More Exploring Near Lake Michigan – Biking, Lighthouses and More

View of Lake Michigan from Alligator Hill

Hiking and biking are popular along Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear Dunes area and I did a little of each during our stay there. I loved the view from the Bluff Trail that I talked about in a previous post and I found another hike with a different view at the top of Alligator Hill. The blue waters of Lake Michigan surrounded by what looked like tropical greenery took my breath away.

Conundrum Cafe

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has a paved biking trail that goes through much of the Park traveling through forests, the historic village of Glen Haven and past the Dune Climb area. I liked my day biking this path, but my favorite was the Betsie Valley Trail located a 30 minute drive away near the town of Frankfort. This rail trail goes 22 miles and I was lucky to find a bike rental shop right next to the trail in the small village of Elberta. This is a one stop kind of place where you can eat at the cafe, shop for souvenirs or specialty food items, rent a bike, kayak or even get your bike repaired. The place also has a catchy name, “Conundrum” Cafe.

Betsie Valley Trail
Crystal Lake

I rode through the historic town of Frankfort on Lake Michigan where I saw the sandy dunes, a popular beach and a view of Frankfort Light located on the breakwater. The trail continued under lots of tree cover passing the Betsie River and on to Crystal Lake, the best part of this trip. Like most lakes I have seen in Michigan it is a beauty and as crystal clear as its name. I couldn’t resist riding off the trail close to the lake shore to admire the water’s clarity. Although there are areas of the Lake open to the public, I passed a number of homes with private lake front property. There were boat docks, lawns and sandy beaches where people had put out chairs, tables, fire pits and volleyball courts. It was a beautiful setting to ride next to – there are some lucky individuals who have this watery paradise to vacation next to and enjoy.

Private beach on Crystal Lake
View of Crystal Lake from Betsie Valley Trail

After my ride I drove to the Point Betsie Lighthouse which sits on the shore of Lake Michigan. At 3,288 miles, Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline in the lower 48 states. So it is not surprising that with around 140, it has the most lighthouses of any state. Since I really enjoy seeing lighthouses, I think it would be fun to travel around the state and see as many as possible, but alas, we didn’t have that kind of time to spend.

Point Betsie Lighthouse

Point Betsie completed in 1858 is a popular lighthouse and people enjoy not only touring the light but also playing at the adjacent beach. I like the setting of this lighthouse but I think the black retaining wall (bottom left of photo below) takes away some from the natural beauty. I think the building is lovely though. I didn’t have time to tour inside so I enjoyed the views from the outside.

One day Mark and I took a drive up the Leelanau Peninsula which is north of Traverse City. At the town of Leland we stopped to explore the historic Fishtown district. Situated on the Leland River are small fishing shanties and other gray weatherbeaten buildings which now are eateries and shops. It is an atmospheric place and the river was so high that it lapped over the walk ways and decks of some of the buildings. A family of ducks had even made a nest against one of the buildings. There were several boats docked as fishing is still a popular pastime here. We had lunch at a seafood restaurant with a view of the river and a small dam spillway.

Leland’s Fishtown
Leland’s Fishtown
Mark relaxing in the town of Leland
Leland River

We drove to the tip of the Peninsula where we found Grand Traverse Lighthouse built in 1858. I visited the museum inside but did not venture up the stairs to the tower. Those winding, open lighthouse stairs continue to not be good for those of us afraid of heights. The level of Lake Michigan is high and there was was no beach to be found near the lighthouse, just clumps of bushes standing in the water at the rocky shoreline.

Grand Traverse Lighthouse

On the way down the Peninsula we stopped at the Ruby Ellen farm, homesteaded in 1865 and owned by the same family for 146 years. It has 15 buildings that you can wander around and look at like this barn and silo pictured below. Since we arrived late afternoon, we were the only ones there and even when the small gift shop closed and volunteer staff left for the day, they didn’t seem to care that we stayed to explore. In 2003 a film called “Barn Red” was shot here which starred the famous actor Ernest Borgnine as a farmer in danger of losing his farm to developers.

Back at our campsite we found our bird feeder which has a protected case to discourage chipmunks and squirrels was not quite as protective as we hoped. This little guy got the top off and made himself at home amongst the seeds.

In the next post we leave Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and head for the Upper, also called the land of the Yooper!

Exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

DH Day Farm – I love this scenic barn built in the 1880’s.

Because we were staying for over a week close to the National Lakeshore, we were able to leisurely visit this lovely area along Lake Michigan in the Northwestern part of the Lower Peninsula. One of the not to be missed attractions is the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive which loops through a dense beech-maple forest, past sand dunes and overlooks of Lake Michigan, Glen Lakes and Sleeping Bear 🐻 Dunes.

Ah……the trees!

I mentioned in my previous post that my sister and I did a trip to MIchigan about four years ago. We also took this scenic drive on that trip and at one point we stopped and took a picture of me in the road looking up at the trees. On this trip I paid close attention to try and find that bend in the road again as I wanted to recreate that photo. During my first trip here I was so taken with the hardwood forests along this drive that I had to stop for a closer look. Coming from the “dry” Central Valley of California, a dense forest of beech and maple was a sight to behold. On this trip I still found the trees to be amazing, but after traveling throughout the Eastern and Midwestern U.S., we have come upon these forests several times, so they are no longer a novelty, but still such a beautiful sight.

At the top of Sleeping Bear Dune

The most popular stop on this scenic drive is Sleeping Bear Dune. At 450 feet tall, this appears to be the tallest and most well known dune in the area. Although it is not advised, some people brave the trip down and back up. The National Park Service was giving more warnings than usual, because the lake level is high therefore there are less exposed beaches. If people descended in previous years, there was the option to walk down the beach and find an alternate way out besides the very difficult climb up.

