Getting Off the Beaten Path

My husband and I love to travel without any agenda other than heading in one direction.  As we travel we often get off the main highway and just follow a road wondering where it leads.  Or, we will pull off the interstate into what looks like just a “spot in the road” kind of place.

As new residents in the state of Michigan we are excited about the chance to follow new roads and see where they lead us.

Last week traveling west on one of the state routes that leads from our town, we took a side trip through the small village of Muir.  Driving through the downtown area it appeared time had passed this village by.  Most of the stores were empty and in need of paint and/or repair.  Thinking there was nothing here of interest, we turned a corner and found a hidden treasure.

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The Mother Church for the Disciples of Christ in the Grand River Valley.

Organized in 1856 in nearby Lyons, Michigan, the small congregation soon moved to the schoolhouse in Muir.  The small congregation grew quickly and in 1861 constructed a church building.

Considered the mother church for the Disciples of Christ denomination in the Grand River Valley, this is one of Michigan’s oldest Disciples of Christ congregations.

This single-story, rectangular wood-frame church is an excellent example of the Gothic  Revival Church.  Measuring 70 feet by 30 feet, each side has five Gothic windows.  They are so beautiful.

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One of the windows was dedicated in 1906 on the 50th anniversary of the church in memory of the founding pastor, Isaac Errett.

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The window on the left has an inscription dedicating the window in memory of their first pastor.

For these history lovers this was quite a find.  We love American history and have a large collection of biographies of American presidents.  We knew that President Garfield had been a minister before entering politics.  What a pleasant surprise to find that he had visited and ministered in this very church.  He apparently visited the area often and there are other spots in Michigan claiming a Garfield connection including the Garfield Inn in Port Austin.  This home has been made into a bed and breakfast and boasts that Garfield often visited here when it was owned by the Learned family.

He has been quoted as saying before giving his inauguration speech:

“I resign the highest office in the land to become President of the United States.”

Just six months later he died by an assassin’s bullet in September of 1881.

I found this copy of an article in the Detroit News published in 1930 telling the story of Garfield’s visit to the church in Muir.

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This church building is on both the state and national historic registers.  If we had not followed our spirit of adventure and turned off the main road we would have missed this period of history.

By not following the beaten path we have found many historical treasures like this as well as some beautiful parks, small lakes and other beauties of nature hidden from the main road.

So, when you travel, don’t be in too big a hurry to reach your destination.  Take some time and get off the beaten path.  You will be surprised at what you will find.

 

Kentucky Folk Art

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When my husband and I take a trip we love to sometimes get in the car and head out with no particular destination.  We just drive until something catches our eye; often we  say “I wonder where that road goes” and off we go to find out where it will lead us.

Even when we go on a vacation and have a definite place in mind, we still often take a detour when we see something that looks interesting.

On one trip home from visiting family in North Carolina, we saw a sign by the road that said “Kentucky Folk Art.”  So, forgetting our time schedule for the day, we took the next exit and discovered one of Kentucky’s special places.

The Kentucky Folk Art Center (KFAC) is a part of Morehead State University.  Housing a permanent collection of nearly 1,400 pieces of self-taught art, we found the pieces to be playful, mischievous and fantastic.  These pieces were excellent examples of original folk art.

 

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Two of my favorite pieces were this couple dancing and the guitar player.

If you are ever in the area of Morehead, Kentucky you must check out the KFAC.  And while you are on the road, take time to get off the beaten trail.

Who knows what treasures you will discover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big Things in a Small Town

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This week my husband and I, along with our youngest daughter and our youngest granddaughter, took a final road trip before summer ends and everyone heads back to school.  We had seen pictures of this town and it looked interesting, but we were not sure if it would be worth the trip (four hours one way).

It was!  If you are looking for something unique, let me recommend a visit to Casey, Illinois.

This small town has the biggest golf tee, the biggest wind chimes, the biggest rocking chair, to name only a few of the “big” items in the town.  There are also items that, while not the biggest, are certainly big, like an ear of corn and a bicycle.

All these “big” attractions started when Jim Bolin saw that small towns all over Central Illinois are slowly dying and he came up with the idea to create some offbeat and fun attractions that would entice travelers to make the journey to Casey.

What was really special to me is that all of the big items have a verse from the Bible written on or near it that has something to do with the object.  For example, the wind chimes has a fish, the sign of the early Christian church, and the Star of David, which refers to the Jewish religion.

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The scripture there is from Romans 1:16 which says

For I was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation, to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

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One of my favorites was the big rocking chair.  It weighs 46, 200 pounds and took over two years to complete.  In order to make it in the Guinness Book of Records, the chair had to actually rock.  It took ten of Bolin’s employees to move the chair and get it rocking.

Bolin suggested to the owner of the Yarn Studio that they built giant knitting needles and a crochet hook.  After she agreed and the needles and hook came to her store, she had to actually knit something with them in order to be recognized by Guinness.  She made a 10 x 10 square with the tools.  She said it felt like she was on a rowing machine and was a real workout.  Having the big tools in her shop has increased her business.  She has added a second room and also added home decor, jewelry and baby items to the inventory she sells.  The scripture near the knitting needles is from Psalm 139:13

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

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My husband and I loved the big shoes.

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Tourists toss money in the shoe for luck and it is collected and used to buy food for the local food pantry.

Bolin has opened up his work shop so people can come and watch as they make these big items.  We saw a couple that are still in the process of completion – the largest baseball bat and the largest gavel.

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Our granddaughter loved the biggest mailbox.  It is actually a functioning mailbox.  Visitors can drop mail at the top in a tube and it raises the flag on the mailbox while placing the mail in a ground level container where the postal service can pick it up.DSCF0087

My husband and I had fun sitting the giant bird-cage and proclaiming that we are truly “love birds.”

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If you are looking for a place to spend a fun day, check out Casey, Illinois.  While you are there, check out the candy store and for a great place to eat, visit The Farm Restaurant.