Category Archives: Michigan

My First Week as a Nomad

My first six days as a Nomad were interesting, fun, and sometimes frustrating.  In many ways it feels more like a vacation rather than a lifestyle change.  It is relaxing and interesting, and sometimes not at all what is planned.  If I can experience all this in six days, I can’t imagine what the future will bring.

On Monday we left Port Huron, Michigan and traveled to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.  Our original plan was to stay only two nights, but after reviewing travel information about the surrounding area decided to extend our stay to a total of four days.

On Tuesday we visited the Bush Pilot Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.  Paul was a bush pilot when he lived in Owen Sound, Ontario as a teen so this was on his “hit list.”  The museum was interesting, with several planes on display inside the hanger where the museum is located.  We viewed two movies, the first was an “on board” experience with a bush pilot, and of course took the rider through a series of mistakes and mishaps that can happen on a plane, including an unexpected storm, dozing off with the plan on autopilot, and more.  The second movie was in 3D and took you into the heart of fighting forest fires.  You experienced time in flight with the commander of the entire firefighting operation, in flight with a pilot doing water drops, and on land with a ground firefighting crew.  Both movies are well worth the time it takes to view them.

A small town about four hours northwest of Sault Ste. Marie is the home of Winnie-the-Pooh, and houses a statue of Winnie, as well as a Winnie-the-Pooh and Railroad Museum.  I wanted to go there so a day trip was planned.  Part of the trip goes along the shore of Lake Superior, and we figured we would find photo ops along the way.  A visitor guide worker had told us about an off-road trail on that stretch which Paul wanted to check out.  We didn’t locate the trail she used, but did access a logging trail, which about 20 minutes in we decided was not offering any photo ops so turned around and continued on our journey.

We did find a couple spots to stop and take photographs of Lake Superior, and a small rapids and river we walked in and photographed.  It was interesting that this entire route had very few towns, gas stations, or any other type of business or rest area to stop at.    So scarce they were practically non-existent.  We saw a rest area/visitor center which made a good stop for a few minutes.  They had a small gift shop where Paul decided to pick up a couple energy bars to tie us over until lunch, which we planned to eat in White River.  That purchase turned out to be a very good decision.

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We munched on our energy bars, and decided to stop for gas as we rolled into White River, because we would need it to make the full journey back to Sault Ste. Marie.  There were barriers up across the gas pumps and an attendant walked over and informed us that the pumps were not working because the entire town of White River had lost power and nothing was open.  We drove through town and took pictures of the Winnie-the-Pooh statue.  The attendant was correct, absolutely everything, including the museum we had just driven four hours to visit, was closed so we started our journey back.

Not too far south of White River was a small gas station with full-service pumps.  The attendant there shared that the last time White River lost power they were out for a week.  He also let us know that there was a restaurant on Hwy 17 just south of Wasmus where we could get lunch/dinner.  By now it was after 2:00 pm and we were definitely getting hungry.

We drove the two hours south and located the restaurant.  Our luck had not yet changed; on the front door hung a sign that they were closed until 5:00 pm.  It was only 4:30 so we decided to drive on.  We were not far from our campground when we found The Voyageur Lodge, which included a small restaurant.  The menu was limited, but the food very good.  Paul had an open face hamburger, which had gravy to which he added mushrooms and onions.  It normally included fries and coleslaw, but he switched the fries for onion rings, which he said were very good.  I opted for a fish sandwich which also came with fries.  The sandwich was made with whitefish which was lightly breaded and very nicely done.    We shared a butter tart for dessert, also very tasty.

Our final day in Sault Ste. Marie we drove into town and visited the historical canal sight.  At the end of the island was a swing damn, one of only nine built and the last in existence.  It is used in emergency situations if there is a problem with the lock.  This is also where the lock is located for small boats, and we were lucky enough to see two of the Soo Locks Tour boats use the lock at the same time.  The difference in elevation between Lake Superior and Lake Huron is 21 feet, so quite interesting to observe the lock in operation.   A nice way to finish out our stay.

Friday morning we said goodbye to Sault Ste. Marie and drove east through Ontario, stopping at a small campground in Lavigne, Ontario.  We are here only for two nights.  One day of rest and computer work before continuing our journey to Ottawa, the capitol of Canada, where we plan to spend four days.

We did take some time from our paperwork to photograph some very decorative scarecrow displays around town.  These have been prepared as part of a plowing competition in September. I finished out our last night in Lavigne with a walk around the park, taking a few photographs of Lake Nippising, which the campground is located on.

So far my life as a nomad has been interesting and relaxing, even if Winnie-the-Pooh’s hometown did leave me a bit frustrated.  I guess in this lifestyle you simply have to go-with-the-flow when rocks appear in the river.

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Filed under Activities, Canada, decisions, Discoveries, education, exploration, impressions, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, nature, summer, tourism, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

Bulleted Reunion

IMG_20180720_185225304I had the pleasure of attending my 40th High School Class Reunion in Eaton Rapids, Michigan this weekend.  The coordinators did a fabulous job of pulling the weekend together with a variety of activities to keep people on the move.  This was especially nice for those of us traveling in from out of town, especially those traveling from out-of-state.

This is my bulleted list of memories of the weekend.

  • Meet-and-Greet at Eaton Rapids Medical Center Conference Room.
  • Great desserts!
  • Friendly conversation with classmates.
  • Tammy (Ball) Albright’s face sign
  • Olive burgers and beer at Abies Bar
  • Woman’s bathroom is small with two toilets, no stalls.
  • Breakfast at Darb’s Patio, always yummy!
  • Glitch in planned tour of high school – Honor Society students are prepared to do tour, school is locked and they don’t have keys.
  • Classmate makes a couple calls and resolution is on the way.
  • Dave Johnson, teacher when we attended, later principal, now retired, has master key to school and comes to rescue, conducts the tour, and does an awesome job of sharing the way it was when we attended, and what changes have been done over the years.IMG_20180721_130944998_LL
  • Touring the high school after 40 years brings back memories, including these mentioned during tour:
    • The Cold Tongue
    • The smoking bathroom
    • Pep Rallies
    • After home game dances
    • Band/band camp
    • Typing class
    • 1-2-3 Roll’em Ferndock
    • World History class lectures in auditorium
    • Theater performances in auditorium
    • Mr. Phillips math classes
    • Mrs. Lohrke, English teacher
    • Mrs. Shimnoski and Mrs. Tuthill, Business/Secretarial Block teachers
    • Various athletes, coaches
    • Teachers and counselors now gone but long remembered
    • Library no longer has a comfy seating area of bean bag chairs, chairs, etc.
    • Senior Bench (now gone)
    • The former layout of the school compared to what it is now
  • Non-Reunion Activity:  Quick stop-over to visit with my sister for a couple hours
  • Walking a block to the Red Ribbon Hall for the reunion because I thought all  parking in front was taken; there were still open spots.
  • Some classmates’ appearance has hardly changed, very recognizable.
  • Some classmates have changed a lot — thank goodness for name tags!
  • Being surprised at how many people recognized me immediately.
  • Good food, good desserts.
  • Good conversation with old friends and classmates.
  • 1978 Graduate photo frame for shooting pics
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  • Fun slide show of “then and now” pictures of classmates.
  • Party Favors:  Eaton Rapids glass and notepad
  • The Red Ribbon Hall has very good acoustics = loud atmosphere.
  • A lot of us still drink, but not like we used to!
  • Many of us no longer “close down the bar” and left before the party was over.
  • Cell phones are great for event pics…I didn’t see a single “real” camera all weekend.
  • Facebook sharing of activities and photos on the ERHS Class of 1978 Page
  • Sad realization that we have lost 11 classmates, a nice memorial table was set up.
  • A quiz of things about our last year of school – presented by Mrs. Wheeler, former teacher.
  • Each classmate was to stand and give their name (maiden) now and where living…which grew as it went around the room to name, where living, married/years, occupation, children/grandchildren.
  • Amazing how many people have stayed in Eaton Rapids and/or the Greater Lansing area.
  • Surprised at how many have moved out of state, or resided in several states.

FB_IMG_1532145667519Time passes so quickly.  How is it we have already been out of school forty years?  Many thanks to classmates Julie and Jane Brenke, and their sister Jill, for organizing the reunion as well as several others who stepped in and assisted them.