A large platform is provided at the top of the Dune so visitors can admire the great views of Lake Michigan and the Sleeping Bear.

Below, are photos of people struggling back up. In the first photo they look like ants on the sand. Since it is so steep, people often resort to crawling on hands and knees.

Sleeping Bear Dune
Close up view of dune crawlers

There is an Indian legend associated with Sleeping Bear Dune. Long ago, a bear and her two cubs tried to come to this part of the lake from Wisconsin hoping to find more food. After searching for food along the beach, they decided to swim across the rest of the lake. They went a long way out into the water and the cubs became very tired and weak. They eventually sank into the water and drowned. The mother bear sadly waded ashore and laid down, looking out on the water where her cubs had died. Eventually, both of them came to the surface as two little islands and the mother bear still lies there today atop the dunes, looking after her children.

Another view looking out at the dunes

The Dune Climb which is not located on the scenic drive is an easier dune to explore than Sleeping Bear. It is a popular attraction because it is fun to explore all that sand. Fun but also a lot of hard work climbing uphill, especially when my feet kept sinking in all that sand, hindering my progress.

The popular Dune Climb
Making my way up the dune

The views at the top were very scenic and worth the climb.

View of Glen Lake from the dunes
More dunes past the main dune climb

For those interested, you can climb up and down many more dunes to reach the shore of Lake Michigan. I walked about half way on the “trail” but decided not to do the whole distance as it was tough going at times. When I saw the young out of breath and struggling I decided not to wear myself out.

Mark checking out the view

The National Lakeshore features the U.S. Coast Guard Sleeping Bear Point Station (once known as the Life-saving Service) which was in use from 1902-1942. This building housed crews and equipment to rescue passengers and crews that were in distress on this part of Lake Michigan. Surf boats were usually sent out, but if the surf was too dangerous a rope and pulley system was launched from shore to the distressed vessel. Once secure, a sturdier rope went across to be set up like a zip line so people could be moved off the ship. Every afternoon park service rangers re-enact a rescue with kids getting to act as crew to save a stranded Raggedy Ann and Andy. The building pictured above is now a museum with photos and information about the daily lives of the coast guard crew. One of the signboards gave information on weekly duties at the station. I chuckled a little at the terminology in this section: “For Friday, practice in the method adopted for restoring the apparently drowned.”

Lake Michigan shoreline near the Coast Guard station
A building onsite houses historic Coast Guard rescue boats

Glen Haven was at one time a thriving little village located next to the Coast Guard Station and Lake Michigan. There was once a general store, blacksmith shop, hotel, wagon shop and school. A cannery was also built near the shore where cherries and apples were processed from nearby farms. The cannery building is now a boat museum.

Boat Museum

Michigan seems to have some of the prettiest turquoise colored lakes of any state I have visited and Glen Lake pictured below is no exception.

Glen Lake Overlook

Stay tuned for more exploring in Michigan!

Camping Near Lake Michigan and Cherry Country

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a popular place in Michigan with a lot to see and many activities. In 2011, it was voted the most beautiful place in America by viewers of ABC’s “Good Morning America” show. So, I felt we were pretty fortunate to get an RV spot so close to the National Lakeshore since it was the middle of summer and I didn’t make reservations way in advance. This was the second time though in our travels when we had to move during our stay at a campground. The first time was in Virginia which was okay because for a few days we got to be right next to a creek. On this visit at Indigo Bluffs RV Park, we had to move just several spaces during the middle of our ten day stay. But all in all, this was one of the nicer campgrounds of our travels. The sites were shaded by lots of trees and the location was great – about three miles to the cute town of Empire on the shore of Lake Michigan. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center was also only a few miles away. From the Visitor Center it was not far to drive to all the scenic attractions in the area.

Camping at Indigo Bluffs RV Park
Lots of wildflowers at our park including these Coreopsis

One perk was that a local farm had a stand onsite at the campground where they offered fresh picked vegetables and fruit for sale daily. It was nice on a couple of occasions to get a bag of salad greens from the cooler and tomatoes from the shelf.

As you can see, the goodies didn’t last long.

A close drive took me to the start of a great little hike on the Empire Bluff Trail that went through the woods to an overlook of Lake Michigan. About four years ago when I visited Michigan with my sister, I was amazed by the color of this Lake. I never expected it to be so turquoise blue. On this trip I continued to be amazed by the color and beauty which I would only expect to see in a more tropical location.

The Empire Bluff Trail is one of the best short trails I have been on. With less than a mile each way and not too much effort, one is rewarded with spectacular, wide ranging views. It was rather hard for me to tear myself away and head back down to the car.

One thing I was looking most forward to in this part of Michigan was the cherries 🍒. Traverse City is nearby and calls itself the “Cherry Capital of the World.” More tart cherries are grown in Michigan than any other U.S. state and the bulk are grown around the Traverse area. Each summer a cherry festival is held in Traverse City. I was hoping to go cherry picking while here but I was told that cherries were late because of the cooler weather during spring and early summer. A few days before we were to leave I saw a sign pointing the way to a farm offering U-pick, so off I went to check it out. The farm had both sweet and tart cherries, but I was only interested in the sweet. When I arrived, I was given a small bucket and instructions to drive my truck through the farm on a dirt track and down into the orchards. When I got to my destination, I found only one other lady picking.

The cherries were small and not that sweet but it was fun to be among the trees and pick the fruit. Cherries just might be my favorite fruit, so I was happy to lose myself in a large cherry orchard.

