A Visit to Old Town

In our continuing exploration of Michigan, today my husband and I visited Old Town in Lansing, Michigan.

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In 1825 a surveying crew stopped along the Grand River next to what is now Lansing and plotted land that would someday be called Old Town.  James Seymour and Jacob Cooley from New York purchased the land from the federal government eleven years later.

In 1843 John W Burchard purchased a portion of the land from James Seymour and built the first log cabin in North Lansing, later called Lower Town and now Old Town.  He also built a dam across the Grand River hoping to build a mill.  However, in 1844 he drowned while inspecting a break in the dam.  After his death James Seymour continued his plans and built the mill.

In 1847 Lansing became the capital of Michigan.  This brought commercial and industrial business along with new families to the area.  Franklin Street, now named Grand River Avenue, was the main thoroughfare with shops, churches, banks, a railroad station, manufacturing quickly springing up along the street.

As the area grew, there were three different areas comprising Lansing:  Upper Town, Middle Town and Lower Town.

It was here, in Old Town, that Ransom Eli Olds founded the car company that became the first assembly line producer of automobiles in the world (Oldsmobile).  Although Henry Ford is credited often with that distinction, Olds was the first to actually build cars in an assembly line.  Henry Ford, of course, took that idea and made it a successful part of his company.

For many years Old Town saw prosperity and the growth of a large middle-class.  However, as the car manufacturing industry moved to Detroit, Old Town began to become a shell of what it once had been.

Neglected as the middle class fled to the suburbs or other parts of Lansing, buildings were boarded up, with some burned down.

A few years ago some residents of Lansing felt that this part of the city could be revitalized.  A Main Street program was established in 1996, This part of the city is such a treat.  Full of great restaurants, stores, art galleries, my husband and I spent over two hours just walking around and taking in the scene.

Today was a great day to visit as they were celebrating “Chalk of the Town.”  Artists began creating masterpieces on an assigned area of the sidewalk at 9 a.m.  They could use only chalk.  All creations were to be completed by 2 p.m. and winners would be announced by 3 p.m.

We only got a few pictures of the many who were busy at work all morning.

 

Sadly a thunderstorm rolled in about 1 p.m.  We quickly jumped in our car and barely missed getting soaked by the heavy rainfall.  I’m not sure what they did about judging the art.  When we parked early in the morning one man was just beginning his work.  Coming back to our car he was just finishing his work and putting his chalk supplies up when the rain came.  He took a picture of his work.

I felt sorry for him – after working all day to see your work washed away so quickly.

But we enjoyed the day.  Cut short because of the rain, we will definitely be going back soon to Old Town.  If you live near Lansing, I strongly recommend you spend a day there soon.

Welkom to Tulip Time

My husband and I recently visited Holland Michigan on our first trip checking out the lighthouses in Michigan.

While we enjoyed seeing “Big Red” the real treat was enjoying all the beautiful tulips around town.  The weekend before had been their annual Tulip Time Festival.  For almost 90 years this annual event has featured over 5 million tulips blooming everywhere you look in the city.  Tulip Time has been given many different  accolades including being named the nation’s Best Flower Festival, America’s Best Small Town Festival and the 2017-2018 Tulip Festival of the Year.

We waited until the weekend after the festival to avoid all the crowds but still catch the tulips while in bloom.  We were not disappointed.

Over the years millions of people have gathered to enjoy this display of beauty.  There is also much to celebrate of the Dutch heritage with traditional garb and dance, watching the artists create wooden shoes from a block of wood and the beautiful  blue Delft dishware.

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We visited Nelis’ Dutch Village, a perfect place for families.  Along with the thousands of tulips, there were kid-friendly rides, an ice cream shop and Dutch dancers performing every half hour.  After watching the Klompen Dancers, families could stay and learn some of the Dutch dance steps themselves.

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If you go, you must get some of their fudge.  So delicious!

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Our second stop was Windmill Island Gardens.  Situated on the edge of downtown Holland, the gardens have the only working Dutch windmill in the USA.  Named “De Zwaan” (the Swan) this windmill was brought over from the Netherlands in 1964.

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Tours are given of the working windmill and you can purchase flour and other grain products.  The windmill is 125 feet tall from the ground to the top of the blades and they say the view from the fourth floor is spectacular.  I would have loved to climb to the top but with my arthritic knees, I chose to remain on the ground.  I can only imagine what the view from the top must be looking down on all the thousands of tulips.

