Saturday 23rd August More old cars for Adrian 82 Miles
The night was very mild. After the early morning thunderstorm, it was sunny by the time we left at 9 o’clock, having worked some more on the website.
Our drive westwards to Marquette was really enjoyable, as there were lots of places where we would pull in and view Lake Superior.
Early morning by Lake Superior
At the first roadside park, a lady was busy sweeping up, and a man was cleaning the toilets. We told the woman what a good job she was doing, and she said that they swept up every day. She was incredulous that we came from England, and asked if we had flown here!
She said that the wind was supposed to change to come from the north today, so the lake would be rough, but the water would be warm because the surface water would reach the shore. This morning the lake was so beautifully calm that we couldn’t imagine it.
We saw several wild turkeys as we drove along. Marquette, the principle town of the Upper Peninsula, which owes its importance to iron ore, was surprisingly attractive. There seemed to be parkland surrounding the long lakeshore, and the downtown buildings were nice, with lots of flowers.
Beside the harbour, there was a Seafood Festival taking place, but today’s celebrations hadn’t yet started. Adjacent to it though, was a classic car show, and we were able to wander around the rows of cars. Lots of the cars were ‘hot rods’, but it was great to see some beautifully restored vintage cars so revered by their owners.
Rosie by a 1929 Chevrolet
It was now time to send our third email, with the website. It’s always a relief when that’s been done, as it entails a lot of concentration.
Having succeeded with that, we drove off around ‘Presque Isle’, the peninsula adjacent to Marquette, which is all just lovely forested land with an unspoilt shoreline. We found a superb spot to sit and enjoy our feta salad lunch, looking out across the water to untamed forest further north. By the time we left, car parking was at a premium – everybody was out enjoying their Saturday.
View from our lunchtime spot at Presque Isle
We now headed west for 35 miles to Van Riper State Park, where there was a campsite. We needed electricity tonight, as the ‘house’ battery has not recovered from the 3 days in Sault Ste Marie with no travel. The little it has charged has soon been flattened by the computers needing charging. We found ourselves a nice spot amongst all the weekend families.
While Adrian worked hard on mending the bed yet again (different problem this time), I located the swimming area of Lake Michigamme, and had a swim in the warm but brown and choppy water.
It felt chilly as we sat by the campfire, but then the wind dropped. We could see the lake, but walked over to see the sunset then came back to the fire and didn’t come in until nearly bedtime.
Sunday 24th August Back into Wisconsin (where we bought the Bam) for our 900th night 141 miles
The night was certainly cooler, but not windy. We had a short walk by the lake before breakfast, but the morning was grey and drizzly at first.
Back on the road, we had the annoyance of road works bollards on either side, which makes travelling arduous. There was a large area of the park to the north of the road, where supposedly there were moose, but finding roads into it were impossible, so we continued west. We passed by a ‘town’ by the name of Three Lakes, which was also the name of the town in Wisconsin that we camped near this evening.
We stopped at Agate Falls, at a little roadside park, from where we walked to the falls. In the ’old days’, you could walk to the bottom of the falls, but now the path stopped at the top, where you couldn’t really view the falls. We walked under a high trestle bridge, which instead of a railway, is now a snowmobile track!
At Bruce Crossing (where our CD of Bruce Springsteen happened to be playing), we turned south towards Wisconsin.
Before reaching there, a road turned back to Bond Falls. After the disappointment of Agate Falls, and because of the fact that we had to travel 3 miles there and then 3 miles back, I was reluctant to suggest it. This, however was a very different story. To start with, it required a State Park permit, which of course we had purchased, and were pleased to be using.
Pretty Bond Falls
The falls were really pretty, in spite of all those that we’ve already seen. We could walk up on a pathway beside the tumbling river (a branch of the Ontonagon) to the dam at the top. Having viewed that, we returned on the other side of the stream on a much rougher path through the woods.
It was quite busy at the falls, but we drove on just a little further to a picnic area beside the ‘flowage’ (reservoir), where we had the place to ourselves. The peacefulness, the wildness and the reddish sand made us think of places in Oz. Although the wind was still cool, it was warm and sunny now.
Before we reached the boundary with Wisconsin, we crossed the timeline, and should have put our watches back an hour, but we won’t bother, as it is only for a few days, before we intend returning to ‘southern’ Michigan by a ferry across Lake Michigan.
The first ‘town’ in Wisconsin was called ‘Land o’ Lakes’, and there certainly are hundreds in this area. We pulled in by a marker, which said that this was the headwater of the Wisconsin River, which flows into the Mississippi.
Then at Three Lakes, we turned off to a small National Forest campsite 3½ miles away, but made the way longer by missing the turn. There were just a few campers here, but we found a second loop, where we were the only people beside this pretty, waterlily covered lake – a beautiful place to be for our 900th night.
Cheers to 900 nights in the Bam
Adrian lit the campfire, and we enjoyed our solitude on a lovely sunny evening.
This became another ‘top spot’. We cooked a T-bone steak on the campfire, then toasted the last of the marshmallows. We revelled in the peace and quiet, and didn’t come in until bedtime, when we could see stars in the sky.
Monday 25th August From forest to farming country 131 miles
We woke at 7 o’clock our time, and looked out to the magical sight of mist over the lake in the first pinky-yellow light of dawn.
A group of blue jays came to visit, plus two doves, a tiny sparrow and a squirrel. We both went out with our cameras to try to capture some of the beauty.
Early morning at Laurel Lake
After eating our bacon and fried bread breakfast outside in this idyllic, tranquil situation, we tore ourselves away, and found our way back along the ‘Chicken in the Woods’ road. We passed more beautifully calm stretches of water. Once a whole group of wild turkeys sauntered across the road in front of us.
At Crandon Adrian went into a small tourist information and got a map of Wisconsin, and found out where the laundrette was. We were in great need of doing some washing, so this was our task for this morning. As we had an internet connection too, we caught up with some emails.
After we’d visited a well-stocked shop, it was lunch time, but we had to wait until we’d driven some 20 miles south before we found anywhere to stop. It was worth waiting for though, as it was a lovely park beside the rippling Wolf River, which we sat beside in the hot sun to eat our lunch.
There was a marker saying that the road we were driving was following the route of a military road commissioned by Lincoln in 1862.
We now left Nicolet National Forest, and immediately entered the Menominee Indian Reservation, driving along a really pretty forested road. We were amused to see two bicycles with lawn mowers attached to the front in someone’s front garden!
We had still been following the Wolf River, and stopped by Keshena Falls – a place of great importance to these Indians, and where there used to be lots of sturgeon.
We had to take a diversion now, as there was a bridge down. Our diversion did end up where we wanted to be, after doing a tour of the countryside, and arriving back at the road just past the downed bridge, at a place called Embarrass! We had now left the forest, and were in farming country, which made finding anywhere to stop difficult. We had followed signs to a boat ramp, which looked an ideal place to stop for the night, except that we spotted the small print ‘no overnighting’ sign’. We chatted briefly to a fishing couple who’d never spoken to an English person before. They said that the winters here were very cold.
We drove on through another attractive town called Clintonville, and about 10 miles south, at 5.30, we came to a ‘Wayside’, which amongst all its many signs, didn’t say ‘no overnighting’. The nearest place on the map was called Sugar Bush!
Adrian cooked the meal on our barbie, but we ate inside, mostly because of the flies, which are a nuisance here. It seemed a shame to be inside on such a lovely evening, but we spent a useful time sorting out our onward route. There was a beautiful sky at dusk. The evening was warm when we looked out at the stars.
Tuesday 26th August Across Lake Michigan on a 1953 Steamship 90 miles
It was sunny but cool. We left at 8.30, bypassing New London, but driving right through the centre of large but quiet Appleton. A sign read ‘Home grown mums are ready’ (chrysanthemums!)
Just afterwards, at Harrison, we drove down a side road which just ended at large Lake Winnebago.