Fitting with the area, Cherry Republic has stores in both Traverse City and the small town of Glen Arbor. Due to my obsession with cherries, I had to go there a few times because the store/cafe has all things cherry. We went to the Glen Arbor store which has a fun vibe both inside and out. To begin with, they actually have an Olympic sized cherry pit spitting arena for those that want to try out this “sport.” I saw a few people attempt it but I wasn’t sure where they got their pits as I didn’t see any fresh cherries for sale in the store.

If something can be made with cherries or flavored with them it seems to be for sale at Cherry Republic. There are packages of dried cherries, chocolate covered cherries, cherry nut mixes, cherry snacks, candies, honeys, jams, preserves, salsas, baking mixes, fudge sauces, juices, sodas and wines. There are samples of many of these items. The Boomchunka cookies were a hit with Mark and I. Mark is a definite “Cookie Monster.” It is rare for him to pass up a good cookie (or even a bad one). These were large, plump and tasty cookies filled with oats, coconut, dried cherries and chocolate chips.

All things cherry at Cherry Republic – our favorite were Boomchunka cookies

Although the store is great, the cafe in a separate building is just as good or better. My sister and I discovered this treasure during our Michigan road trip and at that time I had the grilled cheese sandwich. On this trip it was still on the menu and is one of the richest grilled cheese I have ever had. It consists of cherry bread with a layer of cherry jam and white cheddar. The sandwich is covered with Parmesan and grilled. Dessert is not to be missed as they feature a variety of cherry pies as well as ice cream with different cherry flavors made on the premises.

Homemade cherry crumb pie and cherry ice cream
How can anyone look so serious when they are eating scrumptious cherry pie and cherry ice cream?

The Traverse City area has another favorite food item of mine. In my opinion there are no better BBQ potato chips than Great Lakes. My sister and I discovered them during our past trip and we haven’t stopped thinking about them. Several times we have ordered some but unfortunately they declined my recent order, reporting that they can’t ship at this time to California 😢 . On this trip I also tried for the first time their cherry BBQ chips which are also fantastic with a slightly sweet taste.

While I am on the topic of cherries, Traverse City claims to have the pie pan that once held the largest cherry pie in the world. On July 25, 1987, Chef Pierre Bakeries (now the Sara Lee Company) in Traverse City baked a cherry pie weighing 28,350 pounds with a diameter of 17 feet, 6 inches. That’s a lot of cherries and dough!

Stay tuned for more on the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore area……but no more cherry talk 😊 .

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan

1917 Overland Light Four Touring Car

One of the greatest collections of interesting American artifacts can be found in the exhibits of Henry Ford’s Museum. These artifacts tell the story of important inventions and events that defined U.S. history and culture. I found it to be a wondrous step back in time. Mr. Ford not only developed a car industry, but found the time and interest to preserve one of a kind items and begin a museum that has continued his legacy. In my opinion, this truly must be one of the best museums in America. It is so large that it takes a day to see it all, but for museum lovers or lovers of history, it is a day well spent! Come along as I show some of the museum highlights we found.

Rosa Parks made history on this bus

The museum is divided into a number of sections. Let’s first go to “With Liberty and Justice For All” where two artifacts are in the MUST SEE category. It is in this section where we learned about America’s struggle for freedom with an emphasis on the Civil Rights movement. One of the most noteworthy moments from this period was on December 1, 1995, when Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. After she was arrested and convicted, blacks in the city boycotted public buses for 381 days, marking the country’s first large scale demonstration against segregation. The boycott led to the Supreme Court outlawing racial segregation on public buses in Alabama.

The volunteer staff person sat me in the seat she claimed was Rosa’s.

Before the bus was obtained, it had sat unused for 30 years in an Alabama field. In 2001 it was put on auction and the Henry Ford Museum outbid other interested parties including the Smithsonian Institution by paying $492,000. The bus needed major restoration which cost an additional $300,000. The restored bus was first exhibited at the Museum in 2003, two years before Rosa Parks passed away in 2005.

The second MUST SEE in this section is one I found both mesmerizing and chilling – the rocker Abraham Lincoln sat in at Ford’s Theater when he was shot. For its age, the chair looks to be in good condition. The dark spots on the rocker look like blood and makes this exhibit that much more sobering. The chair was purchased by Henry Ford in 1929 after it was auctioned for $2,400. It was first housed in the Logan County Courthouse in Greenfield Village (my previous blog posts) until 1980 when it was moved into the museum.

Another presidential artifact in this section is George Washington’s camp bed and camp chest from the years 1775 – 1780. Washington carried folding beds, tents, eating utensils and other equipment while camping with his troops during the Revolutionary War. While visiting the Yorktown National Historic Site in Virginia we were able to see a tent that Washington used while in the field, so it was great to also see more artifacts from Washington’s days as commander.

From the serious to the whimsical we have the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, built in 1952 and considered the oldest of this type of vehicle. I believe I last ate a hot dog 🌭 more than 40 years ago and don’t plan to ever eat another one, but this vehicle couldn’t help but make me smile as it is just too cute. There are still Wienermobiles touring the country to promote the product with the drivers called “hotdoggers.” Amazingly, a little later on in our journey Mark and I actually saw one on the Interstate.

Kennedy’s limousine – view of the back where he sat when shot

The Ford Museum has many vehicles on display. One of the more notable sections is the “Presidential Vehicles” with Kennedy’s 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible limousine the standout. It was in this vehicle on November 22, 1963 that he was assassinated in Dallas, TX. after his death, the car was rebuilt to make it more secure including titanium armor plating and a permanent roof. It was used occasionally by Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter until retired in 1977.

