In My Own Backyard

Being a new resident of Michigan my husband and I have spent the summer exploring many of the small towns on the western side of the lower peninsula.  We have discovered some beautiful art galleries, unique antique stores and loved the beaches and lighthouses all along Michigan Lake.

It has been interesting to me to discover that many of my new friends who have lived in Michigan for years have never visited many of these places.

Funny how we will spend time and money to visit far away places while often ignoring what is in our own back yard.

Yesterday was a beautiful fall day and we wanted to get out and enjoy the day.  We wondered “Is there anything near our new home town that we have not bothered to check out?”

Yes – In a town just 20 miles from us we found a castle and some interesting history.

On the outside it looks like a castle from a fairy tale.  On closer inspection we discovered it was built in 1922 by writer James Oliver Curwood as a writing studio.  Overlooking the Shiawassee River Curwood composed many of his novels here.  The castle was not meant to be a home.  This was  Curwood’s “man-cave.”

DSCF0003

It was easy to see why Curwood built his castle here by the river.  It is a beautiful, peaceful place.  After visiting the castle, we enjoyed the walk by the river and shared the view with some friendly ducks.

This writer who was ranked among the top-ten best sellers in the United States during the early 1920’s was born in Oswosso Michigan.  His novels and short stories and the movie scripts based on his writings made him a millionaire.

Curwood loved the wilds of Canada and was an enthusiastic hunter for many years collecting trophies which he hung in his castle.   Spared by a bear he had shot and wounded, but not killed, he became an advocate of environmental conservation and education.  Shortly before his death in 1927 he was appointed to the Michigan Conservation Commission.

His books were based on his experiences in Canada.  Hundreds of movies have been based on or inspired by Curwood’s stories, including the 1934 movie “The Trail Beyond,” which starred John Wayne.

Only four years after he finished building his castle, he died of blood poisoning.  At the time of his death, he was the highest paid writer in the world according to the Curwood Castle’s curator.

The City of Owosso celebrates Curwood’s birth each year with a festival.  The event is a weekend long celebration centered around Curwood Castle.   They also hold a writing contest for young authors.

All summer we have traveled 50 to 200 miles to see the sights of western Michigan while totally ignoring this beautiful spot and this bit of history right in our own back yard.

I wonder, do you also travel far from home to visit historical and/or beautiful places while driving right by treasures in your own back yard?

 

 

First Commercial Sawmill in Minnesota

While visiting the St Croix River Valley we found the site of the first commercial sawmill in what became the state of Minnesota.  Two lumbermen from Marine Illinois, David Hone and Lewis Judd, finding the area’s abundant white pine, decided to build a sawmill here.  They named the spot Marine after their hometown in Illinois.  On August 24, 1839, they established the first commercial sawmill, The Marine Lumber Company.

DSCF0105

By 1877 the mill was supplying work for an average of fourteen men and the town of Marine Minnesota had grown around the mill.  Operating for Marine Mill for almost sixty years, the mill produced much of the lumber that was used for construction of many of the towns and cities of Minnesota as well as St. Louis and Chicago.

Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 today you can see portions of the stone engine house and the large wheel dating from 1873 and the stream that powered the mill.

 

MarineMill

If you look closely you can see parts of the foundation of the old mill

maine mill

The steam that powered the sawmill

Driving into the town of Marine the views of St Criox River in the fall were spectacular and worth the trip!

DSCF0109(1)DSCF0108(1)DSCF0122(1)DSCF0113(1)

 

 

 

 

A Very Unique Sculpture Park

Getting ready for a fall road trip, I recently opened some pictures from a fall road trip taken three years ago.  While driving through the scenic St. Croix River Valley in Minnesota we found an amazing outdoor sculpture park.

DSCF0077

Founded in 1996 Franconia has an active artist residency program.  Each year the park has over 150,000 visitors.  They offer yearly fellowships and internships for up to 40 visual artists.

The park is free and open 365 days a year although I am not sure I would want to visit in the winter – Minnesota winters are brutally cold – at least for those of us who live further south.