We arrived at pleasant and leafy Manitowac at about 10.30. Like other towns in this area, there were large European looking churches. We made our way to the ferry terminal on Lake Michigan and booked our ferry trip for this afternoon.
We’d intended going back into the town, but as we had an internet connection, we used the time to catch up with some recently received emails – Simon & Laure had uploaded some more photos of Manolo & Millie. We sent Paul a Happy Birthday email for tomorrow, and finally got hold of Emma at Elm Gable, before she leaves there in the morning. We also had a phone conversation with Tom.
After a hurried lunch, it was time for us to make for the boat. When it had arrived, Adrian called me to come and have a look. Lots of passengers were standing around, while the crew drove the cars off, then the right people (we hope) made for their car and drove off! A group of people were standing with orange and black banners, which after a while we realised were Harley Davidson logos. They cheered each motorcyclist who drove off (they were allowed drive their own motorcycles). We later learned that some of the bikers were firemen from the 9/11 disaster who were coming to erect a cross where the third plane went down. We also learned that this is a real bikers route (Mike, who we met, was making this trip).
It was almost a carnival atmosphere – at least we were prepared when it was our turn to board the boat. There were signs about declaring firearms, so when the lady police officer, with dog, asked us the usual question, we confirmed that we had no firearms (‘We’re English’, said Adrian).
She asked what we did have, as the dog was sure that there was something. She asked about medication, and when I said ‘we’ve got things for upset stomach’, she said ‘what about blood pressure tablets?’ When I said ‘oh, yes’, she was quite happy, and waved us on!
We left the Bam, with the driver’s door open, ready to be driven on. We asked about propane, and were told that there was no need to turn it off. Adrian did turn the fridge off anyway.
The Bam being reversed onto SS Badger
We, and all passengers, were given a big welcome aboard by crewman Harry, whose son travels to London frequently as he and a partner have an internet company. Harry looked like an older 60’s Jim Dale, and unknown to us at the time, was today’s entertainment man. He told us of the delights of the ship ‘two cafes, TV, bar, bingo’ etc. We chuckled, as he said ‘Walk around and enjoy’, but indeed it was a fun journey.
Adrian was jubilant when he realised that it was a 55 year old steamship, and a sort of institution, that we were travelling on. Called ‘SS Badger’, it originally carried rail cars, and still had the rails in the floor.
At the brow of the ship, sunbeds were scattered around the edge. I spent a delicious time lazing in the hot sun while we waited the hour or so to sail. After we had left the harbour, it became a bit breezy, and we went inside.
Adrian had set himself up in the lounge, where he had found an electric point for the computer, and spent the whole time catching up with photo editing. When I arrived, Harry had already started up the Bingo. He’d asked where everyone came from, and had eventually got to places other than Wisconsin and Michigan, and Adrian had owned up to being from England. Harry promptly gave him a bingo card. When I arrived, I took the card – and won the first game! I chose a fun ‘SS Badger’ hat as my prize.
I haven’t played bingo since a child. The cards were different, as, instead of counters, little red cellophane flaps pulled over the numbers. In between doing the calling, Harry had an endless supply of corny jokes which made us giggle. He had a really nice disposition. He told us that they work a 12 hour ‘shift’ – 4 hour journey each way plus docking time. He greeted everybody, and was there to say goodbye to each one as well, when we docked.
A ‘bikers week special’ was being offered of popcorn and beer for $4, so we shared one. The crossing was 60 miles, we left at 2.15 Michigan time, and arrived at about 6.15.
As we neared Ludington, we joined lots of other passengers at the prow to watch the docking. The good thing about not driving your own car off was that everybody watched right until the last minute. The ship dropped anchor, turned 180° (it has no bow or stern thrusters so pirouetted on the anchor), then pulled in beside its sister ship Spartan (which doesn’t sail). With all the sand dunes around, it was a bit like arriving in France. As we have done this so often, it was difficult to imagine what a novel experience this was for most of the passengers as there are few long crossing ferries in the USA.
The Bam waiting for us beside SS Spartan
Once off the ship, we made for our unloaded Bam – the only mishap appeared to be that Adrian’s footmat was missing.
We couldn’t see anywhere easy to stop overnight near the terminal, as there had been on the other side, so we found our way out of Ludington and north a few miles to the vast State Park. There were 3 campsites here, stretching across from the sand dunes, through the forest, to the lagoon side.
As it was some miles on to these from the booking in place, we chose one (we were told that we were lucky to get a space even though there are 350) and made our way there. It was right opposite a boardwalk over the marsh. Once we’d got over the ‘Paddington Station’ feel, we realised how nice it was to see families just enjoying themselves camping.
It was now 7 o’clock. We’d just enough barbie fuel to cook our meal on, and after eating, made a fire with it and our small amount of wood. It was still really warm, but annoyingly there were mosquitoes. Before coming in, we walked across to the boardwalk where we could see Cassiopeia and the Plough.
Wednesday 27th August Beautiful beside Lake Michigan 39 miles
The night was warm and the day was just beautiful.
After breakfast we walked out along the boardwalk, where lines of young children were hanging over the fence happily fishing. You could get on to a little sandy island, which was obviously a place where people launched their canoes from. It made us think of Wellington Country Park, but rarely have we seen that in such beautiful weather!
We realised that we could go off on another walk from here, so off we set on the most glorious walk beside Lost Lake, and back by Hamlin Lake. The ground was all sand, but large trees grew, and we had non-stop wonderful vistas across the water, all with the backdrop of the vivid blue sky. A little orange coloured frog leapt off from in front of us.
We returned for a late coffee. Adrian had said last night that he had already written off this morning – we joked about booking out time being 1.00 p.m, but by the time we’d had showers, it was getting on that way!
We then called in at the little store for more barbecue fuel. There was a photo album on the counter of the shop with pictures of the floods at the park on June 18th. We had seen a notice saying that because of the earlier wet weather, the mosquitoes were particularly bad.
We drove on to the beach area. We could now see why this park is so popular, and why it is a bit more expensive than some others.
With the wonderful terrain – Lake Michigan, forest, lagoons, fishing, boating, walks – and with this exquisite squeaky white sandy beach, it certainly is something special.
We ate our lunch sitting on a beach seat – made from 1,000 recycled plastic milk bottles, the sign said. All the seats in the park were made from recycled material. We were closely watched by a ringed gull – I dared Adrian to throw it his crumbs! I couldn’t resist a swim in Lake Michigan. I felt that I could have happily whiled away the afternoon here.
By Lake Michigan at Ludington
We stopped to enjoy more of the dunes as we drove out of the park, and then around by the far side of Lake Hamlin. We became aware of more storm damage, and many roads were still closed because bridges and culverts had been swept away. We had been thinking of moving on to a National Forest area just north of the park. It was a long way round by road anyway, but the frequent road closures made it even further, and we finally gave up on the idea, and continued north a short way to Manistee.
This must be one of the prettiest towns we have visited in USA. The streets were lined with prolific petunia beds in pink, purple and white.
Glorious petunias line the streets of Manistee
I had been looking out for a Post office, and at last spotted one. When we saw signs to the historic town centre, we decided to follow that, and return to the Post Office later.
We drove down River Street, the main street, which looked really well looked after, with a lot of nice brick buildings. When we finally pulled in to look at the river, we saw that there was a River Walk, all the way down to the mouth of the river. It had been made as a wooden boardwalk, with numerous little notices with historic facts of the town, and old photos. The town is known as the ‘Victorian Port City’.
While walking along, we came across a couple who were trying to pull an enormous wooden log over the fence. We helped them with it, and got chatting. They were interested in our travelling, and we set them thinking!
They wanted the ‘log’ for a sculpture in their garden. While the woman went back for the car, the chap lugged the log along to the end of the walk. We watched the log for him while he went back for other bits of wood they’d picked up.
We viewed the calm harbour and the coast north and south with sand dunes all the way. There was a large carpark with dozens of cars and boat trailers. There were also several campers, so I asked onechappie if it was OK to stay the night. ‘Nobody’s chucked me off yet’, he replied ‘or the others’. We opted to stay too, but thought that we’d go back to have another look at the town, and to buy the stamps I wanted.