FDR’s Sunshine Special

There are four other presidential vehicles on display here: Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan. FDR’s vehicle was the first vehicle built especially for presidential use in 1939. It was called the “Sunshine Special” because FDR loved to ride in it with the top down.

Quadricycle – Ford’s first car

In the “Driving America” section we were able to see a number of historic cars including the first designed by Henry Ford. Built in 1896 and called the Quadricycle, it was Ford’s first attempt to build a gas powered automobile. He sold it for $200.00 then used the money to build his second car. It had an iron frame, a leather belt and chain drive for the transmission and a buggy seat.

It is hard for me to imagine a time when service station pumps didn’t calculate the amount of gasoline and price. At the Texaco station exhibit, the Texaco Fire Chief gasoline pumps from 1940 did away with the price charts used by service station attendants. Next to the pumps was a 1939 Dodge Tanker Truck that brought gasoline directly from the refinery to the service station.

Not surprising, we love a road trip, even a long one across the U.S., so I liked the exhibit of the Packard Model F Runabout, the 2nd car to cross the U.S. in 1903. Crossing America during that time though would have been extremely difficult. Some roads were surfaced with gravel but most were simply dirt paths. West of the Mississippi there were few roads. Two men made the journey: Tom Fetch, a packard plant foreman and Maurius Krarup, a journalist. Traveling from San Francisco to New York took them 61 days. Fetch summed up the trip by saying, “It was hard, very hard and I do not care to make the trip again.” Some times the good old days are just not that good. This car was not shined up for the exhibit as it still has dirt plastered all over.

This adorable looking 1927 Blue Bird School bus is claimed to be the oldest surviving school bus in America. It is the first in a long line of buses made by Blue Bird, one of the country’s major school bus builders. The creator, Albert Luce from Georgia, constructed a strong steel framework under the wood body and mounted it on a Ford Model TT truck.

Some of the exhibits at the Museum are hands on including the ”Build a Model T” in the
“Made in America” section. Each day an entire Model T is assembled with the help of visitors. When we stopped by, several girls were working on putting a running board back on the car. What a great idea and activity! In a nearby area was an assembly line to put together miniature Model T’s. A volunteer staff asked for eight participants to man the different stations, for example putting together the chassis, body and wheels. My job was to turn the wheel to operate the conveyor belt and control how fast it went. Everyone had to work quickly to put together as many cars as possible in the allocated minutes.

Even the littlest visitors could try their hand at car repair and maintenance – there were tires to change and fluids to replace in the engine.

House of the future – Dymaxion

Moving away from automobiles we now have something completely different – the Dymaxion House. It was designed in 1945 by a visionary architect to be the strongest, lightest and most cost effective housing ever built. This domed roof, aluminum exterior home was to be mass produced on an assembly line and shipped pre-assembled. It was created to be an inexpensive solution to the postwar American housing shortage. The home has two bedrooms, living area, galley kitchen with all steel built in appliances and bathroom. Special features include revolving closets and shelves to maximize storage space. The bathroom was designed to conserve water by using a “fogger” or mist system in the shower and a shrink wrap packaging waste system for the commode. A ventilator on the top of the home allowed fresh air in but kept the wind out. This is the only prototype for the home as it could never be mass produced as planned. I wasn’t too wild about a house with so much metal. It just felt too industrial and not cozy.

Interior of the Dymaxion

The Ford Museum exhibits railroads and “Heroes of the Sky,” with historic aircraft like a replica of a Wright Brothers plane. In four simulated aircraft I experienced flight from different time periods and got dizzy practicing to be a “wing walker” while on a biplane projected from a large screen. In the “Agriculture” section were examples of innovative machines for farming and I sat inside a 1975 Sperry-New Holland Columbine. There were huge stationary steam engines to marvel at in the ”Made in America” section. We wandered in ”Your Place in Time” to see artifacts and technology from the different generations, including our own. In the 80’s area I couldn’t pass up making a video of myself with the Van Halen rock band for MTV.

1939 Douglas DC-3 – first successful commercial airliner

We found this Museum to be filled with an amazing variety of exhibits with something to interest everyone! We are so thankful for visionaries like Ford who saw the need to preserve these pieces of history for later generations. I hope you liked seeing some of what this museum has to offer.

Stay tuned for my next blog when we move from technology to nature and visit the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore area in Michigan.

Exploring Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan – Part II

Greenfield Village – Stony Creek Mill Pond

I was pretty enamored with Greenfield Village, so I decided to spend another day exploring and write a second blog post as well. From the layout of the Village to every building and exhibit, I found much to be captivated by. Lovingly maintained and staffed by enthusiastic volunteers, this is the best living history museum I have seen on my travels. I think it is even better than Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia which is heavily visited and one of the more famous living history museums. I believe It is natural in exploring attractions to find at least a few things that could be improved or are not visitor friendly. After two days at Greenfield I stopped to think what could be better and couldn’t come up with anything significant. There was plenty of room to roam around and even get away from crowds, the staff were engaging, the historical sites informative and attractive. Even the food, often a downer at many of these kinds of places, was quite good. We ate two decent lunches here and the baked potato with chili meal I had at the “Taste of History” Restaurant featured the biggest, nicest potato with tasty chili I have ever eaten. I think Luther Burbank who the meal honored would be pleased at how his potato was featured.

Greenfield Village has a historical section called “Porches and Parlors” where you can see the homes and learn about the lives of ordinary and not so ordinary people that changed America. Here can be found the homes of Robert Frost, Thomas Edison, Luther Burbank, Noah Webster and William Holmes McGuffey. Perhaps my favorite home in this section was the home of Mr. Webster, the Webster dictionary author. This became an interesting visit as I knew almost nothing about him.