We loved seeing the workers in their native Dutch costumes.

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The gardens also had so many beautiful flowering trees and canals.  My husband and I walked and snapped pictures until we had to stop because my legs were swollen from all the walking.  Coming home, I had to use pain meds and ice to get relief, but for all the beauty of God’s creation, it was well worth it.

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Reflecting back on all the beauty, I was reminded of how awesome a creator God is.  He could have made one flower, but he made such a multitude of different flowers and trees.  He could have made tulips all red, but look at what he created – just for us to enjoy.

If you ever wonder to Michigan in the spring, you must check out Holland Michigan.

Besides the beauty of the flowers and trees, the downtown area has so many neat shops and coffee bars.  Throughout the downtown area you will find many statues.

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Beautiful classical and marching tunes were playing at this statute

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Missed the flag in this picture but a great statute showing honor to our flag

Tulip time in Holland Michigan will be one of my favorite road trip memories.

Big Red – Most Photographed Lighthouse in Michigan

When my husband and I moved to Michigan last fall I was fascinated by the many lighthouses that are in the state.  In a blog I wrote then I said I was looking forward to spring/summer when we could begin exploring these lighthouses.

Michigan’s Lighthouses

Well – that time has come.

This past weekend we visited the most photographed lighthouse in the state – Big Red.   Located at the entrance of a channel that connects Lake Michigan with Lake Macatawa.   I was surprised at how small it actually was.  Thinking of lighthouses as being very tall, this one looked more like a big barn with a tower for the light.

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The lighthouse has a great history.   The area was settled by the Dutch in 1847 on the shore of Lake Macatawa.  Led by Rev. Albertus C Van Raalte a band of Hollanders founded the city of Holland.

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When they settled here they realized they needed access to Lake Michigan from Black Lake (now called Macatawa) to help their community grow and flourish.  The entrance to the lake from Lake Michigan was blocked with sandbars and silt.

After petitioning the government for help but getting none, the citizens took matters into their own hands and cut a channel that was deep enough for barges to use.  Finally, in 1866, Congress made an appropriation for work on the harbor taking over improvement of the harbor in 1867.

The government gave funds of $4,000 in 1870 to build the first lighthouse.  A small, square structure on top was a lantern deck with a ten-window lantern room.  The lighthouse keeper lived on the shore near the lighthouse and would carry his lighted oil lamp along a catwalk where he would place the lamp under a lens or magnifying device.  He would use a 18 inch fish horn to warn incoming boats when the fog hide

 

When fog lay on the lake, as it so often did, a light signal was useless. It was obvious that a fog signal, stronger than a fish horn, must be incorporated. In 1907, a steam operated fog signal was installed. A building was made for the fog signal.  This building and the lighthouse stood next to each other until 1936 when the Coast Guard combined the two structures by placing a light tower on top of the building for the fog signal.

The two buildings were painted pale yellow with a deep maroon base.  In 1956, to satisfy a Coast Guard requirement that a structure or light on the right side of any harbor entrance must be red, it was sandlasted and planted the bright red that gives it the title now of Big Red.

Marking the end for the need of lighthouse keepers, the light was electrifid in 1934 and in 1936 air powered horns using electricity were installed.

Since the lighthouse no longer was needed the Coast Guard declared it to be surplus.  A petition and letter writing campaign to save the lighthouse began.  The Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission was organized and this group gave it the name of “Big Red” to create more awareness in its effort to save the lighthouse.

 

 

 

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View of Big Red from the adjoining beach

 

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View of Lake Michigan from the beach by Big Red

Fort Custer National Cemetery

My husband and I visited the Fort Custer National Cemetery today.  We were impressed by the entrance to the cemetery.  All along the main road were rows and rows of flags.

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This Avenue of Flags was dedicated May 26, 1986. It is composed of 152 flagpoles located along the main road, and an additional 50 flagpoles arranged in a semi-circle at the head of the thoroughfare.  These flags are displayed from Easter through Veterans Day with 50 flags from the 50 different states are flown on special occasions.

Named after General George Armstrong Custer, a native of the state of Michigan, Camp Custer was built in 1917.  In response to mobilization for World War I 2,000 buildings were built to accommodate some 36,000 men.  After the end of the war, the camp was  transferred to the Veterans Bureau.  The Battle Creek Veterans Hospital was completed in 1924.