On the way, we passed the couple loading the log into their car, and Adrian couldn’t resist stopping for another chat. By the time we got to the post office, it had just turned 4.30, and it had closed!
We drove back to River Street, and walked some more of the delightful River Trail. Coming back along River Street we went into an icecream shop, and were served by a lady and her daughter. Again our travels intrigued them. The woman hadn’t been to England, but one of her 3 daughters had. The teenage son then came into the shop, and we took our icecreams outside to eat in the still hot sunshine. They were the most pecanny pecan, and chocolaty mint choc chip ever!
We were so impressed with this well looked after street. We noticed signs from the ‘Beautifying Committee’, and thought that every town should have one.
Now 6 o’clock, and slightly cooler, we drove back to our waterfront carpark beside Lake Michigan.
Adrian cooked our swordfish steaks on the stove outside, but stood over them, as the gulls were lurking in great numbers!
Near sunset, we wandered across and joined other people to walk along the very uneven harbour wall to see the sun go down. It emerged from a cloud to give a splendid performance – it was absolutely beautiful. We saw a few little sandpipers and plovers on the rocks beneath the wall.
Sunset at Manistee
We returned to the van, peering out of the door at bedtime to see Cassiopeia and the Plough right above us.
Thursday 28th August (28 08 2008) More sand dunes 76 miles
We saw the sun rise but it hid behind the clouds for most of the day.
We left at 9 o’clock, and returned to the Post Office, where I was able to purchase my stamps from an efficient male cashier and post cards to Tom for his birthday and to Simon & Laure.
I was wearing my bright pink cut-offs, and as I left the PO, a lady said ‘I like your pants’ (lucky I knew she meant trousers!), ‘they’re cute’.
We stopped to shop in a pleasant store – everything about this town seems pleasant. In the adjacent Dollar store we bought a new mat for the van.
Everywhere looked so clean and tidy and well looked after – a man had been cutting the already short grass, a sweeper was sweeping up sand, all the flower beds looked cared for. There seemed to be such pride. We hope that the reality was as good as our image of this lovely town.
We stopped beside Lake Manistee, formed on the Manistee River, to have coffee and carrot cake, sitting on the bank.
Close to us was the ‘City of Milwaukee’, another former lake going vessel, now a historic monument.
Continuing north, we called into Orchard State Park (as we had our annual pass!) It was mostly just a lakeside campsite, set on a high bluff. We read of a disastrous fire in this area in 1871, the same year that Chicago also suffered a devastating fire (when Rosie’s ancestors the Rutherfords were already living there.) Much of the forest around here was felled to rebuild the city of Chicago.
We drove on north through agricultural country, with many small fruit stalls beside the road. The town of Onekauna was also attractive, with beds of petunias at the roadside.
We stopped by a lookout above Lake Michigan. A huge metal and wooden structure had been built, and we ascended the dozens of stairs, but the view from the top was no different from that at the bottom!
Adrian (with friend) at the lookout over Lake Michigan
We then went on a wild goose chase to find a bit of road, where supposedly vehicles travelled uphill of their own accord. On not finding it, we stopped in a little fishing park at Elberta to have lunch.
We now came to Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, but the road, forested on both sides, wasn’t very interesting. In Empire we stopped for fuel (the man in front of Adrian was absentmindedly driving off without paying and the cashier almost knocked Adrian over as he rushed out the door to stop him), We went into the Park Visitors Centre. In here we found that there was still room in the campsite (we are approaching Labour Day weekend), so we hastened to the D.H. Day Campground, hoping to visit the ‘sights’ tomorrow.
We found ourselves an airy pitch before walking over the dunes to the lakeshore beach, where we both had a laze on the sand. Without the sun (it did peep through a bit), there wasn’t quite the same attraction, but it was still very warm.
Sleeping Bear Lakeshore
Back at our spot, I wrote the remainder of the postcards, and then Adrian lit the campfire.
Despite a few drops of rain, the evening remained dry. We had pulled out the awning when rain threatened, but were able to sit out until late.
Friday 29th August Fun in the sand dunes 92 miles
The night was warm, and so was the morning, with the sun just filtering through the tall trees as we ate our blueberry pancakes for breakfast.
We left at 9 o’clock and drove through the small, restored village of Glen Haven, which would have been busy in the heyday of lake traffic.
Later in the day, the blacksmith would be performing for the visitors, along with the General Store keeper, but now it was just quiet.
We set off to walk for a short distance through the dunes to the lakeshore. Dewdrops sparkled on the tips of the dune grasses as we humped through the deep sand.
We arrived at the white sandy beach where plovers, sandpipers and gulls were busy, but otherwise it was silent and still. The water was as clear as clear. Mist shrouded the distant dunes, and it seemed like some exotic beach. We walked as far as the old coastguard station, which is now a maritime museum, but not yet open. Boards and photos showed the lifeboats being pulled by horses – it made us think of Robin Hoods Bay. One doesn’t associate inland lakes with being as dangerous as they obviously are – there are dozens of wrecks offshore, and the lifeboatmen were kept busy.
Adrian about to climb the dune
Next we stopped by the ‘Dune Climb’. This 200ft dune is where all the kids come to climb up, and run or roll down! We had our turn. The colour of the sand against the pure blue sky was stunning. We felt that we’d deserved our tea/coffee afterwards!
Now we drove on the ‘Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive’. This strangely named man had wanted a road through the dune area for everyone to enjoy. He opened it as a private road. After he died in 1976, the area soon became a National Lakeshore, so his scenic road continues to be enjoyed.
There were several places to stop and look – or go on longer walks if you wanted to - but by the time we walked to the lookouts over Lake Michigan and to the actual Sleeping Bear dune, the mist had come in, and we couldn’t see anything.
We took a different route round Glen Lake, stopping to have lunch in a little park at Burdickville called Settlers Park. It originated from two settlers who, in 1895, started a village picnic, which became an annual event. They managed to get land for a permanent site for this picnic, in a lovely position beside the lake.
Just before we arrived, two wild turkeys and their brood of about 10 had crossed the road!
The sun was shining again by the time we stopped at Good Harbour Bay for our last look at Lake Michigan from the Park. The water looked a gorgeous turquoise colour. There were remnants of past campfires on the beach. This park has surprised us – it allows campfires on the beach, wandering through the dunes, firewood to be collected, and dirty water to be thrown on the ground!
Having left the Park, we drove across to the eastern side of the Leelanau Peninsula which it is on, and then south to Traverse City.
This town, known for its cherry harvest, commands a beautiful situation on the southern end of Grand Traverse Bay, part of Lake Michigan. A 20 mile long finger of land called Mission Peninsula juts up between the two sides of the bay. For us, though, on this Friday afternoon of a long weekend, it was much too busy after the quiet places we had been coming through.
Using our annual pass, we did stop in the State Beach area, where we were surprised to find that the water was choppy. It had felt so hot in the van, that we both enjoyed cooling off in the water.
We got some more fuel, posted the last of my cards, and managed to get an internet connection so that we could thank Simon for letting us know about Zoom Airlines going bust – which luckily didn’t affect us.
We continued up the eastern side of the bay, hoping to find somewhere to stop for the night on this busy weekend. At one time we went on a wild goose chase, following a sign to a campsite, and driving through pretty fruit growing country.
At 4.30, we pulled into a Roadside park north of Elk Rapids, which Adrian had thought we might be able to stay at. It seemed fine, and once more was beside a pretty lake – Birch Lake.
Saturday 30th August Goodbye to Lake Michigan with a brief look at Hemingway 106 miles
We were enjoying our breakfast beside the lake when a chap came in to clean the park and the vault loos. He even cleaned the tables.
I said what a good job he was doing, and he said that the park was cleaned 7 days a week, 31 weeks a year. I told him that it showed.
What a difference it makes to have places cleaned, and how sad that this is not the case as a rule in England, with all the cost cutting and cut backs.