The park covers 43 acres and shares over 120 sculptures created by artists-in-residence.  Since the sculptures change over time the ones we saw may no longer be there but they were definitely unique.

DSCF0078 (2)

 

I must confess I am not sure I would call some of these sculptures “art” but they were interesting and the walk was nice with all the beautiful fall trees.

DSCF0059 (2)DSCF0061 (2)DSCF0067 (2)DSCF0071 (2)DSCF0073 (2)DSCF0076 (2)

Looking at these beautiful trees, I am so ready for our road trip next week.  Heading to the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan for the “Tunnel of Trees.”

Fall is my favorite time of the year!

What season do you like the best?

Are you planning any trips to see the beautiful fall foliage?

 

 

A Busy Summer is Over – But 2020 is Coming

Hard to believe it has been one year already.  Exactly one year ago today my husband and I left our home in northern Illinois and traveled to the middle of Michigan to a new home.

The metropolitan area we lived in known as the Quad Cities has a population of over 400,000.  It includes five larger cities:  Moline, East Moline and Rock Island on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River and Davenport and Bettendorf on the Iowa side.  Interspersed between and around those five larger cities are many smaller town so that you can drive from one town right into the next.

Moving from that highly populated area to a small town of less than 8,000 is quite a change.

But it has been a fun year as we have spent the summer exploring our new state of Michigan.

Our first road trip was to Flint Michigan – a city we heard so much about in the news for the water crisis.  Visiting the city we found there is a lot of history beyond the news reports.

flint 2

From Flint we headed to Frankenmuth a place where you can enjoy all things Bavarian and it is Christmas there all year long.  Frankenmuth – Michigan’s Little Bavaria

Come spring, we headed out again.  The first trip was a short one – just a few miles down Route 21 to Ionia.   On the way there we turned off to look at a small town on the way.  Muir.

There was really nothing there to recommend the town except we came across this historic church.

DSCF0007

You can read more about this historic church in my post Getting Off the Beaten Path

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this church is considered to be the mother church for the Disciples of Christ denomination in the Grand River Valley and is one of Michigan’s oldest Disciples of Christ congregations.

On to Ionia where we discovered a beautiful courthouse that boasts black and white marble floors, fourteen marble fireplaces and a beautiful walnut and butternut staircase.

DSCF0012(1)

The town has some beautiful old Victorian homes and I loved the brick streets still in use on Main Street.

DSCF0024

Next stop was the Fort Custer National Cemetery.  All the flags along the main entrance to the cemetery was very impressive.

In early spring we headed to Holland the Tulip Festival.

Beautiful does not begin to describe this visit!  This town is on our list to revisit next spring.  We only spent one day there but next year we want to take two to three days to take in all the beauty.

Check out all the beautiful pictures and story of Holland in my post:  Welkom to Tulip Time

My husband has began painting again and one of his goals this summer was to photograph and then paint some of the many lighthouses in Michigan.

We captured Big Red at Holland.

DSCF0179.JPG

Big Red Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Michigan.

Beginning American history nuts, a visit to the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids followed.  I was never a fan of President Ford but after visiting the museum and reading more about him, I came away with a much different opinion of him and his time in office.

DSCF0074(1)

Read more about the museum at Gerald Ford Presidential Museum

Lowell Michigan was our stop in July.  The day we were there they were celebrating their annual Riverwalk.  What fun we had watching the parade and all the ducks.

We enjoyed the views of the Flat River and our delicious meal at the Flat River Grille.

Getting off the beaten track we discovered a village almost lost to the world just a few miles north of Lowell.

The village of Fallassburgh is like stepping back in time.  Way off the beaten path, few visitors find their way here, but it was a beautiful, peaceful place.  A Village Time Forgot

As we enjoyed the lakes and beaches and neat little towns we found a desert in Michigan.  Well, not really a desert but some great sand dunes.  A Desert in Michigan?

As summer came to a close we visited two more towns and they both rate, along with Holland, as ones I want to visit and spend more time in next summer.

First one was Manistee.   Not one but two beautiful beaches and another interesting lighthouse made this a favorite.  Which Town is My Favorite?

