Bear Dunes: 

Long ago a great famine had spread over the land. Longingly, a mother bear and two famished cubs walked the shore on the Wisconsin side, gazing wistfully across the great lake at Michigan, which in those days was the land of plenty (as it is today). Finally hunger overcame their timidness and the bears launched out, trying to swim to Michigan. As they got closer and closer to the Michigan shore, the mother's words of encouragement urged on the weary cubs. When only twelve miles from the land of plenty, the mother's heart was rent as she saw a babe sink and drown. With the remaining cub she struggled to gain the beach. Two miles of slow dragging and the second of her beloved cubs also perished.
The mother reached the beach, alone, and crept to a resting place where she lay down facing the restless waters that covered her lost ones. As she gazed, two beautiful islands slowly rose to mark the graves of the cubs. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands (North and South Manitou Islands) to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear.

The lump off in the distance is Mama Bear. She looked much more like a sleeping bear before erosion and time kicked in.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Just Give Me That Old Time Rock and Roll Music

As I'm looking around all my various lists of sights to see, I notice that coming up is the little town of Acme. The true definition of the word acme is: the point at which something is best, perfect, or most successful. I've just always thought it some company whose manufactured products lack in anything close to quality control based on Wil E. Coyote's experience in the Roadrunner cartoon series. Anyways, I digress.

Located in Acme is the Music House Museum. I think Forbes listed it as one of the top ten museums in the nation. The museum is on a century farm. The last generation did not care too much for farming but were very much into automated music machines. They sold most of the acreage, refurbished the “new” barn (it was built in 1905) and moved their collection into the barn and the granary. They feature automated music machines from about the 1850s to the 1950s - player pianos to juke boxes.  The really cool thing is that during the tour, the docent plays many of the instruments so you could hear what music was like back in the olden days. This museum was one of the high spots of my trip so far.

If you wish to see and hear more of the museum, go to this link   Music House Museum  which will give you a twenty minute tour of the museum. The video does not do this place justice. Hearing the music, up close and personal is worth a trip to Acme.

The following picture is not only of our docent, but of a player piano.  When player pianos first came out, there was no subtlety - it was all one volume.  They then figured out how to have a piano player come in, play a song and record it on paper rolls.  Engineers would then mark the paper and add in volume differences etc.  The particular paper roll that was in this piano player was created by George Gershwin as he played Rhapsody in Blue.  He then came back and recorded again, accompanying himself.  They then merged the two pieces of paper so as this piano played this roll, it was as if Gershwin was playing Rhapsody in Blue with four hands.  It was sort of spooky but way cool.

This was the first machine where they tried to combine a violin and a piano at the same time. 

This came from an 1800 seat theater in Detroit.  When they played this organ at the museum, they also showed a Laurel and Hardy movie. It was Little Charlie's (age 4, on the tour) first intro to Laurel and Hardy.  It is good to give our youth culture

This is the showpiece of the whole museum.  It is 20 feet tall and 34 feet wide.  It comes from Brussels and is one of only fourteen left in the world.  They played the "Can-Can" and "Rock Around The Clock" on it. 

Al Capone's record player from the Berien estate.  He liked nice things

A pretty jukebox - one of many in the museum

Who knew Rockola was actually a person?