 

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Filed under Activities, anniversary, celebration, communication, education, events, freindship, friends, friendship, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, school, time

The Note In My Windshield Wiper

I don’t know what was more disturbing, the fact that I never noticed the note in my windshield wiper, or the content of the note itself.

The fact that I hadn’t noticed it was disturbing because it was most likely put in their on Saturday, a day in which I had made several stops running errands.  Based on the “er” on the left of the note my guess is that the paper used came from Meijer, but for it to happen at that location also made no sense.

I was at work on Monday and one of the attorneys in our office came in and said “Grace, you have a nasty note on your car, a really nasty note.”

I could not understand why anyone would leave me a note, and my first assumption was that it had been put there while I was in the office.  The attorney had noticed it tucked under my windshield wiper blade, and the paper was a bit stiff and yellowed, as if it had been baking in the sun.

When I read the note I realized it had to have happened when I was running errands on Saturday, because early Saturday it had rained and the note showed no sign of having gotten wet.  I knew I had not bumped anyone’s car with mine, not even a door, so I was baffled at the note.  However, my instincts told me that, based on the wording, it was possible whoever wrote it may have done something to my vehicle in retaliation.  I walked outside and checked my car out all the way around — no damage, so that was a relief.note on car010

My mind then went through my day, trying to figure out the location.  Even though I was guessing at Meijer based on the red “er,” I still wanted to figure out where I may have been parked close enough to warrant such a note.

  • First stop, farmer’s market — parked in a muddy dirt lot, I was the end vehicle and a wide walking path between me and the vehicle next to me.  Definitely not there.
  • Second stop, Kohl’s.  I parked in a normal spot, but my vehicle was dead center on my spot and so were the cars on either side of me.  I don’t think that was a logical location.
  • Third stop was a pool supply store, very small and there were only two vehicles in the entire parking lot with plenty of space between.  Definitely not there.
  • Fourth stop was Sam’s Club.  I parked next to the cart corral, and because the car on my driver side was over the yellow line, I had to park extremely close to the cart corral and was closely watching my mirrors so they didn’t catch on the rack.  If the guy next to my driver’s side wrote the note, then he should have addressed it to himself for hogging part of my spot.
  • Fifth stop was Meijer.  This was the only location where I used my handicap plate and parked in a designated spot, which means there was ample room around both sides of my vehicle.  The note appears to be on Meijer paper, but I could not have touched another vehicle, so again baffled by the message.

After all this analyzing there are two conclusions.

  1.  If the damage to the writer’s vehicle was so bad it warranted the above note, why didn’t they contact the security of the store, or even contact the police?
  2. If their vehicle really was damaged in the parking lot, it is possible that another vehicle was parked beside them, damaged their car as they were leaving, and then I pulled in, parked beside them and got blamed for someone else’s actions.

The bottom line is I will never know the answer to who wrote the note and where it occurred.   Based on the wording I will say I am glad that I did not arrive at my vehicle as they were writing the note as it may have been a hostile encounter.  On the other hand, at least I would know when and where the note was left.  The mystery of the note in my windshield wiper will never be solved.

 

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Filed under assumptions, communication, Discoveries, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, Mystery, reality, time

Maybe I’m related to Lucille Ball

It has been one of those weeks when you could take my life and drop it into an I Love Lucy sitcom and it would be perfect.  For those of you who are too young to remember, Lucille Ball was a wonderful comedy actress who stared in several shows that carried her name…I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucille Ball Show, and Here’s Lucy. 

The fun part of watching a Lucy show was that you just knew she was going to do something goofy, create a catastrophe out of something simple, and the audience would find themselves laughing hysterically at her antics.  It was a type of “if anything can go wrong, it will” and everyone loved watching.

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Lucille Ball- photo found on internet

Now we take my week.  Sunday I was fixing dinner and blew a circuit breaker.  I went downstairs, reset the circuit, continued fixing dinner and blew the same circuit again.  Before I could make a bee-line for the door the Master Electrician currently residing in my house stopped me.  I couldn’t reset that breaker, he had to analyze the situation.  Never mind that dinner is in the oven and that oven is no longer heating because it is on the blown circuit, the analysis had to be done first.  Once he had analyzed the situation and made his determination I was free to reset the breaker and continue with meal preparation.  However there was a glitch.  I had lost track of how much time the food had been in the oven, and while I was getting a detailed explanation on his process the fish became quite overcooked and hard.   Lets just say that meal left a lot to be desired.

Monday comes and I walk into work.  The bottom of my shoes must have been wet from the snow and when I hit the tile floor of the kitchen area my feet flew out from under me and I went down hard on the tile floor, hitting the back of my head on the refrigerator as I went down.  My startled scream was loud enough it brought all three men who were in the building running.  Why can’t clumsy things happen when there is no one around to see them?  Then once I am again on my feet I open the upper cupboard door to fix myself a cup of coffee and in the process hit myself in the head with the cupboard door.  How could I not have enough sense to move my head out of the way?   I’m still recovering from the injuries incurred that morning.

Tuesday was hectic but I seemed to make it through the day unscathed.  I fixed spaghetti for dinner and decided to have a bottle of wine with it.  Only I could manage to get the cork stuck up inside the corkscrew…but with a bit of persistence I got it back out.  Only a moment to recover on that one.

Wednesday, hump day, shouldn’t I be on a roll to recovery now?  Oh heck no.  I was planning to take a second car I have into the dealership for service.  A friend of mine gets all the snow off it, I go to hit the unlock button and open the door.  The battery was so dead the car doors would not unlock.  We finally got the door unlocked by inserting the key, but it was frozen shut!  There is only one door on the entire vehicle with a key hole,  so only one door we could work with.   I called the towing service I have, but after about 45 minutes on the phone they informed me that until I got the door unfrozen and open they would not be able to assist me.   I called the dealership and they advised me to pour hot water on it.  Four gallons of hot water later the door seamed to be devoid of ice, but it still would not budge an inch.   I called the dealership again to explain my problem.   The gentleman from service came out and by the time he arrived the hot water had seeped far enough in that the door opened.  The battery was still completely dead and had to be jumped, but at least the vehicle is now at the dealership.  Between a recall, service I scheduled and a warning light being on, it will be there a while.

If that wasn’t enough I had a meeting to attend Wednesday night, and without anything major happening I did manage to call a green frog orange and a woman named Donna I referred to as Phyllis.  I think because she has such a funny personality I was thinking of Phyllis Diller…..that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

So today is Thursday and I didn’t have any disasters, just fumbles.  I was sitting at breakfast talking when my friend says “are you going in to late work today?”  Crap!  I made it…barely!  Then when fixing dinner the potatoes were a bit under-cooked and the seasoning on the salmon wasn’t bad, just something we weren’t particularly fond of.  The bagged salad turned out great!  I think I need a vacation.

Wait!  That is what I forgot about.  I booked a vacation, a real 11-day vacation including airline flights.  Then as I was reading the airline confirmation it said that you should check and make sure you don’t need a visa for the country you are traveling to.  I knew I don’t need a visa, but I clicked on the button anyway and discovered that when traveling to Canada by air they require you to have a passport that does not expire for at least six months after your last flight.  Mine expires five months after my last flight.  I thought I was good, only to discover I have to renew my passport.

Now mind you I have plenty of time, but it did not do the mind and stress level any good.  I found out I can renew by mail and located a local CVS that does passport photos.  I went there after work to have it done, but the girl taking the photos was short and the first two didn’t turn out right, then the camera battery died, then my eyes were looking off to the side.  It was the fourth or fifth photo before we got a good one.  I didn’t think I was ever going to get out of there.   So I now have the application completed and ready to take to the post office tomorrow.  Lets hope that goes as planned.

Tomorrow is Friday and I hate to speculate on what could possibly go wrong.  Hopefully nothing.  With any luck it will be a no-excitement, ho-hum boring day.  I wonder if Lucille Ball ever had an uneventful, boring day?

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Filed under Activities, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, employment, home, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals, Michigan, nutrician, reality, time, travel, vacation, winter, work

Does nature know when school starts?

Summer has been rolling along nicely here in Michigan.  The temperatures have been a bit up and down, but for this state that is normal.  For the most part though it was summer weather, summer wear — flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and sunblock.