Noah Webster home – built in 1823

Webster and his wife Rebecca lived here in their later years in New Haven, Connecticut. It was here in 1828 that Webster wrote his famous dictionary, “American Dictionary of the English Language.” A room upstairs is filled with spelling books (the famous blue back speller) and dictionaries that Webster wrote. The American Dictionary was the last dictionary written entirely by one person. The aim of the dictionary was to capture distinctively American words and spellings and included about 70,000 words. Webster added many technical and scientific words such as vaccination as well as common “Americanisms.” He included only one word that he made up himself – “demoralize.”

Webster’s most famous dictionary

Henry Ford and his wife liked the style of this 1619 English Cotswold Cottage so they had it dismantled in England and brought back to Greenfield. They also brought the barn to go with it. I thought this home was the most delightful of all the homes in the Village. It was set in an English style garden with many blooming plants and flowers.

Me looking out from Cotswold Cottage

Outside of the Susquehanna Plantation two actors portrayed life as slaves using songs, stories and quite a bit of audience participation. They were quite animated as the photo below shows. This Civil War era home was part of a 700 acre plantation of the Maryland Tidewater region. The home of the Carroll family, they grew 700 acres of tobacco and wheat and owned 65 slaves.

Actors at the Susquehanna Plantation
Susquehanna Plantation – a tired worker sits among the tobacco plants

I have always had a fondness for windmills and this one from Cape Cod, Massachusetts is claimed to be the oldest in the United States. The wind moved the sails of the windmill to operate the grain milling machinery inside.

Farris Windmill – built in the mid 1600’s

Amos and Grace Mattox, descendants of slaves raised their family in this Georgia farmhouse during the depression years of the 1930’s. The volunteer told me a story about how Mr. Ford came upon this house while traveling the back roads of Georgia. He wanted to buy it for Greenfield Village but Mr. Mattox wouldn’t sell. He kept trying though and eventually after Mattox passed away, his family agreed to sell and the home was moved to the Village in 1943. This was one of a group of homes Mr. Ford obtained to represent “African American progress from bondage through redemption to world recognition.”

Mattox Home – built around 1880

The authentic insulation of newspapers on the walls and cardboard on the ceiling gave the rooms a very homey feeling.

Mattox home interior

If you have visited any historic schools, you probably have seen the McGuffey Readers on desks, popular in frontier school houses. In 1800, William Holmes McGuffey was born in this stark looking log cabin built in the late 1790’s in southwestern Pennsylvania. Ford was a big fan of the McGuffey Readers and decided to purchase this home in 1937.

The Edison Complex is a major highlight of the Village. Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory, once located in New Jersey was the first of its kind in the world. This is where Edison made his most important inventions, especially the incandescent light bulb. On October 22, 1879. Edison tested a bamboo filament which lasted over 30 hours. The laboratory remains just as it was when Edison worked here. It was truly amazing to see where this famous inventor spent so much of his time.

Thomas Edison’s Laboratory where he developed the lightbulb

The biggest surprise for me though was the phonograph machine that Edison developed in 1877 using wax and tinfoil strips. The machine was used for recording and playing back either voice or music. Edison voiced the words from the song, “Mary had a little lamb” on his phonograph and today at Greenfield, a volunteer demonstrated recording the same song and playing back the results. I can’t quite wrap my head around how using these elements produced such clear words – this is quite an invention!

Volunteer at Edison’s lab speaking the words from Mary had a little lamb on the phonograph cylinder.
Playing back the words after recording

In the year 1919, Henry Ford learned that his birthplace was at risk to be destroyed due to a road improvement project. He decided to move the farmhouse and restored it to how it was before his mother’s death when he was 13 years of age. He filled it with either original or similar furnishings that he remembered from his boyhood. In 1944, the building was moved to the Village. This home was the beginning of Ford’s work to bring more buildings to Greenfield and preserve them for others to enjoy. Today there are almost 100 historic buildings located here.

Henry Ford was born here in 1863

I hope you enjoyed reading about a little of what Greenfield Village offers. There is so much more to see here that I haven’t written about. It is definitely a must see destination! Has anyone been here and would like to share thoughts on your experiences? Would love to hear about them!

More Henry Ford to come in my next blog as I explore the Henry Ford Museum located next to Greenfield Village.

One more ride!

Exploring Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan

Henry Ford did an amazing thing when he created Greenfield Village in Dearborn beginning in the early 1930’s. Mr. Ford was interested in preservation and decided to move onsite a number of historic buildings he had purchased throughout the country, organizing some around a village green and expanding on to streets to create a town. He obtained a courthouse, school, town hall, church, store and an inn. He bought homes of well known people and industrial buildings including a sawmill and gristmill. Some of the buildings were recreated to house such things as Thomas Edison’s lab. Today, the Village is organized into seven historic districts with a real working farm and craft shops like glassblowing, pottery and tin smith. The Village has a turn of the century feel with actual Model T Fords chugging up and down the roads and people dressed in period costumes. There is also a steam passenger train continuously circling the property. At 80 acres, the Village is large and seems to have something to interest almost anyone.

Getting ready to take off

Taking a ride in one of these authentic Model T’s is a visit highlight. Piloted by a volunteer, we were given a tour of part of the Village. These vintage vehicles are on the go with visitors all throughout the day.

We began our visit in the Main Street District where we explored interesting buildings like the home where Wilbur and Oroville Wright lived in Dayton, Ohio. We timed our visit for the skit held on the porch featuring Wilbur and Oroville and their sister Katherine. In the skit, the brothers talk animatedly about their recent test flight at Kitty Hawk. In 1937, Mr. Ford obtained the home and a bicycle shop owned by the Wright brothers. It was in this bicycle shop the brothers developed their first aircraft. Ford placed the two buildings next to each other on Main Street.