We drove on northwards, still driving through fruit growing country, with numerous fruit stands beside the road. Also today we noticed even more garage/yard sales than ever – perhaps the last of the year. One man was even standing waving his large ‘yard sale’ notice.
We drove through Charlevoix – another attractive town with petunia lined roads to match Manistee. We went into a food store, where strangely the fruit/veg wasn’t that good. The young girl cashier recognised us as English – it turned out that she had lived for 15 years in Bournemouth, and the rest of her family still lives there.
We had coffee beside Lake Michigan at Big Rock Point. We had seen several cyclists, and spoke to one who let me try sitting on his ‘laid back’ bike – but I would like to have ridden it! He had cycled from Lancing, near Detroit, over the past 4 days, cycling about 60 miles a day.
We drove on to Petoskey (the name is an American version of a prominent local Indian Chief), which we’d understood to be the place that all southern Michiganites would like to move to. We did drive around the pleasant town centre, but parking meters – a rare thing here – put us off!
We ate lunch in a Lion’s Park above the lake before making our way to the History Museum, housed in the former railway depot. We had come here, as the leaflet said that there was stuff about Ernest Hemingway, but we found disappointingly little.
Hemingway had spent all his childhood summers at Walloon Lake, just near here, and had based his ‘Nick Adams’ stories on that time. We really know very little about Hemingway, but do keep coming across him on our travels – the most recent time being in Cuba earlier this year.
There were some nice photos of his family (parents and 5 siblings), at various times during their summers in this area, but we didn’t feel that the exhibits were made the most of (it only cost $2 each to go in). There were some other exhibits from the area too, but nothing to really grab us.
Now we headed out of town to Petoskey State Park, which supposedly has a very popular campsite, but we just made for the beach area where we both had a fun time in the quite large waves.
Then it was goodbye to Lake Michigan, as we made our way towards the eastern side of this peninsula. On the way we stopped to get some firewood. It was $10 for a ‘run’ – much more than we could cope with. Adrian persuaded the man to let him have half a run for $5, which he did, but that was still a lot of wood to put somewhere!
We now needed a place for tonight where we could have a campfire, but being the busy weekend, we weren’t sure what we would find.
Just before reaching the eastern shore, we made our way to Onaway State Park, on Black Lake. There were just 4 pitches left, so we chose one quite near to the lake, and Adrian began sorting the wood!
Another beautiful evening. After eating our meal cooked on the campfire, we walked across to watch the sunset on the lake. Only two other couples were around, so we just revelled in the colours and the solitude.
Yet another beautiful sunset
We came back to sit around the campfire until 10 o’clock, seeing other campfires all around, and hearing people enjoying themselves, and looking up at the stars before we came in.
Sunday 31st August Lake Huron and a pretty river 132 miles
Another beautiful morning. We ate breakfast in the sunshine – ours was the only picnic table to be in the sun. The lake was really calm and clear as we left at 9.45.
We reached Lake Huron, on the eastern side of Michigan, at a place called Huron Beach. We soon pulled into Hoeft State Park, where we walked through the forested sand dunes, with bilberries, harebells and low growing juniper, to the beach, where the water was really clear. Afterwards we sat to have coffee and enjoyed the absolute quiet – and this is Holiday Sunday!
We drove on south to Alpena, but were finding this side of Michigan less attractive than the western side. We had fewer views of the lake, and there was more habitation – usually humble dwellings, but they stopped the view of the lake.
Alpena was a pleasant town. We phoned Emma, now back in her own home, and Tom, whose term starts tomorrow. We ate lunch at a picnic table beside the river. There was a large water tower opposite, and a dam behind the bridge, and a few ducks on the shallow river. It was still really quiet, and it made us think of France.
A bit further south at Harrisville, there was a huge art and craft fair. We passed a good many garage/yard sales, but no fruit stands today, when we would have liked one.
We went into Harrisville State Park (getting the use out of our annual permit, as we will soon be leaving Michigan). We both had a swim in Lake Huron.
We were wondering about where to stay tonight, being a holiday weekend. At Oscoda we decided on taking the Scenic Route inland beside the Au Sable River. We need to be in reach of the motorway tomorrow, so that we can zip past the ‘busy’ area around Detroit. We didn’t find the route that scenic, but did stop once to view people floating down the pretty river in inflatable rafts.
The pretty Au Sable River
There was a small National Forest campsite along this road, but we didn’t hold out much hope of finding a place. However, you only need one, and that is what we found! Someone had recently left it, so we pulled in. It was a really spacious plot, with lots of trees around – unlike the crowded campsite we had passed a bit earlier.
The campsite was called ‘Monument’, because adjacent to it is a monument to the early lumberjacks. Exhibits and pictures told of some of the hard work that these hardy men endured. There was a pile of logs which looked like a giant ‘pick-a-sticks’, which was used as a climbing frame.
A fun climbing frame
We looked down to a forested dammed section of the river before wandering back to our nice campsite.
Another lovely campfire, and we enjoyed sitting out, with all the space and trees around us.
Monday 1st September Bombing down to Ohio 246 miles
It was really quiet as we sat outside to eat our bacon for breakfast. We left at 8.15, wanting to get on our way, as this is Labour Day, and we want to travel right down into Ohio. (We have only driven across a small section of Ohio before, so need to revisit it.)
We made an early morning stop to look out over the Au Sable River at Lago Springs (the name means many waters). We didn’t walk down the 300 steps, but the misty view looked nice.
We drove on south for an hour until we reached Standish, where we stopped to get fuel before getting onto the motorway.
If we’d thought that the roads wouldn’t be busy on this holiday Monday, we were wrong! Added to that frequent roadworks, and sometimes a very poor surface, it didn’t make for fun travel!
We pulled into a rest area, where there was free coffee and cookies, then on past Ann Arbor, which we had driven round in 2006. We had travelled a short bit of this motorway then, when we’d stopped for the night at Cabelos (a huge ‘outdoor’ store) for the night at Dundee. The only thing we’d bought then was a T-shirt for Adrian – which he happened to be wearing today (his ‘life is good’ one, with a logo of a man toasting a marshmallow over a campfire).
We reached Ohio at Toledo, and turned off the motorway, hoping to find a place to stop for lunch, as there were no rest areas. We had to suffice with pulling into a mall parking area, but at least we had an internet connection. We received messages from Lena (back from Germany) and Val (back from France). Val told us that it is Muriel and Fred’s Diamond Wedding, which we’re sorry to be missing (theirs was the only wedding I went to as a child).
We drove right on through Toledo, which was a large, typical American town – grot on the outskirts, a few pleasant houses, and then almost nothing in the centre.
Having crossed the Maumee River, we tried to find Maumee State Park, but wondered where we were going when we drove right by the port area and an immense oil refinery. Eventually we got to the park – which we then discovered was an enormous recreation area for the locals.
The campsite was vast, but as this is the last day of the long weekend, there were plenty of spaces. We chose one right by a little lake. There was virtually no shade, and the day was really hot (90°F), but although only 2.30 now, we didn’t get back to our spot until about 6.30!
First we went off to try out the swimming areas. There was one on another lake, plus a beach on Lake Erie, right by it. We tried both, but both were very busy, and the water was mucky. At least we don’t think that we’ve swum in Lake Erie before, so I’ve now swum in all 5 of the Great lakes.
We next went on a short boardwalk through supposed wetlands, but the land is bone dry at the moment. The nice thing was a little wooden mesh-covered hut, where monarch butterflies were hatching. As they rested on the mesh, you could see them from underneath, which you can’t normally do when they settle on leaves.
Off for a cycle
Next came a cycle! I had seen that there were bikes for hire. They were rather decrepit old things, but we chose two, and off we went for an hour. We rode on bike paths around the park – right around the lake. It wasn’t the most exciting ride, and I never did master the back-peddling brake, but it was warm, car-free, and flat! When Adrian went to return the padlock keys (it was all very much ‘do it yourself’), the girl said that we were lucky, as this is the last day of cycle hire! (almost everything stops on Labour Day)
Adrian was really pleased to see that they had small barbecues for sale in the little campshop. We needed a new one, and had gone into Walgreens (where we had bought the last one) in Petoskey specially, but they didn’t have any.