Then it became the last week of August.  The temperature turned cooler, people were in a variety of clothing styles, an indication they weren’t quite sure what the weather was going to dole out and were making their best guess.  You would see someone in shorts, then someone in pants, a tank top then a sweatshirt, sandals then boots.  Why?  Because even though it wasn’t “cold” it felt that way to some.

Does nature know kids are going back to school and that temperatures must drop to get children in the mood for school?  Is this a system of reminding parents that if they haven’t purchased that exhaustive list of school supplies they need to handle it now?  How did the school schedule get established in the September to June rotation so that children are attending during the coldest months of the season?

I have learned that our traditional September to June school schedule was established at a time when the United States was a farm-based society and children had to help with spring planting and fall harvesting of crops.  The September to June schedule with three months off in the summer best suited the needs of children being able to help in the fields during the main production period with as little interference as possible in their education.

Even though we are no longer a farm-based society and industrialization has ended the time of children needing to be taken out of school to help with farm duties, the schedule has held pretty close to the traditional rotation for decades.  My statement thank teachers

A number of states have tried to increase the hours of a school day, lengthen the period of time that students attend, and some have attempted a year-round school schedule.  What many places have found is that increasing the number of hours a student attends also increases operating costs for the school district and many can not afford the increase.

The level of learning, length of time a student spends in school, methods for teaching, and every other aspect of education in this country is constantly being evaluated and changes made.   The length of the school year is normally determined by a specific number of days or hours of instruction. One hundred eighty days (180) is the minimum required by many states, five states require more than 180 days, and five states require less than 175 days.  Here in Michigan students are required to attend a minimum 180 days.

So what this all means is that it is now September and for the next 9-10 months there are certain times of day when we may be delayed by a school bus.  We will see children carrying backpacks loaded down with books, lunches, and a number of other necessities for school.   The rotation of school sports, PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, homework, report cards, and school breaks is now in session.  Whether nature knows it or not, the school year has begun.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, education, exploration, Family, farm, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, parents, school, summer, time, Weather

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, Botanical Gardens, bugs, Discoveries, education, environmental, exploration, flowers, insects, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, nature center, Photography, spring, summer, tourism, travel, vacation

Sleep In Old-Fashioned Elegance

I arrived a few minutes past the designated check-in time.  Even though I was late and had to ring the bell I was greeted by Frank with a smile and friendly hello.  He gave me a set of keys to my room and the front door.   There was no pressure to immediately produce a credit card or sign paperwork.  I was told that would be handled at check-out.

Frank gave me a tour of the house so I would know where to find amenities such as a refrigerator, microwave, coffee and tea, and a plate of home baked cookies.   He pointed out a buzzer on the main floor that could be used to alert he and/or his wife, Cheryl, that assistance was needed.  Frank then carried my suitcase up the steps and showed me my room and bathroom.  Because my room had a private bathroom down a hall, plush robes were hanging in the closet to use if needed.

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MacLeod House features a large front porch with seating and group of apple and pear trees in the side yard.  A spacious back yard in this country setting provides a peaceful atmosphere for relaxing or sleeping.  Photo copyright 2016 Grace Grogan.

Cheryl came out to meet me before I left for dinner.  She provided me with the time range for breakfast, told me what she was planning to serve each of the days, and inquired as to whether I had any dietary restrictions and if the planned menu met with my approval.  It was friendly, relaxed, courteous.   There are no frazzled workers, elevator waits, loud kids or drunken patrons navigating the halls at 3 am.  It was peaceful, quiet, relaxing.

The home is decorated in antiques.  Furniture, photos, bedding, lamps, decorations, all reflect a bygone era.  It is as if you have stepped back to a time of elegance and beauty.  The old-style lamps in the bedroom give it a relaxing ambiance that no modern light will ever provide.  I enjoyed relaxing in one of the chairs in my room each night, munching on a cookie and reading for a bit.  When I was ready to climb into bed I flipped on the TV for a bit before dozing off.  There is no street noise, no traffic.  The quiet took me into a deep slumber.

Morning greeted me with a bathroom stocked with home-style towels, washcloths, bath rugs, and shower gel.  None of the harsh white, hotel style bath accessories and cosmetics carrying a hotel logo here.  On a table on the second floor landing are  brochures of local attractions and a basket of toiletries in case a guest is in need of something.

Once I was showered and dressed for my day I headed down to the dining area for breakfast.  I found one couple there enjoying their meal.  Another couple joined us a few minutes later.  Cheryl prepared our breakfasts as we arrived.  French toast with creme cheese and peaches, served with sausage links on day one, omelets and thick toast with jams on the second.  Coffee, tea, orange juice and water were available, as were breakfast breads.    It was pleasant talking with other guests, learning where everyone was from, how long they plan to stay, where they have dined in the area, and sights they have taken in.  A nice pleasant way to start the day.

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By now you may realize that my stay was at a bed and breakfast, more specifically MacLeod House in Newberry, Michigan.  This was my first time staying at a B & B and I loved the experience.  I will definitely look into this type of lodging when traveling in the future.  Being a solo female traveler, I felt so much more secure in this environment than I do in a hotel or motel.    No large parking lots, elevator rides and long hallways to navigate alone.  It is a cozy, friendly atmosphere.

When I made my reservations I was told that I would need to change rooms from one night to the next due to a prior reservation.  It was handled easily with me packing up my bags before I left in the morning for my day out.  When the rooms were cleaned my bags were moved to the new room.  This turned out to be a wonderful opportunity because it allowed me to stay in two different rooms, each with their own unique decorating scheme.   My first night I was in the Rose Room, which I found cozy and inviting.  This room had a private bath down a small hall; room amenities included plush robes to use if needed.  My second night was in the Gold Room, which was a bit larger and had a private attached bath with a footed tub shower.  They also offer a suite, which I did not personally view.  I have no idea which room I will select the next time I visit that area, as each is unique and inviting.

Newberry is near many local attractions such as Taquamenon Falls, Oswald Bear Ranch, Ste. Saint Marie, and Pictured Rocks.  I highly recommend checking them out the next time you are traveling in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

MacLeod House
6211 County Road 441
Newberry, Michigan  49868
Phone:  (906) 293-3841
Email:  fcicala@up.net
Website:  Macleod House Bed and Breakfast

 

 

 

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Filed under Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, reality, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

Being Obstinate

445 South of the Bridge-1

Float Down Photo Copyright Grace Grogan

I am by nature a fairly easy going person, except when you challenge what I think is right, at which point I can become very obstinate.  This is the case with an article I just submitted to our local paper, The Times Herald.  St. Clair County has an “unofficial” yearly event called Float Down, which will take place this Sunday.

This is an event where people disembark from Lakeside Beach in Port Huron using rafts, floats, etc. and take with them beverages, snacks, and more for the 7 mile float down the St. Clair River to Chrysler Beach in Marysville.  This is an all-day event, the river is rapid, and even though the event is “unofficial” shipping traffic is generally slowed and/or stopped for several hours that day for safety reasons and the Coast Guard is on hand to carry out any necessary rescues.

0510 Port Huron Float Down - South of the Bridges-1

Float Down.  Photo Copyright Grace Grogan.

There are over 5,000+ participants in the float down, and it grows larger and larger every year.  In my opinion the participation increases because of the publicity it gets…not so much the positive publicity, but the negative.  The U.S. Coast Guard encourages people not to participate because it is a safety risk.  The officials of Marysville where the float ends keep trying to make it difficult for people to exit at their city by closing down roads and making it difficult for people got get picked up and exit the area quickly after floating.  Last year because they closed the road where people exit some floaters were stranded near a local restaurant until 10:00 pm.

598 - Floating by Bramble-1

Float Down.  Photo Copyright Grace Grogan.

This is where my good-natured, always balanced Libra personality takes a turn and I become obstinate.  I am an opinion columnist for our local paper so I just submitted a column about the negative attitude of the City of Marysville’s mayor.  I said I hope all 5,000+ float all the way to Chrysler Beach just because of the mayor’s attitude.   I think the City’s negative attitude is why the float down has grown so large in the past few years.  Who doesn’t want to participate in an event that has a bit of controversy and provides a unique chance at one day of fun per year?  I know I do.  I may be babysitting my granddaughter this year so my daughter can float, but in a future year I will participate in a float down.  The Mayor of Marysville’s attitude has guaranteed that!