Wright Brothers Home
Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop

Across from the Wright home is the Cohen Millinery where in the 1890’s Mrs. Elizabeth Cohen, a widow, offered fashionable headwear to support her family. Like many shopkeepers of the time period, she lived above the store.

Main Street with Ms. Cohen’s Millinery shop on the left
Looking at these, Mark regrets not purchasing an Amish hat

Next door to the hat shop is the Heinz House where Henry Heinz bottled his horseradish sauce in the basement and then began producing pickles and relishes for neighbors and friends. Moving on down the street, one of my favorite buildings was the Logan County Courthouse built in 1840 and formerly from Lincoln, Illinois. The courthouse is significant because Abraham Lincoln tried cases here as a traveling lawyer. Visiting once or twice a year, he worked mostly on cases resolving neighbors’ disagreements over land, contracts and debts. It was pretty cool to stand in this building and imagine Lincoln litigating his cases. One of the great things about Greenfield Village is that most of the buildings are staffed with knowledgeable and friendly docents who can provide a lot of information, like here at this former courthouse.

Logan County Courthouse – 1840
Logan County Courthouse where Lincoln tried cases

Ford purchased the one room school that he attended as a boy from the ages of 7 to 10. At certain times class is held here for visitors. I thought it might be full of kids but it was all adults and we were quizzed by the instructor on Michigan history and politics. There were questions on when the state received its statehood and location of the capital. Since I had recently visited the state capitol in Lansing, I was able to answer some of the questions 😊. After class I talked to the volunteer instructor who said he recently retired from teaching history at a local high school and wanting to stay active, applied to volunteer at Greenfield Village. He said he was very happy to get the school as his assignment. If I lived nearby I think I would put in an application to volunteer here too!

Scotch Settlement School – 1861
Class in session – Henry Ford’s initials are on a desk in the corner where he sat

At one end of the Village Green is the Martha Mary Chapel that Ford built at the Village in 1929. The architecture is inspired by New England’s colonial era churches popular in the 1700’s. The beautiful church is named for his mother Mary and mother-in-law Martha.

At the other end of the Green is the Town Hall where we attended a fun Gershwin musical.

Music could be found in other places besides the Town Hall. Throughout the day, the Village Singers performed old time songs at various places along Main Street and the Village Green.

If one got tired of viewing the buildings and exhibits there was fun and games in the offering. The whole family could try out stilt walking, hoop rolling, croquet, skittles (type of bowling), or graces (hoops caught on the tips of wands).

Trying out stilts on the Village Green

Henry Ford obtained Luther Burbank’s birthplace built in 1800. Luther was born here in 1849 in Massachusetts. For those that haven’t heard of him, he was a well known botanist who developed hundreds of new varieties of the plants, fruits and vegetables we enjoy today, like the Shasta Daisy, Santa Rosa plum, freestone peach and certain types of nectarines and berries. His first success was the Russet Burbank potato which became the most common one used in commercial production like in McDonald’s fries. I can think of one McDonald’s fan (Mark?) who should be thankful to Luther. Mr. Burbank spent much of his life in Santa Rosa, California where we have toured his home and farm to see examples of the plants he developed.

Luther Burbank’s birth place

During our visit the Burbank home was being used as a corn husk doll center with corn husk bodies soaking in water and tables covered with cloth, yarn and ribbons to create dolls and outfits. Since I had never made a corn husk doll I decided to give it a try with some help from a sweet young male volunteer who turned out to be much better at fashioning a skirt, shirt and scarf for my doll than I was.

This is just a small part of what can be seen in Greenfield. I really enjoyed my visit and since there was so much to see and do I decided to spend another full day here. Stay tuned for my next blog on more exploring in the Village!

Two Year Anniversary and Our Favorite States

Middleton Gardens, Charleston

As I write this we are fast approaching the two year mark (August 25, 2017) of full time RV traveling. During this time period we have managed to live continuously in a simple, 21-foot travel trailer with no slide outs. Our living space has been tiny and cramped, but our wonderful United States has beckoned us with plenty of room to get out and explore. And explore we did, spending time in 36 states. Mark and I don’t count the states we just drive through or spend a night in on the way to something else. We have to spend at least several days and see something of significance in each state. Most states we have spent at least a week in, some we have spent a month or more exploring. From time to time we are asked what our favorite states or places have been. We enjoyed every state we visited and found many interesting things to occupy our time. But some just hold a more special place for us. So, I thought I would list the states that were standouts during these past two years and why we enjoyed them so much. (Not necessarily in order of preference).

1.MAINE

Acadia National Park

As we traveled around Maine I couldn’t help but ponder that this might be the most beautiful state of our trip. The coastal scenery is continuously stunning with interesting rock formations, forests with fields of green meeting the seashore and many small islands in the bays. We found interesting little seaside villages, harbors full of lobster boats and lighthouses. I love the water, so Maine was especially intriguing to me. I enjoyed several boat trips including a kayak class with L.L. Bean’s outdoor program; a lobster boat trip out of Portland learning about trapping lobsters and helping with the process; and a boat trip to Petit Manan Island to see Atlantic Puffins for the first time. We were able to mark off another National Park by visiting gorgeous and popular Acadia. We stayed at one of our favorite campgrounds called Sunset Point along the waterfront which lived up to its name with some colorful evening skies. If requested, the owner even delivered freshly steamed lobsters to the RV’s. Other favorite eating experiences included lobster rolls and everything blueberry – wild berries fresh from the field, blueberry ice cream and pie.