Before we got to try that out though, we drove back to another area of the campsite, where there was a laundry. We put some washing in, and had showers, the finally drove back to our spot.
While Adrian lit the barbie (it was still too hot for a fire), I walked back to collect the dry washing – it was a long way by road, less by walking, and I found an even quicker way back by walking around the small lake.
By the time we sat to eat our trout, the sun was beginning to set behind the lake (more photos). Two deer came by in the twilight.
Deer in the twilight
We did then light the fire, and sat out, enjoying the quiet and the stars until nearly 10 o’clock.
Tuesday 2nd September Thomas Edison’s birthplace 100 miles
Yet another beautiful day – already hot when we sat outside for breakfast.
We left late, having had a catching up time – even though we had arrived early yesterday, I hadn’t written the diary. Adrian printed some more of it.
We drove through flat, agricultural land that made us think of the fens – especially when we saw a dyke. The roads got smaller and smaller until they stopped, and we had to retrace our steps (there was very little signposting.)
We passed Ottawa National Wildlife refuge – confusing – we are in Ottawa county, Ohio, and had just left an area called Oregon! It was already very hot when we stopped to have coffee. We had intended doing a short walk here – too hot for much more. We set off. Frogs were plopping into the water, but the never ending mosquito saga meant that we didn’t get far before turning back. We saw huge yellow water lilies as we drove out of the reserve.
We were on Ohio route 2, which soon became a motorway as it crossed the long Edison Bridge across Sandusky Bay. We turned off at Huron (more confusion – it’s on Lake Erie!) We were hoping for somewhere to shop, swim and picnic, but we didn’t find any of these, so drove a few miles south to the town of Milan, where Thomas Edison was born on 11th February 1847.
Milan (pronounced MY-lun) is a small attractive town. We found somewhere to eat lunch in so-called Edison Park – a neat sports park, but with a large covered area of picnic tables.
Having eaten, we found our way to Thomas Edison’s house.
Rosie outside Edison’s birthplace
You had to visit by tour, and one had just started, so we were able to join it. Our guide, Russell, was a very dour man, who, if he had a sense of humour, kept it well hidden! He made us think of Graham Hall.
We had a small group – one lady looked like an older Sharon. Another suffered from claustrophobia, so held back at each room. We were joined by a couple of bikers.
Russell couldn’t deviate from what he wanted to tell us, but he did give just enough information on each photo and artefact. We saw the room where Thomas Edison was born. We saw amazing quilts made by his mother and mother-in-law.
Quilt made by Edison’s mother in law
We saw something of his inventions, including a ‘talking doll’, which wasn’t actually a great success. The house itself had been bought back by the family, and is now a National Historic site. Although Edisonhad 6 children (3 from his first wife, who died of typhoid fever) and 3 from his second, only one (a girl) had descendants.
After Russell’s tour, we went into the adjacent house, where a woman gave a short ‘tour’ of some of Edison’s things in there, but she just rattled off the information parrot fashion. Still, it was a good visit. We have been to Edison’s winter home in Fort Myers, and seen his New Jersey home in Henry Ford’s Greenfield museum in Detroit (Ford was his best friend), so this fitted in a bit more of the picture.
The house was right next to the site of a former canal which joined Milan to Huron and then via Lake Erie, the Erie Canal and the Hudson River, to New York. In the 1840’s Milan was one of the largest wheat exporting towns in the USA.
We left this beautiful area of houses (there was a museum of 7 others nearby) and continued south to the larger, but quite attractive, town of Norwalk. We did a shop in an IGA store, which didn’t impress Adrian – no spirits and not much other booze! – but I did buy some sweet grapes.
We had decided not to drive on to the city of Cleveland, although we’d liked to have seen the Rock and Roll Museum and Hall of Fame (disc jockey Alan Freed, who coined that phrase came from Cleveland). Big cities in a motorhome in the heat are not much fun!
A bit further south we stopped to read a sign at Fitchville which told of a horrendous fire in November 1963, when over 60 of the 84 patients in an old peoples home died. Astonishingly 16 of the bodies were never claimed. It was the time of Kennedy’s death, so missed the headlines, but as a result, safety measures in old people’s homes were changed for ever.
Nearby was New London – which bore no resemblance to our London except that there were some red brick buildings. We had seen that there was a campsite here, so followed signs to the reservoir. It was a bit of a crummy site, with a lot of ‘garage morts’. There were few people about, and nobody to book you in, so we found a spot away from the main area, amongst a lot of trees nice trees including an American Basswood with its large heart-shaped leaves.
We very soon went for a swim in the none too clean looking water, so were glad to have a shower afterwards, before Adrian lit the barbie (too hot for a fire yet).
Later we did light the fire. We enjoyed the quiet, except when the trains ran by right beside us!
Wednesday 3rd September The Amish and the Mennonites 138 miles
Ah, yes, those trains! They hammered and they hollered and they whistled and they screetched! If that wasn’t enough, we’d left our mobile phone on, and it kept beeping with a ‘low battery’ signal. To add insult to injury, the phone didn’t even have a connection here!
It was a nice morning again. We breakfasted outside and left at 8.45. We still hadn’t seen anybody to pay, so it was a free night!
We set off through the fields of corn and beans, as we remember from our short drive through Ohio before. We were heading for Amish country, and the countryside now became more undulating.
Before we got to where we had read the Amish lived, we saw 2 children beside the road – a boy of about 6 and a girl a couple of years older. They both looked like illustrations out of a Kate Greenaway book. The boy waved, but the girl had on such a large black poke bonnet, that I think she could only see straight ahead. We might have thought that they were dressed up for a school play, but in the field opposite a man was ploughing behind two horses.
As soon as we reached Wayne county, where we expected to see Amish, we saw a horse and buggy. It was to be the first of many!
We had to drive around the town of Wooster (a much simpler spelling than Worcester), and got a bit lost on the confusing bits of fast road. We drove on through the small town of Apple Creek, and passed a school where all the children were in their Amish gear (or Mennonite – there is a difference, we haven’t sorted it from appearance). The boys wore long trousers with braces over a long sleeved shirt, and the girls wore long, simple, plain coloured dresses. We passed several more similar schools. All the men we saw had long straggly beards, and wore a type of straw boater.
We passed many more buggies as we drove on a rural road to Mt Hope. Here we really hit the jackpot! It was market day, and all the people from miles around were pouring in. We pulled in too – there were plenty of ‘Westerners’ as well as the ‘Ammonites’ (an easy way of combining the two groups).
What a feast was before our eyes! Many of the stalls were like ‘car boot’, and many sold cheap junk. The fascinating things were the auctions – one selling straw bales was just finishing, but there was another barn with produce being auctioned, and others with livestock.
A small café was attached, and we bought enormous flavoured icecreams for $1. We sat eating them and watching the people. There was a table of nine ‘old codgers’, each with hat, huge beard and trousers with braces. A really old gent was telling a story, and the others were wrapt, and collapsed into great laughter. The language seemed to be a German dialect, but I couldn’t understand it. Pretty girls were serving in the café, each with their long dress and apron, and white bonnet.
It was really hot (over 90°F). I had changed into my (very old) but colourful sundress, which I thought more appropriate than my rather short shorts! I saw several girls in their very plain dresses eyeing it up.
From the vegetable stalls we bought a few items - I think that some were shipped in, and not home grown, but the prices were good. Adrian was taken with the long line of buggies, although some people had arrived by tractor.
We both had the feeling that we were in a Dickensian play, or a film shoot for ‘Jayne Eyre’, and that a camera would pop up, and someone would shout ‘cut’!
Images of Mt. Hope Market
We continued driving through Amish country, where flower beds outside the houses were stunning. We drove through the touristy little town of Berlin to Millersburg.