 

 

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Filed under Blue Water Area, decisions, Discoveries, environmental, events, Family, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, play, summer

Never Underestimate Small Towns

I grew up in a small town, which beat out another better-known small in a Michigan’s best small town popularity poll run by the Lansing State Journal.  It only won by six votes in the final round, so definitely a tight race.

I haven’t lived in Eaton Rapids, Michigan since I married and moved away in 1981, but I have family there and have spent a considerable amount of time there over the years.  While I prefer my current residential location, Eaton Rapids does have a historical, small-town appeal that many love.

0267 Island Park from Hamlin Street Foot Bridge - Eaton Rapids June 7 2014-1

G.A.R. Island City Park in Eaton Rapids.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Before I delve into my hometown too deeply, let me give a thumbs up to the runner-up, Charlevoix, Michigan.  I have always loved Charlevoix from the first time I went there.  Charlevoix is bordered by Round Lake on one side, Lake Michigan on the other.  Grab a whitefish dinner “to go” at Terry’s Restaurant, then walk across the street to sit in the park and eat overlooking Round Lake.  A great, relaxing stop in northern Michigan.

Eaton Rapids, although not on any large bodies of water, is an Island City, the the G.A.R. park is an island within the island.  The Grand River flows in and around the city, and everywhere you drive you are crossing bridges.  Home of Miller Ice Cream, I grew up in a subdivision just down the street from Miller Farm #1, which is now a small historical village with an ice cream parlor and beautiful flower gardens to stroll.

0257 Flags on Main Street - Eaton Rapids June 7 2014-1

A Patriotic Display on Main Street, Eaton Rapids, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Eaton Rapids is also home to the VFW National Home, the only one in the United States.  The town’s latest claim to fame is the hosting of an Urban Air event, when vintage Airstream trailers line main street for a long weekend.  I have not yet attended this event, but am putting it on my calendar for this year.  Hopefully no conflicts arise, because I really want to visit during that time.  Downtown, small-town features include an old-fashioned telephone booth that actually works, a river walk, the Island City Park, and several great eateries, including patio dining at Darb’s.

0725 -- Eaton Rapids VFW 9-19-2015

VFW National Home – a view down one of its many streets.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Congratulations to both my hometown of Eaton Rapids and another favorite, Charlevoix for being the best two small towns in Michigan.

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Filed under Family, home, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, travel

Human Trafficking – closer to home than you think

Often when we hear news about something that is tragic we turn the other cheek, for those horrible things often happen in areas that are not near us or are removed enough that we feel we are safe.  What happens when you find out that you and/or your loved ones may not be safe?  Your sense of well-being is disturbed.

This is what happened when I found out about human trafficking in Michigan.  I feel safe in the area where I live and was shocked to find out that human trafficking is a very real concern for this area due to our close proximity to the border.  We always think something may happen to someone else, but not us.  Horrible things happen in other countries, but not ours…at least that is what we want to believe.

I was shocked to learn that Michigan is one of the top spots in the United States for human trafficking.  What was even more surprising was to learn that Michigan ranks no. 2 in the country for human trafficking in the sex trade. No. 1 is Nevada. Two of the things that make Michigan a primary spot is our close proximity to Canada and our waterways. They help make the exploitation of vulnerable persons in this state a lucrative business.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Force, fraud, and coercion to control are used to elicit commercial sexual acts, labor or service. Sex is conducted through brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, and strip clubs. Labor is used in domestic work, small businesses, large farms and factories.

Human trafficking takes place in all fifty states and Washington DC. It is a highly lucrative trade. There are high profits and it is low risk. It is one of the most profitable criminal industries worldwide. As of June 30, 2015 there were 2,084 cases of sex trafficking nationally, and an estimated 1.5 million total victims of human trafficking in North America.  The going rate for humans on the global market is $90.00. Humans are sold and re-sold, yielding a nice profit for those in the business.

Labor trafficking is found in agriculture, manufacturing and construction jobs. Victims work in fields, factories, are denied their rightful earnings and live and/or work in deplorable conditions. Sex trafficking is found at Michigan truck stops, hotels and special events.  Victims are offered as sex toys at temporary brothels, sporting events, conventions, and large gatherings.

Teens and runaways are especially vulnerable. They are often enticed by promises of love, affection, and gifts. Guerilla tactics are also used, meaning violence, threats, and consequences if they do not comply with orders.   We must protect our youth from becoming victims of this crime. Educate them on the risks. Make sure they are aware of the tactics used to lure them in. This is a very real crime taking place in our own backyard. We need to take control and eliminate the risk to save our youth.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center is open 24 hours per day, 7 days a week and can take calls in over 200 languages. They can be reached at 888-373-7888 or traffickingresourcecenter.org.

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Filed under children, communication, decisions, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, mind, parents

Where is Spring?

Here in Michigan we had a very mild fall and early winter.  Temperatures in the mid 40’s and a very small amount of snow.  It was wonderful.  People did have trouble getting into the Christmas spirit.  It was hard to get into the shopping mode with green grass and wearing spring jackets when under normal conditions it would have been cold and normally some light snow.

Now the holidays are over and we are ready to break out the flip flops and head to the beach, but Mother Nature played a trick on us — well, actually tossed reality back at us.  It is now running 18 degrees, parts of the state are under heavy snow, and we have had to haul winter jackets and gloves out of the back of our closet.  winter - can I wake up and it be summer

Where is Spring?  It is hiding down the hill and around the corner.  It may peek at us now and then, just to remind us it does still exist, but is not going to spoil us and break out for at least another month or so.  April snow storms in Michigan are not unusual.

Michigan takes a beating on its weather.  A popular saying in our state is “If you don’t like the weather wait ten minutes, it will change.”  This is very true.  Michigan weather is unpredictable and because of that putting your faith in a weather report is suicidal.  However there is one thing to be said for Michigan.  We rarely have true natural disasters.

While Michigan is not completely immune, it does not normally have news breaking weather like so many states do.  Tornadoes, forest fires, hurricanes, mud slides, floods, earthquakes, and massive life-stopping snow storms are not the norm.  What temperamental weather we get can generally be dealt with and resolved within a day or two.  Some Beach Somewhere

So, as much as I would love the warm sunshine of a hot summer day, I know that is still in the distant future.  For now I will trudge through the skiff of snow, scrap the frost off my windshield, and drive with my car set to defrost more often than heat.  Yep, it all sounds good, but I do have one final question….Where is Spring?

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Filed under Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, spring, time

Touring The Insane Asylum

Touring the The Traverse City Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Touring the The Traverse City Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan

This past weekend I toured a beautiful, spacious, historical sight located in Traverse City, Michigan.  When I was growing up the Northern Michigan Asylum / Traverse City State Hospital was still operational.  Lack of funding eventually closed the facility and those remaining patients were turned out and onto the streets with nowhere to go, nowhere to live.

The 63-acre site and its buildings of beautiful architecture deteriorated and were almost destroyed.  Word got out and those desirous of preserving such a beautiful historical location stepped in and renovations continue today.  Now called The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, it is one of the largest historic preservation and adaptive reuse developments in the country.

The eateries and shops of The Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

The eateries and shops of The Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

Former historic buildings have been transformed into an indoor marketplace with a variety of gift shops, professional services, artwork, offices, eateries, condos, and a restaurant.   The location is alive with activity.  Outside there are walkways and lawns to explore on 480 aces of preserved land.  The restoration of historic barns and a botanical garden are underway.

If you really want to learn about the history of this asylum for the mentally ill, take a guided tour.  This two hour tour takes you into buildings that are in the process of being renovated and provides you with a vast amount of information regarding the lifestyle of those in residence there, the way they were treated, and how innovative this facility really was.

The underground tunnels.  Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

The underground tunnels. Photo by Grace Grogan, Copyright 2015

Our tour guide was very informative with a a great personality and sense of humor that was constantly wound into his presentation.  You know you are in good hands when before the tour begins he announces that people should use the restroom and then says “sorry, its the mom in me”.  The tour is two hours of walking, both inside and out.