2. LOUISIANA

Campground swamp near Lafayette

Mark and I were happy campers while visiting Louisiana. We loved everything about the state and I often thought it was the most interesting one of our travels. We enjoyed learning about and experiencing the unique music, culture, history and food. We became enamored with Cajun and Zydeco music and made it a point to visit live music venues as often as we could. But if I had to list my favorite part of exploring Louisiana, it would have to be the swamps. There is nothing quite as captivating as a good swamp and a few alligators makes it even better. I could never tire seeing cypress trees with lots of hanging moss in dark mysterious waters. We even had a small swamp at our RV Park (but alas no alligators). Visiting Louisiana was a little like being in a foreign country since the French Cajun culture is still strong. Eating was an adventure in Louisiana as much of the food was different than we were used to. We chuckled at our first lunch plate diner when it seemed we weren’t familiar with many of the menu offerings. Louisiana also had one of our favorite camping experiences, right along the Mississippi River!

Swamp tour on Lake Martin

3. SOUTH CAROLINA

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, Charleston

I loved visiting the South. I can still remember the sadness I felt when we were leaving South Carolina, knowing I was leaving the Deep South with its swamps, huge oaks trees, hanging moss and beautiful gardens. Our visit in South Carolina was a little briefer than the other states on this list (about two and a half weeks), but we saw some memorable things while here. Most of our visit centered around the city of Charleston, which became one of my all time favorite cities. Charleston is a great place to walk and explore with unique and beautiful historic architecture. In the environs of Charleston were historic plantations with amazing gardens like Magnolia and Middleton. We timed it right because the gorgeous azaleas were blooming. We also got to visit the only tea plantation in the U.S., tour the U.S.S. Yorktown aircraft carrier where my dad served while in the Navy and marked another National Park off our list – Congaree, the park of tall trees. We also visited one of the largest oak trees in the U.S. – Angel Oak which is over 400 years old.

4. VIRGINIA

Fife and Drum Corps, Colonial Williamsburg

Virginia has a lot going for it. The state is exceptionally beautiful with some of the best scenery of our travels. The historical attractions are top notch. Some of our favorite historical places of our RV travels are here including Jamestown, Yorktown Battlefield, Jefferson’s Monticello, Madison’s Montpelier and Colonial Williamsburg. We visited another National Park – Shenandoah and explored the Blue Ridge Parkway with its amazing views. We were able to stay at an RV park right on the Parkway. Along the Blue Ridge we also listened to Appalachian music – one of our favorites was Floyd Country Store where music jams with flatfoot dancing is a weekly occurrence.

Great colonial era meals in Charlottesville

5. PENNSYLVANIA

Shannon and I at Constitution Hall in Philadelphia

There was a lot to interest us while visiting Pennsylvania. We began in Philadelphia where we had a memorable week with our daughter Shannon, son-in-law Jonathan and grandsons Luke and Levi who flew out for the visit. For those that love colonial history, which we do, Philadelphia was a place not to be missed. There were also fun museums to explore with the grandkids (like the Franklin Institute for science), a colorful Japanese balloon festival, great food at historic Reading Terminal Market and a lot of walking. After Philadelphia, we spent a few weeks in the Lancaster area which was a great introduction to the delights of Amish country. Then it was on to Gettysburg where we got to meet up with our son Matt and daughter-in-law Emma for several days of camping together and exploring Gettysburg Battlefield and town. This battlefield was a great finale after visiting a number of Civil War sites throughout the South. While in Pennsylvania we also visited one of my all time favorite botanical gardens – Longwood, toured two snack factories and explored George Washington’s winter headquarters at Valley Forge.

Matt and Emma cruising the Gettysburg Battlefield with their Vespas 🛵

6. Arizona

Sunset in Saguaro National Park

We love the desert and it doesn’t get much better than the Sonoran Desert in Southern Arizona. I could happily explore desert plants and wildlife for hours which we did at Saguaro National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Sabino Canyon and Catalina State Park. Ever since I first saw saguaro cactus 🌵 when Mark and I traveled from California to Tucson in the mid 1970’s, they have been one of my favorite plants. I never tire of seeing them with all their different sizes and shapes. Since we were visiting Arizona in the springtime, it was an added bonus that so much of the desert was blooming, especially after a heavier than usual rainfall season. Arizona also had some of our best birding experiences and I added some new birds to my life list. I also got to visit some new birding areas like the town of Portal and the Chiricahua Mountains in the Southeastern part of the State. Our favorite RV park was Tucson’s Rincon Country West which was mega RV living at its best with so many activities offered it was impossible to be bored. We expanded our interests and had fun during our five weeks here.

Mark rescued his fly away hat from the creek at Catalina State Park, Tucson

7. OHIO

President McKinley National Memorial in Canton

I think Mark and I were surprised how much we enjoyed our time in Ohio. It wasn’t that we had low expectations before visiting the state, it was just that everything we did seemed to exceed our expectations. Ohio also gets my vote for being the friendliest state of our travels. The people were laid back, eager to start up conversations with us and genuinely interested in our travels. Ohio had a really good mixture of interesting nature experiences, scenery and history. It was here I probably had the best birding experience of my life at Magee Marsh on Lake Erie. Seeing about twelve new warbler species close up and other life birds like Scarlet Tanagers and Trumpeter Swans was a fantastic experience. Ohio calls itself the state of presidents as eight were either born here or got their start. We visited the homes of three of those presidents – Garfield, McKinley and Taft. We really enjoyed our time in Ohio’s Amish country, the most beautiful of the Amish areas we visited. We explored Cuyahoga National Park for the first time where I was able to bike along the Cuyahoga River. Several favorite museums were visited in this State including Cleveland Museum of Art, the Warther ship and train carving museums and the Air Force Museum in Dayton. We saw Huffman Field where the Wright Brothers tested their first airplanes. I also really enjoyed the beautiful and unusual scenery at Hocking Hills State Park with its caves, gorges and waterfalls.