Our last town of the year was Frankfort.

It has been a busy summer!  One more trip to make before winter sets in.

Next week we head out for the tunnel of trees.  Voted by USA as the Best Scenic Autumn Drive in America I’m looking forward to that trip.

Hibernating then for the cold Michigan winter, we will be drinking hot tea as we watch some of our favorite movies by the fireplace while studying maps and making plans for another summer of adventures, God willing, in 2020.

 

 

 

I Wonder Where Rosalie Is Today?

She was such a cute little girl.  A little afraid, but very curious, of the Americans who had moved into her neighborhood.

She began by peeping around the corner of the wall of our compound, trying to sneak a look at us while remaining hidden herself.

 

Scan_Pic0049

Slowly she came out of hiding and let us see her pretty face.

Scan_Pic0048.jpg

For several days she played this peek-a-boo game with us until finally she came with a friend and sat down outside our gate.

Scan_Pic0054

My husband, our youngest daughter and I had moved into her neighborhood where we lived as we taught in a local Bible school and also in local churches throughout Iloilo City on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

Having white Americans as neighbors was quite a novelty.  Children in the neighborhood came to the gate every day to get a look at us.  We began talking to them and before long we developed friendships with all the children on our street.

Scan_Pic0055Scan_Pic0056

At first when we walked down our street, the little boys would call out to my husband, “Hello GI Joe.”   After repeating each day that his name was Paul, they finally called him by his name – but it came out with two syllables – Pa -ul.

Our daughter started a Kids Klub for the neighborhood children.  Saturday mornings our living room would turn into a classroom.  Jessica taught them songs, Bible stories and always had games and snacks for them.  They called her “Tita” or aunt and followed her each time she left our home.

Scan_Pic0024

Rosalie was the youngest of five siblings.  Their mother was a widow and made her living by selling food in a makeshift hut on the side of the road.

Scan_Pic0057

While we fell in love with all the children, we took a special interest in this family.

When it was time for us to return home, Rosalie’s mother wanted us to take Rosalie with us.  She envisioned a much better life for her youngest if she came to the United States with us.

We struggled with what would be the right decision.  It sounded good to provide this little girl with all the luxuries she would never have in Iloilo City.  Things like clean water, plenty of food, shoes and the many things we take for granted but would not be available to her in the Philippines.

But what would it do to her emotionally to be ripped from her home, her siblings and especially her mother?

Was it arrogance on our part to think that all the material things we could give her was worth more than family?

Yet how could we say no to giving her a life that would be much easier than the life she would have here in Iloilo City?

In the end, the legal requirements and the cost of adopting her and all the red tape involved proved more than we could do.

The day we left our neighborhood was very traumatic.  The children gathered early at our home and hung on to the jeepney as we drove slowly away.  They cried out, “Don’t go, don’t go.”

As I reflect back on that time, I do believe it would have been wrong to take her from her family – but I still wonder.

Did we do the right thing?

I wonder where she is today?

With today’s technological advances of Facebook and the internet we might have been able to maintain some contact.  But that was not possible then.

Still, I think of her and wonder if she remembers us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Town Paul Bunyan Would Love

In 2017 my husband, along with our youngest daughter and our granddaughter made a trip to Casey, Illinois to see the small town that boasted:

big things in small town.png

While there we saw nine creations by Jim Bolin that have made the Guinness Book of World Records.

You can read all about that visit and see pictures of the world’s largest wind chimes, rocking chair, wooden shoe, gavel, mailbox and birdcage in my post.

Big Things in a Small Town

Since then Bolin has added more big things.  There will be a big celebration on September 28 as Guinness officials will arrive to certify the latest biggest things Bolin has made.  They will be looking at the world’s largest teeter-totter, barber pole, Chevrolet truck key, twizzle spoon and golf driver.

spoon-5.jpg

The spoon is more than 11’6” long and was hot-dip galvanized to give the spoon corrosion protection.

When Guinness Book of World Records has confirmed it is the largest spoon, it will be placed at a bar and grill in downtown Casey, Brown’s Place.