Visiting patient rooms.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

Visiting patient rooms. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015

The information provided is interesting and informative.  Not only about the architecture and design of the buildings themselves, but also about Dr. Munson, who designed the facility, and his “Beauty is Therapy” theory on providing treatment for the patients.  The facility was very innovative in that it treated patients as if they were thinking and feeling humans, not something to be thrown away.  He gave them incentive and pride by providing them with jobs on the facility.  Working in the kitchen, creating tile, woodworking, working on the dairy farm, and more.  Residents enjoyed their lifestyle and took pride in their “home”, which is what the facility was to them.  Furnishings were luxurious and comfortable, dining was on the equivalent of a fine restaurant with table clothes, fine china, and fresh flower center pieces.

Touring the Traverse City Commons.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

Touring the Traverse City Commons. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2015.

The tour includes a short period of walking outside in which you learn about some of the buildings before proceeding inside.  You will enter an non-renovated historic building, a renovation in process, and learn about the purpose in the way the architecture was designed, how the patients were housed, and then finish the tour with a walk through a brick steam tunnel built in 1883 and a visit to an area of The Commons where offices are located.

Photo by Grace Grogan

Photo by Grace Grogan

Once the tour is complete make sure you visit a few of the shops and eateries.  Books, gifts, ornaments, T-shirts and more await the shopper.  I purchased three books while there, Traverse City State Hospital is a pictorial history, Beauty in Therapy is a memoir, and Training School for Nurses is a guide of the training that nurses underwent to work at the Insane Asylum.  I look forward to reading and learning more about this unique place.

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Filed under Michigan, travel

It All Began In The Cherry Capitol of the World

From the Cherry Capitol of the World to the place with the world’s highest ski jump, a quick stop in Portage Michigan, then to an Island City, from there to a home where the city name changed three times and finally the place of the world’s longest board walk on a very busy shipping channel.  Have you ever thought about the places you have lived in your lifetime?  That first sentence gives a brief overview of mine.  I was thinking about it one day.  I have lived in some pretty interesting and unique places in my lifetime.

Traverse City Cherry Trees an Grand Traverse Bay in the background.  Photo obtained online.

Traverse City Cherry Trees an Grand Traverse Bay in the background. Photo obtained online.

The Cherry Capitol of the World, Traverse City, is where I was born. My genealogy includes the Lautner family who were some of the original settlers of the area.    My paternal grandmother was a Lautner, she grew up on part of the original Lautner Settlement on M-72 in a home built by her father when she was six years old.  She lived in that same home until her late 80’s when she placed herself into assisted living.  When I was growing up we traveled to Traverse City often, staying with my grandparents and visiting other relatives.  We rarely did any of the tourist stuff, the one exception being the National Cherry Festival, which happens every July in Traverse City.  Special parades every day,carnival, and of course farmers selling fresh cherries in small stands everywhere you go.  If you have never visited the Traverse City area I recommend you spend some time there.  From the lighthouses on Old Mission Peninsula and Leelenau Peninsula, the Casinos, Grand Traverse Bay, and more, it is a beautiful area.

This past summer I visited the town where my parents moved to when I was a toddler, Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula about midway across, this small historic town sits right on the border of Wisconsin and is home to the word’s highest artificial ski jump.  Pine Mountain Ski Jump has a scaffold that is 186 feet high and the length of the slide is 381 feet.  You can climb the stairs to the base of the jump or drive a winding road to the top of the hill for a spectacular view.   This is also the location of the Upper Peninsula Veterans Memorial Site, dedicated in 2006.  This memorial honors those from all 15 counties of the Upper Peninsula who served in Vietnam, Lebanon-Granada, the Gulf War, Korea, World War I and World War II.    Space has been reserved to honor those who have served in the war taking place in the middle east.   There are many things to do in the area, but one thing to remember is that the city’s name comes from the valuable iron that was found and mined in the area and a few minutes downthe road in Vulcan you can tour the Iron Mountain Iron Mine.  The mine tour lets you experience the conditions under which men worked at a time when there was no modern technology.  What they accomplished is amazing.

Pine Mountain Ski Jump, Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

Pine Mountain Ski Jump, Iron Mountain, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

The next stop on my list of places I have lived is Portage Michigan.  I was still young at the time, it is where I attended Kindergarten and began first grade.  Portage is close to Kalamazoo, the home of Western Michigan University and is located less than 30 miles from Battle Creek, the cereal city, home to both Kelloggs and Post cereal companies.  In preparing for this posting I learned that Portage is home to the Air Zoo which houses over 60 rare and historic aircraft.  The Air Zoo also offers indoor amusement park style rides, interactive exhibits, flight simulators and a 4D theater.    We only lived a short time in Portage before making the final move of my childhood.

In 1966  we moved to The Only Eaton Rapids on Earth, an island city located south of our state’s capitol, Lansing.  This is the town I consider my home town, residing there from the time I was six years old until I married and moved away just before my 21st birthday.  It is a unique small town with lots of local history.  Home to Miller Ice Cream, the VFW National Home and was once a booming tourist area due to mineral springs.  Eaton Rapids was founded in 1838, became a city in 1881, and is named after the youngest member ever to join the U.S. Senate, John Henry Eaton.  That and the presence of rapids in the nearby Grand River created the towns name.  It is referred to as an island city because the downtown area is completely surrounded by water.  If you pay attention when driving around town you are constantly crossing bridges everywhere you go.  Not only that, but if you live in the town you know that going to “the island” refers to an island park located near the downtown area.  The island itself is one of many Michigan Historical Sites in the town.   Another historical sight is the VFW National Home, created in 1924 when Corey J. Spencer donated a 472 acre farm to be used as a home for widows and orphans of veterans of the wars of the country.  It is the only home of its kind in the country and is still in operation today.  As a final note on the town’s second nickname, E.E. Horner, while President of Horner Woolen Mills, was on a trip to England and wrote home with an address of only  “Eaton Rapids.”  The postcard arrived at its proper destination and the town became known as “The Only Eaton Rapids on Earth.”

Eaton Rapids Island Park as viewed from Hamlin Street foot bridge.  Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

Eaton Rapids Island Park as viewed from Hamlin Street foot bridge. Photo by Grace Grogan, copyright 2014.

When I married I left Eaton Rapids and moved to Utica, Michigan, which is where my husband and I built our first home in 1983.  The area we built in was experiencing a lot of growth and over the years city boundaries were adjusted and changed so that our house began as part of Utica, became part of Mount Clemens, then Macomb.

Utica is located in Macomb County and was originally platted in 1829.  The city suffered fires in 1905 and 1906 so only has a few buildings prior to those dates.

Mount Clemens is also a town in Macomb County and was first surveyed in 1795 by Christian Clemens.   Christian Clemens and John Brooks platted the land, built a distillery and the area was incorporated as a village in 1851 and a city in 1879.  Mount Clemens became the county seat of Macomb County in 1818.  Mount Clemens was once a booming town well known for its mineral baths from 1873 to 1974.   Surburban expansion in the area continued and we were notified that the area we lived in was once having a city name change from Mount Clemens to Macomb.

The change to Macomb occured in the 1990’s, but the growth was so substantial that between 2000 and 2008 the population increased by 48%.  Macomb Township has no incorporated villages but has three unincorporated commnities:  Meade on the northewast portion of the township, Waldenburg in the central portion of the townships and Macomb, where we lived, in the northwest part of the township.    You may think that Macomb was created during the period of growth, but the Township of Macomb was officially approved by the legislative council on May 7, 1834 and is named in honor of General Alexander Macomb, a highly decorated veteran of the War of 1812.    A variety of factors, including the rapid expansion of the area in which we lived let us to St. Clair, Michigan.

In 2003 we left Macomb behind and purchased a house in St. Clair, Michigan.  This is a very scenic and historical area in which to vacation or reside.     The city has an extensive history and its name is believed to have been derived from three different sources.  One of those is that it honors Patrick Sinclair, who purchased land on the St. Clair River and in 1764 built Fort Sinclair.  In addition to the longest freshwater boardwalk in the world located on the beautiful St. Clair River, a busy shipping channel that runs between the United States and Canada and has more shipping traffic than the Suez Canal and Panama Canal combined, the town is home to Cargill Salt (formerly Diamond Crystal).  Diamond Crystal began operation in 1887 of a large solution salt mine and evaporation facility.  This is the only salt plant in the United States that produces Alberger salt, a special fine salt used on products such as potato chips, fast food french fries, etc.   The history of St. Clair industry is extensive, including the sawmill industry, shipbuilding, and in the late 1800s became a well-known resort with luxurious hotels offering mineral baths with passenger steam ships stopping at hotel docks on a daily basis.    Today St. Clair offers a Marina, Palmer Park, Alice Moore Center for the Arts, Alice Moore Woods, Michigan Historical Sites and a museum.   A unique place to visit and live.