In 1943 Fort Custer Post Cemetery was established with the first burial.  Army rules at that time required officers and enlisted men to be buried in separate sections.  Today you will find Section A filled with graves of enlisted servicemen and in Section O the graves of officers.  Today there is no separation.

During World War II more than 5,000 German prisoners of war were held at the Fort.  The POW’s were used to supply farm labor because of a shortage of workers due to the war.  After the Germans departed back to their country, 26 Germans were left behind, buried in the Fort cemetery.  Sixteen were killed in a car accident and the others died from natural causes.

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Every year on Volkstrauertag, which occurs in November, the cemetery hosts a ceremony of remembrance for these 26 German soldiers.  Volkstrauertag is a day of mourning for Germans and honors their war veterans.

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The National Cemeteries Act of 1973 transferred the cemeteries from the Department of Army to the National Cemetery System, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In accordance with this Act, Congress created Fort Custer National Cemetery in September 1981.  The Fort Customer Military Reservation and the VA Medical Center all donated land for the cemetery.

We found the arrangement of the graves here different from any other national cemetery we have visited.  Instead of long row after row of white tombstones stretching out one after another, this cemetery is filled with areas of trees with sections of graves in between these groups of trees.  With the tombstones flat with the ground, it was almost like driving through a park with areas of trees and then open beautiful green grass areas.

A place of history, a place of honor, a beautiful place.

 

Change is the Only Constant in Life

Sometime ago I wrote about my desire to have a forever home and the realization that I will not find that home until this life on earth is over.

You can check my story at:

Waiting for My “Forever Home”

Six months ago my husband and I moved to Michigan from Illinois.  We followed our daughter and her family to a small town called St Johns.  Our daughter had accepted the position as pastor of a church in the town and we chose to join them.  We said we would give it a year’s trial and if it did not work out for us, we could move back to Illinois where our son lives or to North Carolina where another daughter lives.  But it has proven already to be a great place to live so we have purchased a condo and will be moving next week to our new home.

According to the popular stats blog, FiveThirtyEight, the average American will move 11.4 times in their lives. This means we can assume 11 homes are lived in over the course of an American’s lives.   I clearly beat that average.  By the time I graduated from high school I had already lived in 12 different houses and in six different towns in Illinois.  With this move I will have lived in 30 different houses in four different states and in two different countries.

And moving around like that has meant my school years were also full of different schools – I was always the “new kid on the block.”

  • In six years of grade school I attended five different schools
  • In two years of junior high I attended three different schools
  • In four years of high school I attended two different schools
  • And for college – I attended three community college and three universities.

Sometimes I have felt jealous as I saw people who had lived in the same town all their life – some in the same house they grew up in.  It would be nice, I have thought, to live where you know everyone and have friends from grade school.

But, then I realize I must have gypsy blood because as I think about that – I can’t imagine how boring that must be.  To see the same sights year after year, to never know what is just over that hill or around that corner.

My life may have been a little chaotic at times, but it has never been boring.

Even when we travel we love to just get in our car headed in a general direction and stop whenever we see something that looks interesting.  While moving around and always be the new person means I may not have a multitude of friends wherever I am currently living, I imagine heaven will be great because I already will know so many people I have befriended over the years.

Wandering keeps me interested – and hopefully interesting.

“Not all who wander are lost.”  – J.R.R. Tolkien

“Adventure may hurt you but monotony will kill you.

“A ship in a harbor is safe, but it not what ships are built for.”  – John A Shedd

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” – Robert Frost

So – hopefully this is my last move until the final one to my forever home.

But who knows?

As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said:

“change is the only constant in life.”  

Happy Birthday Michigan!

On January 26, 1837 the state of Michigan became the 26th state in the United States of America.

That makes the state 182.

I have only lived here four months but I have found so much that is interesting and I can hardly wait until spring to begin exploring.

  • With 3,200 miles of shoreline Michigan claims more lighthouses than any other state.
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Big Sable Point Light

  • Michigan touches four out of the five great lakes, more than any other state: Huron, Michigan, Erie and Superior.

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  • The legendary children’s story of Paul Bunyan is believed to be based on a French-Canadian lumberjack Fabian Fournier,  who moved to Michigan after the Civil War to take advantage of the high-paying logging industry.  While Minnesota also claims Bunyan as theirs, two towns in Michigan make that claim.  Ossineke has a giant statue of Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox.