This was a larger town. The Bam needed to have an oil change, so we pulled into a ‘Quick Lube’, where we were dealt with efficiently and speedily, as usual. Across the road was Walmart, and we tried that to get some wine, but no luck this time! The fascinating thing here was the sign saying ‘Hitching Rail’, with several buggies lined up. There were Amish people shopping in the store – we wonder how the little girls will get on in this modern world.
After our successful morning, things put on their more difficult side. We couldn’t find anywhere to have lunch, and ended up pulling onto a gravel side road some way south of the town, and sitting in the Bam under the shade of trees. The heat was beginning to get to us when we reached the county town of Coshocton. We actually drove right through the town to where we wanted to be, but we hadn’t seen one sign, which got Adrian in a bit of a tiz.
We were heading for Muskingum locks, which were in a State Park and supposed to be ‘historic’. We followed the Muskingum River, which was wide and brown, to where the place was marked on the map. It wasn’t very accurate though, and in fact we needed to be on the other side of the river. This meant going back for several miles to the neat little town of Dresden, where schoolchildren were practicing for some king of upcoming parade.
Yes, schools are back, so we have the added nuisance of having to wait behind school buses each time they stop (and the children never look before dashing across the road – such bad training).
Still the directions were unclear, and there were no signs, so we gave up on finding the locks and made for another State Park, at Dillon Reservoir. Things were still difficult, with no signs to help us, and we had to resort to the computer to find the way.
Finally we reached the park, but like so many, it is enormous! We found our way to the camping area (miles from the swimming beach), and discovered that the place you had to book in at closed at 4 o’clock– it was now 4.30!
Desperately needing to cool down with a swim, we drove the couple of miles back to the beach, walked across the large concrete area and down dozens of steps, and finally had a swim in the warm and mucky water. We had the place to ourselves – just 2 people were energetically playing tennis nearby.
Back at the campsite, we pulled into a fairly light, but necessarily shady spot. We even had to have electricity so that we could put the air conditioning on!
We did have a barbecue, but it was much too hot for a fire. We sat outside to eat. We have noticed how much earlier it is getting dark – I lit our two candles for the first time.
It was my turn to make a Murray Walker prediction – I had just said ‘well at least no trains tonight’, when we heard the blast of a train, followed by the rumble! There were a few fireflies, but not as many as last night. Also bats flew. We walked around before coming in and looked at the stars. Very hot!!
Thursday 4th September Still hot, hot, hot. 99 miles
We made an early start, leaving at 7.15 when the sun was just rising, and everywhere was misty. We passed four deer beside the road – two made a dash across, but luckily we missed them.
We drove through Zanesville and stopped in a little grassy area called Restoration Park, beside the Muskingum River, where I cooked a fried breakfast. The day was already hot. There were some pleasant old houses nearby – perhaps this park was where they worked on the restoration of them.
We spent some time looking up about the Amish and the Mennonites and other related religions, but found the whole story very complicated.
We drove on through pretty, hilly country with winding roads, pulling into Tom Jenkins Dam on Burr Oak reservoir to have coffee. It was really peaceful. While we were there a couple had come to sit at the covered picnic area. The chap was in a wheelchair, and had lost part of both legs – one above and one below the knee. We said hello and got chatting. He did almost all the talking – his wife looked a bit simple, and was missing most of her teeth. They had got married at this spot on 29th June, 3 days after he had come out of hospital. He was fiftyish, with a greying beard, she was younger.
He intended getting artificial legs, and hated not being able to get about, and to drive. I asked if people treated him differently now, and he said yes. He said that they tried to be helpful, by opening doors etc, but he hated it. He said ‘I’m the same person, just without my legs’. He had lost them through diabetes.
We passed evidence of coal mining, driving through the town of Glouster (not Gloucester), which must once have been an important coal town on the railway, but was now in sad decline. There were some fine old buildings. Just on from it was smaller Trimble (but no Paddington Bear). We shopped in Kroger (founded surprisingly in 1883), and were pleased to be able to buy some booze.
We turned off soon after here, onto what should have been a main road. It wound through the hills, past lots of small dwellings, and eventually became a gravel road! Out came the computer again and we discovered our error. We always find signposting in America very difficult – usually it is some way before the road, occasionally just after, but almost never at the actual junction. We had taken a road too soon! Ohio seems worse than other states for this. Also, it is very low on places to pull off, and its railway crossings are exceedingly bumpy.
We eventually found ourselves at Nelsonville, where we saw the first queue of vehicles this trip (no bypass to the town). A steam train runs from here, but only at weekends. Adrian had to be content with viewing some of the carriages.
We had lunch just after this, at the one picnic table beside some dome-shaped brick kilns. It was really too hot to eat. There was a tree covered hill nearby, and we likened it to being at the former Cementation site in Hermitage, when it was a brickworks, with Oareborough Hill in the distance.
Rosie by the brick kilns
We were now heading for Hocking Hills, a beautiful area with dramatic scenery. We stopped first at Cedar Falls, and walked down many steps into an attractive gorge with towering cliffs. The unfortunate thing was that there was no water, so no falls, but it was nice anyway.
Adrian by dry Cedar Falls
Just on from here we stopped at the Old Man’s Cave area, where the campsite is. Once more we need electricity because of the heat – I was already feeling the effects of it – in the 90’s, and very humid.
The young girl said the site had been full last weekend for Labour Day, now there was plenty of room. The real bummer was that the swimming pool closed on Labour Day, despite the high temperatures, and there was nowhere else that you could swim.
Having selected a camping spot, we set off to walk in the Old Man’s Cave area, which was wonderfully attractive, reminding us of Arizona, and places in Oz, but again almost no water.
We had to suffice with showers afterwards – ironically right by the swimming pool, and with a fixed temperature, so we couldn’t make them cool.
We had a barbie, but didn’t bother with a fire. Three deer came along and spent a long time grazing and browsing. Our wine was the worst ever!
Friday 5th September Hairy hikes in Hocking Hills 84 miles
I woke late, having had a severe cramp in my leg at 6.00 am – maybe something to do with dehydration yesterday.
The morning was grey, and slightly cooler, but we hadn’t had the storm we had anticipated.
It was still warm enough to eat breakfast outside. We then set off to explore some more of this lovely Hocking Hills area.
We first stopped at Conkles Hollow – named after W.J. Conkle, who had inscribed his name and date here 1797. It had rained a bit as we arrived, but was just damp for our walk, which seemed fitting for the ‘rain forest’ feel of the deep gorge we walked through. We were on a concrete path, which was pleasant enough, but unnecessary Adrian thought. We wonder how many handicapped people actually use these trails. We got deeper and deeper into the gorge. The last bit was the best. This part (not ‘accessible’) was a rough path which led right into the tall sandstone hollow – impressive even without the waterfall.
The next two places we stopped at both had fantastic scenery, but the paths were the worst maintained ever. On the first one, to Rock House, I didn’t have my hiking stick, as the previous walk had led us into a false sense of security. My leg had luckily recovered enough, and didn’t give me any problems.
We had purchased a trail map for $1, but the printing of the trails in it left a lot to be desired. The print was very tiny. The trails themselves had virtually no signposting, which was really bad, considering the steep nature of the terrain, just a ‘warning, cliff area’ sign. We climbed down really steeply, and found ourselves in a superb area of high vertical canyon walls. We scrambled around and found our way inside the massive ‘cave’ area – the Rock House.
Rosie in the Rock House
It was really great fun, but the risk of tripping on the slippery rocks, especially as it was dark inside, was great. Considering how ‘over the top’ USA and other countries are now about health and safety, this was incompatible.
We made our way back up by a different route, equally hairy. Near the top we chatted to a couple from Detroit, who like almost everybody we meet welcomed us to their country.
The last of the ‘sites’ to visit was called Cantwell Cliffs. This was a few miles further on. Although threatening, the weather had stayed dry, so we set off to walk through what was known as ‘Fat Woman’s Squeeze’ – a narrow gap down through steep rocks. We made it easily, of course, and descended down and down into yet another gorge area.