Palmer Park boardwalk and St. Clair River, St. Clair Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Palmer Park boardwalk and St. Clair River, St. Clair Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan.

Will I someday reside in other places?  I can not be sure.  My husband and I purchased property years ago on a mountain in Tennessee, but for various reasons have determined that we will not be moving there and have put the property up for sale.  At one time we planned to become full-time RV people, living and traveling the country in our motor home.  Again, life brings changes and it is debatable whether that will ever happen.  As for now, we are residing in the beautiful Blue Water Area and enjoying our spare time as photographers, capturing everything the area has to offer and making our images available for sale at local art studios, Mercy Hospital in Port Huron, and on Fine Art America.

Where have you lived in your lifetime?  How many times have you moved?  Please share in the comment section.

 

 

 

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Filed under children, decisions, Family, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, parents, time, travel, Upper Penninsula

Looking Out My Front Door

Photo Copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo Copyright Grace Grogan 2014

As I sat down this morning and looked out my window I had the contrast of a tree in my front yard that is still full of leaves, and they haven’t even changed color, but the trees across the street are bare of any leaves at all.   Then I have shrubs with snow on them, and a neighbor across the street running his large snow blower in his drive.

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

The contrast of these items shouldn’t come as a surprise — I live in Michigan. We have a saying here, if you don’t like the weather wait five minutes, it will change. However where I live, in the thumb just south of Port Huron, I am not used to snow on the ground until January or February. We still wear spring jackets in November, people ride their motorcycles, we haven’t found our ice scrapers yet.  I am not a winter person, I took these photos standing inside my house, through the screen.

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

An arctic blast has moved across the country, dumping cold and snow everywhere.  Buffalo, New York has taken a major hit.  Given what is going on elsewhere, I really can’t complain about what I am dealing with here in the thumb….well, yes I can.  I’m still not happy, just recognize it isn’t as bad as it could be.  There is snow coming down as I write this.

In April I wrote Wild Weather Past and Present because we were also having strange weather this past spring.  If you didn’t get a chance to read it then, check it out.  It shows that bizzare weather has been going on for hundreds of years.  The advantage is we now have homes with furnaces, cars with heaters, snow blowers, plow trucks, and tons of modern conveniences that our forefathers did not have when dealing with wild and bizzare weather.

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Photo copyright Grace Grogan 2014

Stay Warm.  I am trying to look on the positive side:  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere we go.

 

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Filed under backyard, Blue Water Area, environmental, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature

Same But Different

After an 11-day vacation my husband and I arrived back home the evening of August 17th and I am still working on getting back into the swing of things.  Our trip was within our own state, but to an area that was very different from where we live.

Motor home and car.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Motor home and car. Photo by Grace Grogan

We began with a two-night stay in Boyne Falls, Michigan for a memorial service. We have a motor home and had booked into a campground there that is located on a country road. What we found, luckily after we had left the motor home at the camp and were driving only our car, is that the GPS does not distinguish between good country roads and seasonal, 2-track roads. We also discovered that it is possible for a GPS to get confused because after taking us down an assortment of roads it took us back down the same roads we had just come from. So much for a GPS being able to navigate from Boyne Falls to Boyne City — it couldn’t even find our campground!

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Mackinac Bridge during Orange Barrel Season. Photo by Grace Grogan.

Our next destination was Iron Mountain, located in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Our drive from Boyne Falls to Iron Mountain was uneventful, unless you count orange barrels on the Mackinac Bridge an event. Of course all Michiganders know that summer is “orange barrel season” and why should a bridge be any different?  What we found during our stay in the UP is that although we were in the same state, the environment and way of life is very different.

Iron Mine Tour.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour. Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mountain is on the south side of the UP very close to Wisconsin and about midway across.  It is home to one of the world’s largest ski jumps, and if you drive to the war memorial there it will take you up to where the jump is located for a beautiful view of the area.  We enjoyed a tour of the Iron Mine in Vulcan, where they take you approximately 425 feet below the earth’s surface into the mine.   Mining has not been conducted there for years but it is interesting to learn the conditions under which they worked and the tools used to drill in the mine.

Iron Mine Tour Photo by Grace Grogan

Iron Mine Tour
Photo by Grace Grogan

Our main objective of the trip was to photograph waterfalls, lighthouses and nature.  We were disappointed that although we passed several Moose Crossing signs the moose were not being cooperative and we never saw one.  We did see several deer, wild turkeys, and what we believe were a couple coyotes.    We found that while some waterfalls are well known and have a lot of visitors, others are secluded, hard to find, and require driving down narrow county dirt roads that are only slightly wider than a car width and you will only find the waterfall if you are lucky because they are not well marked.

Walking to a waterfall.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Driving down county roads can be interesting.   We came across lumbering areas where we stopped to take photographs, and discovered that semi-trucks coming at you on those narrow dirt roads drive at a pretty good rate of speed.  Don’t forget to roll up your window because you will be engulfed in a smog of dirt after they pass.    Much of the UP is National Forest, so you are driving those narrow dirt roads with huge trees on both sides.  We commented on how beautiful they must be during the fall color season.

Bond Falls.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Bond Falls. Photo by Grace Grogan

Part of the UP is Eastern Time and the other portion is Central Time, and as we drove to our various locations we were constantly bouncing from one time zone to the other.  The solution, leave your wrist watch on Eastern, set the microwave on Central, and your cell phone will automatically change for whatever time zone you are in.    Although this did not have a massive impact on our vacation plans, you do have to keep that in mind when considering the hours a place is open or when you make reservations.

Lighthouse - Marquette  Photo by Grace Grogan

Lighthouse – Marquette
Photo by Grace Grogan

Two of the lighthouses we visited are private and can only be seen by tour.  We luckily stumbled upon them at the correct time to take part in the tours and learn about life at those locations.    The job of lighthouse keeper was a lonely existence for both the keeper and his family, as they were often in places that were located out and away from other civilization.  Climbing a lighthouse that is part of a home is an easier, shorter climb for a great view.   By the time you begin your climb up the spiral staircase to the lantern room you are already on the second floor of the home and only have a bit farther to go.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

Iron Mountain View from War Memorial. Photo by Grace Grogan.

I have given you a few details on our trip, but the question you may have is why did I say it is “Same But Different?”  Because it is.  I live in Michigan’s lower peninsula in the thumb just south of Port Huron.  When you cross from the “mitten” into the UP in some ways you take a step back in time and into a small town existence.  A “big city” has a Walmart and a KMart, and some fast food establishments, there aren’t many big cities in the UP, Iron Mountain, Marquette, Munising and St. Ignace are those that come to mind immediately.    The rest of the UP has small towns, no fast food, and the towns have long stretches of roadway between them.  Of course you can always find a restaurant serving pasties wherever you travel, something you will not find in lower Michigan.  A pastie is meat and potato with maybe a couple other veggies in a crust.  They were carried by miners down into the mines to eat for their lunches.

Walking to a waterfall. Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking to a waterfall.
Photo by Grace Grogan

We traveled Highway 2 several times and it is a long road of forest and very few cars.    You spend a lot of time driving in the Ottawa National Forest or the Hiawatha National Forest.  The UP does not have “rest stops” like we are familiar with where you have a nice modern building, vending machines and bathrooms.  When you travel in the upper peninsula there are Roadside Parks with picnic tables and the bathroom facilities are actually outhouse toilets.  Did you want to wash your hands?  If fussy about that you better carry some hand sanitizer.    We noted that most vehicles on the road are clean without any with damage from accidents or rust.  When living in an area where you have to drive for miles between cities without any other cars, homes or businesses between having a well maintained vehicle is a must.  While there are miles and miles of desolate area there is no litter.  Here in the lower peninsula you find litter everywhere, but not in the UP.  We never once saw so much as a gum wrapper on the ground – clean and natural as it should be.  Uppers take pride in their environment and it shows.

We will definitely go back to the UP for another vacation.  It was relaxing, has great photo ops, nature, and requires a lot more time to explore than we allowed.  If you want to go somewhere that is the “Same But Different” take a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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Filed under environmental, exploration, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

Uninhabited and Unconnected

This past weekend I had the fun of staying on an uninhabited island with my sister and two female cousins. It is a unique experience, something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.