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  • The Cross in the Woods Catholic shrine in Indian River has a 55′ foot cross carved from one redwood tree.  Raised in 1954, a sculpture of the crucified Christ was added to the cross in 1959.  My husband and I visited this shrine several years ago when vacationing in Michigan but I am looking forward to seeing it again come spring.

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  • Mackinaw Island is high on my list of places to visit. The island sits between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas.  Since I’m a history nut I want to visit Fort Mackinac which was founded in 1780.  Another fort, Fort Holmes, was built during the wall of 1812 and has been reconstructed.  No cars are allowed on the island so that should make travel interesting.
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Mode of transportation on this island

  • Mackinaw Bridge is one my husband and I crossed on our first visit here.  It is a little scary if you are afraid of heights.  The towers reach 554 feet above the surface water.   Five miles long it is the longest suspension bridge in the Americans.  Known as “Big Mac” it  links Michigan’s Lower and Upper peninsulas. When we planned our trip in Michigan a few years ago it included crossing this brige to the upper peninsula.  I was fine until I read how high the bridge was.  Then panic set in because I have a terrible fear of heights.  When we drive through a mountainous area, I often have to close my eyes to avoid a complete panic attack.  Caught between my fear of heights and my desire to see the upper peninsula, I started my day with my devotion before we headed to the car for the trip.  What a pleasant surprise as I read the devotion for that day.  So thankful that God cares even about our silly fears.  The devotion from the book of Habakkuk that day said:

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places

I was now calm and ready to go.  My husband has no fear of heights and was not concerned about driving across the bridge.  However, when we were about half way across the bridge I looked at him and he looked terrified too.  It is a beautiful sight – but I’m not sure my husband is ready to drive over it again.  We shall see.

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There’s so much more to see, learn and explore.  But for now, Happy Birthday Michigan!

Frankenmuth – Michigan’s Little Bavaria

After visiting Flint, Michigan on a recent trip, my husband and I traveled on to one of the most interesting little towns – Frankenmuth.  Known as “Little Bavaria” the sign welcoming us gave a feel for what was to come as we explored the town.  Its Bavarian-style architecture highlights its German roots.

 

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On of the first things we saw on entering the town was Bronner’s Christmas  Wonderland.  They claim to be the world’s largest Christmas store.  Larger than two and a half football fields the enormous building contains over 50,000 gifts and trimmings for Christmas.   It was a little overwhelming!

 

Since we have just downsized in moving to a smaller place we were able to resist buying anything here.  The Cheese Haus, however, was a different story.  We love cheese and this store is certainly a cheese lover’s fantasy.

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The store carries over 120 different kinds of cheese, including chocolate cheese.

 

I was not brave enough to try that chocolate cheese but could not resist buying a block of Colby cheese.

Looking forward to some authentic German food we stopped at the Bavarian Inn Lodge for lunch.

 

Nestled along the Cass River the Lodge has 360 European-themed guest rooms, including whirlpool and family suites, four indoor pools, three whirlpools, two water slides, a miniature golf course, two gift shops, two lounges and two restaurants – all under one roof.

Sadly the line waiting to eat when we arrived was very long and the wait would have been 30 to 45 minutes.  Since we were both very hungry and being diabetic could not really wait that long we looked for another  spot for lunch.

While certainly not as fancy as the Inn, we found a small wine bar and charcuterie called Prost!

Prost is one of the most important Oktoberfest words.  It is a German cheer to good food, great wine and the warm conversation and laughter among family and friends.  And here I got my German food fix.

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Charcuterie (pronounced “shar/kew/tree”) describes any kind of cured meat, but is typically associated with specialty and gourmet meats.  The term “charcuterie board” often refers to an assortment of meats that are paired with different accompaniments, such as toast, fruit, cheese, and sauces.  The menu at Prost! offered lots of choices but I zeroed in on the  bratwurst with sauerkraut and lots of mustard on the side.

By this time evening was approaching and reluctantly we headed home.  There is so much more to see in this charming town.

  • Bavarian Belle Riverboat
  • Ultimate Mirror Maze
  • Silent Night Chapel
  • Rose Garden

And the list goes on.  So come spring we will be heading to Frankenmuth for a much longer stay.