After the ‘Fat Woman’s Squeeze’
We’d sorted out the route we were taking – there had once been red and yellow spots marked on the trees to show the way, but these had faded to a beige colour. No signs again, but we hoped that we were going the way we’d intended, and not walking the whole gorge walk.
Then things started to get difficult. We came to some yellow tape which had previously barred the way. Nothing at the trailhead, or on the map, said anything about the path being closed. Not being ones to return unless absolutely necessary, we pushed on. We could now see that a small bridge was broken, so the path had been closed. As there was no water flowing, however, you could walk down the stream side and up the other side, as we could see that other people had done.
Still we wondered if the path would make it back up to the top. More yellow tape – but we diverted over, under and round the fallen trees (memories of a disastrous walk at Les Gets returned to us), until we finally did make it back up to the top. At this point we met a young couple from Michigan, who once more were fascinated by our travels.
It was now time to leave this glorious Hocking Hills area. The scenery is certainly something, but those walks do need some maintenance!
We now found our way to Chillicothe, and the ‘Hopewell Mounds’. We have visited various sites in USA where earlier people have lived. This site was supposed to be the centre of the Hopewell peoples, who lived here from 200 BC until about 500 AD. Some wonderful pieces of pottery and other artefacts had been found. The ‘Mound People’ seem to have been followed by later groups of mound dwellers, but as there is no written language, little is really known of them.
Having looked at some treasured examples of their pottery and other artefacts, we walked around some of the remaining mounds.
Now the usual dilemma – where to make for tonight. We wanted to visit Dayton tomorrow. Although not as hot as yesterday, it was still warm and humid. We decided to make for Deer Creek State Park, although we have both had enough of these ‘manicured’ and predictable parks.
We were now back into the flat ‘corn and beans’ Ohio country. We’d secretly been hoping to find a ‘freebie’, but the only one I saw was just as we came to the park. Adrian said ‘oh, we’ll just go and have a look at the campsite first’. We couldn’t have known that this entailed a 10 mile drive right around the lake! By the time we got there (5 o’clock) we thought that we might as well stay, but we were very reluctant.
It was of course the usual ‘neat’ but immense camping area (there had been signs to a swimming area at the beginning of this ‘park’). And the bummer was that it is dearer, being Friday night!
We selected a position, and stopped to have showers (in an antiquated wash block) on the way back.
Adrian did cook on the barbie, but the evening turned into a really wet one. It seemed an unusual treat to be inside, but we don’t like the fact that the evenings are drawing in so quickly. After supper we worked on the website.
Saturday 6th September Men of invention and inspiration 125 miles
Rain dripped from the trees all night, and the morning started dull, but I still ate breakfast outside, and by the time we left at 9.30, the day was becoming bright.
We were heading for the town of Dayton, which had been the home of the Wright brothers.
We got off to an unfortunate start, caused by the inconsistency of road signs again. We saw the number of the road we wanted, but hadn’t expected it to be on the actual junction, which is rare. Adrianthought that we were approaching the road, not reaching it, and we screeched to a halt as cars crossed us – we hadn’t taken in the Stop sign till we were on it. Luckily the Bam has good brakes, but it shook us up a bit.
We made our way to Dayton, having sorted out a route, so that we knew where we were going. It is a large town but the area that we wanted to see was in West Dayton, across the Great Miami River.
We parked in a nice brick-laid side street with pleasant houses looking a bit like Simon’s. It was the area where the Wright brothers had run a cycle shop while working on their passion of flight. The cycle shop still stands, and inside was a display of early bicycling, which we found very interesting –we hadn’t really realised the impact that bicycles had on the public, meaning that they could get around on their own (this was before motor cars). It was only for the relatively wealthy though, as they were very expensive.
Adrian outside the Wright Brothers Cycle Shop
Next to the shop was a large modern museum devoted to the two brothers, and also to Paul Laurence Dunbar, a contemporary and friend of Orville Wright.
We hadn’t known of him before, but discovered that he was an African American writer, whose parents had both been slaves. He became really well known and admired during his short life for his beautiful thought-provoking writing. I listened to several of his poems, and could understand why. He even came to England to tour and read his works. He looked a very intense and serious man with an endearing sincerity. His early civil rights feelings had moved both black and white.
Having been to Kitty Hawk, where the Wright brothers did their flight experiments, we had become really involved in their story. We had also seen their Dayton home and one of the cycle shops which Henry Ford had taken to his Greenfield museum at Detroit. They owned 4 or 5 different cycle shops, having often moved premises. We saw the site of another, and also of their home here.
It is a strange area now. It would seem that it had become really run down, but is gradually being restored, but is in a half way stage. We walked around the streets, and saw the place where Orville had a workshop for many years, after Wilbur had died of typhoid in 1912. It is now just a rebuilt façade with a nice statue of him at work. We also saw Dunbar’s birthplace nearby, which is also a museum now.
We’d found out other interesting things in the museum. There was an excellent mock-up of a store called Hales, set up as if in the early 1900s, when the Wright brothers would have shopped there. ‘Heinz 57’ was already going strong. The company of Kroger, set up as we discovered the other day in 1883, had bought the shop from Hales. In 1929, Kroger had owned nearly 6,000 shops!
Replica of well-stocked Hales store early 1900s
We also saw of a local car maker called Stoddard, who built Stoddard Dayton cars. We had travelled in one some years ago going down to Beaulieu.
Having saturated our brains with info on these 3 men, and pushed many a button to make little experiments for ourselves, we came out to eat lunch at the one picnic table behind the cycle shop. While there, several little black girls arrived with their mums to go into a craft workshop in the museum. The excitement as they greeted each other was delightful to see. We wonder how Dunbar would have felt!
There are many more Wright related places that can be visited in and around Dayton, but we settled on just going to Woodland Cemetery, where the Wright family and Dunbar are buried.
Getting there was much more difficult than the map suggested, particularly as it was back through the main part of Dayton. We did manage it, and found it to be a huge cemetery like the one in St Louis, where we found Robert Clark’s grave. It was set out like a vast park with lovely trees, including ginkgos. We managed to locate the graves of the Wright family, and of Dunbar, but getting out of the cemetery again was like driving around a maze.
Once outside, we were in the university area. We got an internet connection – it was too late in the day to phone home, but we did look at the news and see of floods in England.
Now we had to find our way out of Dayton. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the large bridge over the river that we had planned to go on was closed. We attempted a diversion, which after a way came to a low bridge which told you at the last minute had 10’ clearance. The Bam is 9’ 11”! We edged our way slowly through the centre part!
We headed out of Dayton, in search of a camping place for tonight. We would have been happy to free camp, as the day is cooler than previously, but saw absolutely nothing during the hour or so that we drove. At the pleasant town of Germantown we stopped for fuel before making our way to yet another state park, called Hueston Woods. Again it was a huge wild goose chase around a reservoir, but this time I made sure that we headed for the swimming area first. We both had a quick swim in the shallow muddy water before heading for the campsite.
We had decided that we didn’t need electricity, so made our way to that area. The 230 pitches were set amongst the ‘virgin forest’ that is the feature of this park, but to us it just felt dark and dingy. Instead we settled on the electric sites, where it was more open and lighter.
We found a spot amongst the 250, which wasn’t too busy (it is Saturday night), but we were opposite the little children’s playground. Normally we’re glad to hear kids play, but a big game of chase was going on, and the constant screaming was rather wearing!
We’d cooked on the barbie, and decided to have a fire with the very last of our wood. By now it was dark, and the kids had gone, so we enjoyed sitting out under the clear sky, with its myriad of stars.
Sunday 7th September Into Indiana, with the delights of an old canal and a steam train 36 miles
The morning started greyish, but was clearing by the time we ate breakfast outside. We didn’t leave until 10 o’clock, and set off through ’sweetcorn and beans’ country again.