DSCF0052

World’s largest golf tee

DSCF0087

My little granddaughter looking out from the world’s largest mailbox.

57238822_2390367507860124_4671944096057655296_o

World’s largest knitting and crochet hook.  These 25 pounds needles were actually used to knit the square piece shown here.

56402093_2379296888967186_1644342570169401344_o (1)

World’s biggest pitchfork

There are many other “big” things that, while not in the Guinness World Book, still are big and interesting to see.

The downtown area where many of these large items are is also beautifully landscaped.

There is also a neat place to have lunch.  Richards Farm Restaurant combines great food with antique farm furnishings.

DSCF0050

DSCF0049

The funniest time on our trip was when we had been on the road about two hours and our little granddaughter wanted to know when we were going to get there.  She was puzzled why we were traveling on far to go to Casey’s when there was a Casey’s store right in our own town.  (Casey’s is a quick shop in the Quad Cities area and she thought we were going to one of their stores – did not realize we were going to the town Casey.)

Memories I still treasure from two years later.

DSCF0051

If you are ever in the area of Casey, Illinois you must take time to visit this special small town.

PB

It’s a town where Paul Bunyan would feel at home.

 

Which Town is My Favorite?

We have lived in Michigan for eleven months and I am surprised at how many of the towns in this state we have visited.  Each one has only added to my love of this state.

The latest town we visited was Manistee.  Located between Ludington and Frankfort Michigan we made this our base as we explored both this town and traveled north and south on different days to view more of Lake Michigan and the port cities.

The town has two beautiful beaches to explore.

The first one has a lighthouse and a causeway so that we could walk out to the light.

DSCF0058(1)DSCF0056(1)

The day we walked out the lake was pretty calm.  Two days later I would have been a little afraid to make that walk as the waves were crashing pretty high over the walkway.

DSCF0174

DSCF0104

This light is at the end of a pier where the Manistee River meets Lake Michigan.  It is 39 feet tall and built from cast iron.  The light was built in 1872 after the first was completely destroyed in a fire that swept through the area in 1871.

The day we were at the beach there were families everywhere enjoying the beach, the boats, the sky.

DSCF0046(1)DSCF0048(1)DSCF0050(1)

The second beach we visited early in the morning and had it all to our self.  This beach was even more family friendly with picnic tables, areas for sand badminton and play areas for the kids.  We enjoyed the birds and the quiet walk along the beach.

DSCF0081DSCF0089

DSCF0103(1)

DSCF0101(1)

DSCF0195

We laughed at the sign telling us we could make it to Wisconsin in 54,200 strokes.  Since I cannot swim at all and Paul is no Olympic swimmer we decided to not try that.

DSCF0108.JPG

Found some neat artwork of fishes made from metal.

DSCF0142

In the late 1800’s this city was a part of Michigan’s lumber era.  Known as “Lake Michigan’s Victorian Port City” the city claimed more millionaires per capital than any other city in Michigan.  Today you can still see some of the beautiful homes that the lumber barons built.

Finding a good restaurant in a new town can be tricky.  Appearances can be deceptive.  We have selected places where the outside looked great only to find terrible service or less than desirable meals.  We have also taken chances and stopped at “holes in the wall” only to find some of the best food ever.

Highly recommended by the locals, we had supper at TJ’s Pub.  The atmosphere was great and the food even better.

tj-s-pub

The pub was in the historical Ramsdell Inn.  This magnificent building was built in 1891 for only $35,000.  I cannot imagine what this structure would cost today.

We ended the day with a walk along the Manistee River.

rwThe Downtown Manistee, Michigan Riverwalk

For this book lover, who can resist a used book store?  I found a good used book on Elizabeth I for only $4.95.  Since I love American history and also English history,  of course, I had to buy it.

ann.jpg

I could have spent a fortune here as they have a lot of the old classics.  But I was a good girl and quickly left after my one purchase.

Every town I visit I think “this is the best so far.”  Leaving Manistee I was saying that – but then came Ludington and Frankfort.

If you love beaches, neat small towns, great food and lots of trees, come visit Michigan!