There is something about being away from everything and unconnected from the world — no TV, no radio, no telephone (cell phones only worked down by the water, not in the lodge), no electricity, no indoor plumbing except for non-consumable water at the kitchen sink, no air conditioning, no street lights, no cars, no other humans on a 263 acre island.  There is an operating lighthouse and you may see ships and other boats passing in the distance  on Lake Huron.   It is a peaceful existence.

Captain Mike transports us from the boat dock to the island.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Captain Mike transports us from the boat dock to the island. Photo by Grace Grogan

Our journey began at a boat dock in Alpena, Michigan.  It is there that Captain Mike met us.  He loaded our luggage and coolers packed with food for the weekend onto a boat and transported us 2-1/2 miles out to Middle Island.   The Middle Island Keepers’ Lodge where we stayed is a former U.S. Coast Guard foghorn building that has been transformed into a beautiful and comfortable lodge.   The lodge is a 2/3 mile walk from the boat dock down a trail through the woods.  Captain Mike loads up and transports all luggage to the lodge for you.  If you are unable to make the walk you can hitch a ride in the small 4-wheel vehicle he keeps there for providing luggage transport.

Walking from the boat dock to the lodge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Walking from the boat dock to the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan

Ready to begin our adventure in true fashion, we all elected to make the walk.  On the journey we walked past a more rustic cabin that is also available for rent on the island, and another trail that leads down to where there is a sinkhole in Lake Huron.  The trail to the lodge is peaceful and quiet, the perfect beginning to our weekend.   Once everyone has arrived at the lodge and the luggage is unloaded Captain Mike gives a tour of the lodge and shows everyone how to operate the propane lighting inside the lodge and the propane heated shower out on the deck.    While we get settled in Captain Mike goes out to cut and deliver firewood to the campfire area down on the beach.    Captain Mike then leaves us on the island and will return on Sunday to provide us with the opportunity to tour and climb the lighthouse before transporting us back to the mainland.

The dining area of the lodge.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The dining area of the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan

The lodge is roomy and comfortable with a large modern kitchen.  The range and refrigerator/freezer are powered by propane.  There is running water in the sink that can be used for washing dishes, bottled water is provided for human consumption.  The sink and shower water is pumped in from Lake Huron.  A comfortable dining area, a couch and two chairs, plus a bar area with four stools provides plenty of seating.

In the main area there are propane wall-mounted lights.  A small free-standing fireplace is there for use in cooler months, but there was no need to use it during our stay.  Large windows, a front door, back door and sliding door provide plenty of cross ventilation to keep the cabin comfortable.   For families there is a loft accessible by ladder that holds another table and chairs, a single bed and bunk beds, making this an ideal family retreat.  For eating and socializing there is a picnic table on the grass out the “back” door, a table and four chairs on the back deck, and a bench and washline on the main entrance deck where the shower is located.  Even the porta-potty just off the main deck area is clean and contains a battery operated light for nighttime use.

Sunset as seen from the fire pit area on the beach.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Sunset as seen from the fire pit area on the beach. Photo by Grace Grogan

As the golden hour approached we ventured down to the beach and fire pit area to light a fire and watch the sunset.  The beaches here are not sand, they are covered in limestone/shale rock.  As we watch the sunset over Lake Huron we notice that a huge flock of seagulls nest on a strip of land that juts out into the lake, and they periodically take off in large groups for a moment before once again landing on their nesting area.

As night falls we are able to watch the lighthouse come to life, with its beacon reflecting into the water.   Without the distortion of city lights the sky is pitch black and the stars are crystal clear.  A beautiful sight.    Our flashlights came in handy making the walk back up from the fire pit to our lodge.   When you are used to always having some form of unnatural lighting around it is amazing how absolutely pitch black nighttime is.

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

You may think you sleep soundly, but when there is absolutely no sound except the distant sound of waves on the beach you learn how soundly you really can sleep.  I live on a state highway and am used to sleeping with the sounds of cars going by off and on all night, plus the vibration of ships going up and down the river and the occasional sound of their fog horns.  On Middle Island when you go to bed and there is no sound.  Quietness envelopes you into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Our first night on the island we stayed up late socializing, but Saturday night we made sure we went to bed at the reasonable hour of midnight and set an alarm to watch the sunrise Sunday morning over Lake Huron.  I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but that was a beautiful and peaceful sight as well.  The sun rose at approximately 6:08 am and there was only one lone sailboat out on the water at that time of morning.   A sight definitely worth rousting yourself out of bed early for.

Sunrise over Lake Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Sunrise over Lake Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

What do you do on an uninhabited island?  Spend time talking to people, really talking without the interference of tv, computers and text messaging.  Read a book or the newspaper articles that Captain Mike keeps on hand that tell about the island and special events that have happened there.  A small selection of games, puzzle books, and cards are on hand.  Read the journal books that people have written notes in talking about their stay on the island.  Everyone loves the time they have spent on the island and there are repeat visitors who have made journal entries over the years during each visit.  One thing is certain, everyone enjoys their time spent on Middle Island.  That was one of our Sunday activities, each of us wrote our own short paragraph about our stay on the island, and it was fun to read each entry.  Although the majority of our time was spent together as a group, our thoughts and experience the things that inspired us about the island, varied slightly.

Walking the trails on Middle Island.  Photo by Grace Groan

Walking the trails on Middle Island. Photo by Grace Groan

If you are physically able to do so do not miss out on walking the trail on the island.  Allow about four hours and take a water bottle with you.  If you have any physical challenges a walking stick or in my case, a cane are also important…and don’t forget to take your camera.  This is mostly a walk through the woods, but there are areas were Lake Huron is visible, and you will encounter nature in various aspects.  I personally could have done without walking my face into a few spider webs, or the large daddy-long-legged spider that I noticed crawling on my chest, but those things are minor compared to the beauty of nature experienced throughout the walk.  Huge butterflies, live snails, and spiders spinning webs were some of the things viewed.  The sound of birds singing up in the trees provided beautiful background music.  We were told that there are several deer on the island and did see their tracks but were not lucky enough to encounter any.  Nature has its own way of creating unique beauty, from gnarled upturned tree roots to wild daisies trying to take over the pathway. There was always something to capture our attention.

Middle Island Lighthouse.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan

Had someone told me I could survive and enjoy life without tv, radio, internet/computer, telephone, motorized transportation, electricity and indoor plumbing I would have questioned the intelligence of their statement.  What I found is that when eliminated from my life for the weekend I did not miss them.  A stay on Middle Island is the perfect getaway.  We are used to being connected at all times, we operate on a schedule and are always checking our watches, crowding activities into our busy lives.  A weekend on Middle Island eliminates those things from your life.  From Friday afternoon to the time Captain Mike picks you up on Sunday you are free to relax, not pay attention to time or schedules and enjoy the beauty of nature as it was created.  We all left certain that we will return again some day.

 

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Filed under Activities, birds, exploration, Family, friendship, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, Photography, travel, vacation

Blue Water Summer

Fireworks as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Fireworks as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair. Photo by Grace Grogan

As we approach the 4th of July weekend many towns across the United States will be having fireworks, festivals, parades, and other ways of celebrating our Nation’s freedom. The Blue Water Area is no exception. What I find a bit disappointing is that so many cities hold their fireworks on days other than the 4th of July, and I am pleased that where I live, St. Clair, Michigan, fireworks are still held on the 4th of July over the St. Clair River each and every year. What is even more wonderful about this area is that all summer the Blue Water Area is filled with a variety of things to do all summer.

Soldiers take a break during the Feast of the St. Clair in Port Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Soldiers take a break during the Feast of the St. Clair in Port Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

The summer kick-off is the Feast of the St. Clair, held every Memorial Weekend in Port Huron. This festival has been held for thirty-four years and is a living re-enactment of 18th century life.  During the event Pine Grove Park is home over 100 colonial star camps and has more than 600 re-enactors who participate.   Attendees can visit four different periods of Blue Water history, Native Americans, French explorers, British traders and American Revolutionaries.  Battles are re-enacted and period life is demonstrated, including cooking, crafts, and children’s games.   The re-enactors actually camp in the park during the event, cooking their own food over an open campfire, sleeping in authentically styled tents and dressing in period costume.