We soon came to the town of Oxford, and the first thing we got to was a large Walmart – we could have stayed here last night, it was a really nice carpark. We needed some shopping, but were out of luck with the wine – it was too early to buy it, being Sunday. The young girl in front of us at the checkout said she didn’t know that rule. She’d been in Italy all summer, where they drink all day, she said!
Oxford seemed a really attractive town, but was ‘the place to be’ on Sunday lunchtime, and was really busy, with nowhere to park. We imagine that it is a University town, like its English namesake.
Needing somewhere to have lunch, we turned into a ‘community park’, which was really just a gigantic sports park, but we did find a bench to sit on to eat our food.
Now we set off into Indiana, although nothing told us so. I had been thinking ‘no photos today’, and thought that there’d be not much to write about – but!!
The best thing about travel is the surprises. We had seen on the map that there was a historic site, and I said that we might look at it on passing. We stopped by Whitewater canal lock, built in 1847, and used until 1860, when the railways took over transportation. This was quite nice to see, but just afterwards, there was a turn off to the village of Metamora where there seemed to be something going on.
We managed to find somewhere to park amongst all the busy-ness, and went to investigate. It was another ‘Top Spot’! The village is a little tourist haven, but built around real history. We were just in time to see a steam train leave at 3 o’clock – Adrian dashed off to snap. As well as that, there was the canal, with a horse drawn boat – not as pretty as ours in Hungerford, but rare here. There was also a horse drawn carriage giving rides.
There was a Grist mill. Ducks did ‘up tails all’ on the canal, a chap played fiddle outside one of the houses.
It was all just glorious. There was even an elaborate cross in a little shrine, which 3 airmen had found in a cave in France at the end of the war. We wondered what the people in the church where it came from (it had obviously been hidden for safety), would think if they knew what had happened to it.
A diesel train also left giving rides, but the next steam train wasn’t until 5 o’clock.
We wandered around enjoying the atmosphere, buying some strong Amish cheddar from a little store, and superb homemade icecreams from another. I could tell that Adrian would really have liked to ride on the steam train, and when I suggested it, he didn’t resist!
Images of Metamora
So off we went for our hour or so ride. It is always so lovely to see the enthusiastic volunteers on things like this. All the workers here were dressed in blue shirts and dungarees. Adrian chatted to the two in the engine before we boarded.
We left on time but, being in USA, there has to be something different! On this train there was a Civil War re-enactment. Some Union soldiers had walked through the train, with their box of ‘gold’, warning all the passengers to beware of a Confederate attack.
Part way along the ride, which followed the desolate canal for much of the way, the Confederates attacked. Real guns (with blanks) were fired from the train windows and from the fields below. The train proceeded, but under the pretext that the enemy had blown up the bridge ahead, we had to return. There was another battle on the return! All good fun!
All the ‘actors’ and the rail workers, particularly controller Bob Smith chatted to the passengers. They loved the fact that we were from England.
The last bit of the journey was wonderful as one of the men took out his mouth organ and played ‘you are my sunshine’ and other tunes, and the rest joined in. We left the train with this ‘party atmosphere’, but by now, Metamora was ‘closing up shop’.
We drove to the far end of the village, where we looked at a covered aqueduct where the canal goes over the river. We decided that it would be OK to stay for the night where we had originally parked, so returned there.
We watched as the sun went down, and the cows in the field behind us were gathered up, and horses galloped in the field beyond.
Monday 8th September More pleasant towns in Indiana 89 miles
The night was really quiet, and we woke to thick mist. We had decided to move back beside the canal to have breakfast, so drove out past the delightful, sleepy, unprepossessing village to the main road.
Had we come today, we would probably have driven past the village without even noticing it.
We worked for some time on the website, until the sun came out, and the battery went flat!
Spiders web in the morning mist
On again through pleasant ‘corn and beans’ country.
We drove through a small town called Oldenburg, with an enormous catholic convent, and where all the street names were written in German – Haupstrasse (Main Road).
We came to the larger town of Columbus, which is noted for its architecture. We declined the $2 walking map from the rather smart visitors centre, but did have a little walk around before having lunch in a park by the White River, sitting at a ‘state of the art’ concrete picnic table.
Before leaving the town, we had a more successful shop in Walmart, buying both wine and charcoal.
A few miles on we came to Nashville (Indiana). This little town has long been a tourist haven, crammed with arty shops and eating places. At least we can’t be tempted to buy anything, because of weight limit on our homeward flight! All we did buy was an icecream, and we chatted to a couple while we sat eating them. They had been coming here for 25 years, and like all the others, are fascinated by our amount of travelling.
There was a short shower as we left – the day had been very hot and humid. We decided not to make for the nearby gigantic state park – even bigger than others we have visited. Instead we drove on a few miles to Yellowhead State Forest, where we found a spot amongst the trees above yet another reservoir.
Adrian collected a bit of wood, but it was much too hot for a fire until later. We cooked on the barbie, having enjoyed the solitude, with a woodpecker busy noisily overhead. There has to always be an annoyance, and tonight, as well as the heat and humidity and the flies, it was wasps. Luckily they let us eat our meal in peace.
After that we sat by the fire until it got dark.
Tuesday 9th September Into Illinois 198 miles
We were woken by wind and rain at 12.30, but there was no real storm.
We got up at 7 o’clock and stopped at Bloomington for breakfast and to do more of the website. Afterwards we drove through and around the pleasant University town. There were some nice college buildings. It was great to see all the students walking, and a few cycling, to college, all casually dressed and seeming happy with the world. It looked like a flowing river, as students converged from side roads to the central area.
We continued now to Brazil, where we remember staying in a Walmart carpark two years ago on our way back from the Maritime Provinces. We’d had breakfast then at a little park area where people were jogging, and walking their dogs, but we couldn’t locate it this time. We’d passed absolutely nowhere to pull off for coffee since leaving this morning, and ended up on a rough bit of ground by some derelict brick buildings. On the way out, however, we saw a ‘propane’ sign, and after much chasing about, were able to get some.
We continued to Rockville, where we ate lunch at a picnic table outside an outdoor village museum which we didn’t visit. It was cool out of the sun, and for the first time there was a breeze – it felt more ‘English’! We spent some time sorting our onward route.
Just before we reached Illinois, we pulled in by a covered bridge at a rest area in memory of local man Ernie Pyle, who had lost his life in 1945, right at the end of the war. He must have been much revered by his friends to have a road and a rest area named after him. (We found out later that he was just that – a much loved American war correspondent.)
Rosie by the covered bridge
The roads in Illinois continued to be flat and straight, so not the most exciting. We reached the town of Decatur, where we had note of a campsite in the City Park. We made our way there with some difficulties - it was a long trek. When we stopped for fuel, I found that the computer had logged in, so sent a quick reply to Tom on his birthday.
The park was beside a lake, but was overshadowed by enormous works. This was bad news! As we drove into the park, the road seemed in bad repair, and there was no sign of a campsite. We enquired from a young lad who was cutting the grass, and he told us that this is no longer a park, it has been bought up by the factory firm. What a crime, we thought. It left us with a dilemma, as we were now in a town, and needed somewhere to stay.
I suggested Walmart, and so we made our way there. Unlike the one the other day, this carpark wasn’t very attractive, and was really busy. Next to it was a quieter ‘Sam’s Club’, so we made our way to that part of the parking area.
Adrian had been concerned that the batteries weren’t charging, and thought that it might be the fault of the house battery. We eventually found the receipt of the last battery, and then found the location of Sears, where we had bought it from. We quickly decanted our just started drinks and set off to find it. It was close by, at Forsyth, but Adrian had got his knickers in a twist, and we went the wrong way. It was actually not far from where we were, so we backtracked, and found the place. Checking the battery took a long time, and the end result was that there didn’t seem to be a problem with it. We paid up the $12 for the testing. This was a much nicer area than the previous one, so Adrian asked if we could stay the night here. They said that it was fine, so I set to in preparing supper.
An alarm had been sounding all the time we were here, but just as we went to bed, it mercifully stopped.