The new River Walk in Port Huron located on Desmond Landing.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The new River Walk in Port Huron located on Desmond Landing. Photo by Grace Grogan

After the Feast of the St. Clair, you are never without something to do in the Blue Water Area.  Be a Tourist in Your Own Town lets both locals and tourists visit a wide variety of museums, the lighthouse, take a cruise on the Huron Lady II, and participate in numerous other activities, with transportation between locations provided by the Blue Water Trolley.  Whether riding during the event or at any other time, you can sit back and for your ten cent fare enjoy a one-hour tour of various attractions and historic sites in Port Huron.  Well worth the investment!

The BW Sandfest is a professional sand sculpture event conducted by The Sand Lovers and is held on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan.

The BW Sandfest is a professional sand sculpture event conducted by The Sand Lovers and is held on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse in Port Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan.

It doesn’t matter when in the summer you visit, there will always be something to do.  Art Fairs are held a various times in Lexington, Port Huron, Marysville, St. Clair, New Baltimore and Algonac.  Fishing is a popular sport and you will find things such as the Salmon Steaks in St. Clair or the Pickerel Tournament and Festival in Algonac.

If you are into cars or antique boats you will not be disappointed.  Many car shows and cruise nights are held including the Port Huron Cruise Night and Car Show, The St. Clair Classic Car Show, Antique Boat Show in St. Clair, and the Antique Boat Parade in Algonac.  Marysville hosts two car shows back-to-back with Rumble in the Park featuring hot rods, custom and muscle cars followed by The Past and its Wheels featuring cars built before 1959, including the Wills Sainte Claire cars that were built between 1921 to 1926 in the Marysville Factory.  The Wills Sainte Claire Museum is open the second and fourth Sundays of the month August through September and is one of many area museums.   Other local museums include the Carnegie Center, Thomas Edison Depot, Huron Light Ship, Bramble, and many small local museums in the various towns along the waterfront including New Baltimore and St. Clair.

Port Huron Float Down and Bramble Museum.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Port Huron Float Down and Bramble Museum. Photo by Grace Grogan

Don’t leave yet because we have more fun activities for you to attend.  The Bay Rama Fish Fly Festival is held every year in New Baltimore is now in its 50th year and is the only Fishfly Festival in the world.  It includes a carnival midway, live music, and various family activities such as pie eating contests and various games.  Maritime Days in Marine City is an annual three-day event that includes music, food, fun and a parade.  A new event, now in its second year is the Blue Water Sand Fest, voted by USA Today as one of the top 10 in 2013, its first year here in the Blue Water area.  The event is held on the grounds of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse and features professional, advanced amateur and amateur sand sculptures.

Offshore Racing on the St. Clair River between Michigan and Canada.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Offshore Racing on the St. Clair River between Michigan and Canada. Photo by Grace Grogan

Events surrounding the water abound.  In St. Clair you won’t want to mist River Fest and Offshore Classic Racing.  The event features a carnival, spectators can visit dry docks, wet docks, and of course watch the offshore powerboat races on the beautiful St. Clair River.

Port Huron also hosts an Offshore Powerboat Race event and the famous Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Sailboat Race.  This sailboat race is a popular event in Port Huron, featuring a carnival midway and various activities downtown and along the waterfront.  Walk along the Black River to view the boats that have arrived to participate in the race, live manikins,  food and fun abound.  Thursday is family night, and Friday is boat night, a huge celebration the night before the race.  Saturday morning line up along the Black River to view the boats as they parade out of the river and onto Lake Huron to begin the race.  An annual event on the water that draws thousands of participants and spectators is a free event, the Port Huron Float Down.  Participants climb into inner tubes, rafts and any other type of floating device at Lighthouse Beach just north of the Blue Water Bridges and then float down to Chrysler Beach in Marysville.  A fun event for all whether floating or watching.

Boat Night in Port Huron takes place the Friday before the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Boat Night in Port Huron takes place the Friday before the Bayview Port Huron to Mackinac Race. Photo by Grace Grogan

As the summer winds down into fall, an event you won’t want to miss is Whistles on the Water in St. Clair.  This event features antique steam whistles from lake freighters and passenger ships and is one of the largest gatherings of large steam whistles in the world.   The whistles are attached to one of the largest portable steam boilers on earth specifically designed to blow whistles using a fire-tube boiler that generates steam pressure to blow the whistles.  Free ear plugs are provided to visitors as when the whistles blow it is really loud!  A fun activity for children is a set-up on the waterfront of smaller whistles where the children can pull the cord to sound off one of several whistles.    The event is combined with “Chalk the Walk” which allows both adults and children the opportunity to color the walks of the St. Clair Mall with drawings using sidewalk chalk.

Whistles on the Water is held in St. Clair, Michigan.  Photo by Grace Grogan

Whistles on the Water is held in St. Clair, Michigan. Photo by Grace Grogan

This is just a brief overview of various activities in the area and you may want to check Discover the Blue  travel guide to get a more complete lineup of everything there is to do in the beautiful Blue Water area.    You won’t want to miss taking a walk along the boardwalk in St. Clair, the longest freshwater boardwalk in the world.  Stop by Desmond Landing in Port Huron to visit the Boat Nerd and stroll the new River Walk you will find there, walk the pier in Lexington, stroll under the Blue Water Bridge along the Thomas Edison Parkway in Port Huron, or walk the boardwalks in Marine City, New Baltimore and Algonac.

I love living in the Blue Water area, which to me is small town living with all the advantages of a tourist town.   It is a Melting Pot of things to do, with something for everyone.  If you’ve never visited the Blue Water area, put it on your next vacation itinerary, you won’t be disappointed!

Blue Water Trolley - It only costs a dime to ride!  Photo by Grace Grogan

Blue Water Trolley – It only costs a dime to ride! Photo by Grace Grogan

The beautiful St. Clair River as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair, Michigan

The beautiful St. Clair River as viewed from Palmer Park in St. Clair, Michigan

 

The Thomas Edison Depot Museum sits under the Blue Water Bridges on the Thomas Edison Parkway in Port Huron.  Photo by Grace Grogan

The Thomas Edison Depot Museum sits under the Blue Water Bridges on the Thomas Edison Parkway in Port Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan

 

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Filed under Activities, Art Shows, Blue Water Area, events, Family, Festivals, Lake St. Clair, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, spring, travel, vacation

WHERE HAVE ALL THE SPIDERS GONE?

Spider on a webIt isn’t that I miss them, and I really don’t care if they never return, but I am curious.   We moved into our home ten years ago, and for the past nine summers as soon as it got warm the spiders took over the front porch.  At dusk they would suddenly appear, building webs, sitting on the siding of the house, lurking on the ceiling of the porch.  Then come morning they would be gone, leaving only their webs to show of their prior nights invasion until they reappeared again that evening.

I am not favorable to spiders so it took some adjusting to the fact that if you arrived home after dusk you were walking up onto a porch with lots of spiders on it.   If we forgot to turn on the porch light and came home after dark it was worse because then you couldn’t see where they were.  One night that happened and I was first to the front door.  When I opened the screen door I felt a web go across my head.  I hurried into the house, flipped on the lights, was doing the wild karate hair shuffle with my hands while saying to my husband, Ron, “Is there a spider in my hair?”.Spider Web results in Karate Master

Being a typical man, he remains on the front porch, looking around and says “There are a lot of spiders out here.”

“I don’t care what is on the porch, is there one in my hair!”

Ron enters the house calmly, looks at my hair and replies “no.”

Whew!  That moment of panic when I didn’t know if I was wearing one of the darn things ended with one simple word.

This summer is strange.  There are no spiders on our front porch.  They should certainly be there by now, and after all these years I assumed they were permanent residents.  So here we are in our tenth summer in the house and I am wondering what happened to the spiders.  Did the bitter cold winter freeze them out?  Will they suddenly realize summer has arrived and do a late invasion?  Will we be given a summer of reprieve and then be invaded again next year?    Only time will tell, but for now I am happy that I can walk across my front porch in the dark, or sit on it reading until dusk, without having to worry about whether a spider is happily building its web above my head or across my front door.   I must admit, as adverse as I am to spiders, I continue to look at my front porch every day and wonder “Where have all the spiders gone?”

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Filed under environmental, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, spring