One of several presidential planes toured at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Dayton

8. MICHIGAN

Michigan Statehouse, Lansing – one of 14 state capitols visited

Michigan is one of the most beautiful states of our full time travels primarily because so much of it is located on the Great Lakes. (Coming soon, I still have blogs to write about the time we spent here in the month of July). It was in Michigan that we visited the best museum complex of our travels – the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village located in Dearborn. At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore we had a great nearby camping spot and explored one of the best outdoor areas of the state with one of the most scenic drives of our travels – Pierce Stocking. I enjoyed short hikes to overlooks of Lake Michigan, wandered over sand dunes and took a couple biking trips. It was here we had the best pie and grilled cheese of our travels at Cherry 🍒 Republic, a place for everything cherry. In the Upper Peninsula we stayed near the town of Munising and explored the majestic Pictured Rocks National Seashore on Lake Superior. It was a place of waterfalls, lighthouses and two different boat trips to see shipwreck remains and the Pictured Rocks from the water. It was also fun to learn about the unique culture (Yooper) of this area. Before leaving the State, we also visited the Keweenaw Peninsula where copper mining was once king.

Grand Island, Lake Superior

HONORABLE MENTION:

FLORIDA

Hiking in Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Reserve near St. Augustine

I won’t forget the first time I walked on the pier at St. Andrews State Park near Panama City and saw the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I was awestruck by the color and the white sand beaches. We saw a number of beautiful beaches on the Florida panhandle, some at Florida State Parks like Grayton Beach which were great places to visit during our stay. This is the state of my birth and I was able to visit for the first time since leaving at six months of age, the town of Pensacola with its naval base and famous air museum. Florida has one of my favorite cities of our travels – St. Augustine located on the Atlantic Ocean. I haven’t written a blog article about this city yet, but still hope to at some point. Claiming to be the oldest U.S. city, I loved all the history, buildings, attractions and beauty of this place. It had one of my favorite RV parks located within walking distance of the beach and the intracoastal canal. Florida was another great state for wildlife sightings with lots of birds at our campsite, state parks and wildlife refuges. Plus, at Wakulla Springs State Park we saw manatees for the first time.

I hope you enjoyed this look back at some of our experiences exploring in the past two years. It was a hard post to write because we have enjoyed so many wonderful places.

Stay tuned for posts on our stay in Michigan!

Enjoying the Outdoors in Northern Indiana

While staying in Indiana, I was lucky to find a bike rental shop right across the street from the Pumpkinvine Trail which travels 17.5 miles through the Amish countryside, linking several towns. The time I spent here was one of my favorite biking experiences. This rails to trails was named “Pumpkinvine” during its railroad days because of all the curves and turns. The path travels through a lovely shaded forest with frequent glimpses of open fields.

Pumpkinvine Trail

I rode past many Amish farms and homes and it was a great look at every day life. I felt I had been transported back to a much simpler time and I frequently stopped just to soak it all in. I saw people working in their fields and gardens, for example two young women tilling a small plot with a pony pulling a plow. Buggies and wagons regularly passed by on the country roads. Horses and cows grazed in the fields. Women hung their laundry out on lines and horses were hitched in driveways. An Amish one room school sat quiet for the summer.

Bike trail through Amish country
A country road crossed by the Pumpkinvine Trail
Amish farm house
Amish one room school

I also passed several phone sheds set apart from the homes and used by the community like the one below.

Amish phone shed

The highlight was when a small cart pulled by a pony with four young children came quickly down a dirt road and drove in a circle around an empty lot near the bike trail. I was a little surprised 😮 when I saw one of these children with an infant loosely perched on her lap. I feared the baby might slip out since the kids seemed to be so young to be “babysitting.” (What, no car seat)? They took off carelessly laughing and headed quickly back up the road. Perhaps children’s freedom is a given here as I also saw a small boy (about three or four) hanging out by himself for awhile at the end of his driveway. There didn’t seem to be any adults around, but perhaps he was being watched.

The trail went past Krider World’s Fair Garden which I mentioned in the last blog. This garden was originally displayed at the 1933-1934 Chicago World’s Fair. It is a shady respite from walking or biking with paths winding by a pond, small waterfalls and many plantings.

Krider World’s Fair Garden

Some of the main features exhibited at the World’s Fair can still be seen here like the toadstools and the Dutch windmill.

On another day while doing my quilt trail scavenger hunt that I also wrote about in the last blog, I drove past Riverbend Park in the town of Middlebury. The Little Elkhart River flows through here and it was so pretty that I pulled over to explore. I found a trail that went along the River and through the woods.

Little Elkhart River, Riverbend Park, Middlebury

By the water I found many beautiful dragon flies. Well, I thought they were dragonflies but when I researched later, I found out it was a damselfly called “Ebony Jewelwing.” Damselflies are thinner than dragonflies and fold their wings up, holding them together across their backs. As a flying adult, they only live about two weeks. I learned something new as I have very little knowledge (if any) about dragonflies and damselflies. The body of the male Ebony Jewelwing is a metallic blue green and a striking color. The female is duller with smoky brown colored wings and white spots on the tips.

Male Ebony Jewelwing
Female Ebony Jewelwing

It is hard for me to pass up a botanical garden and the city of Elkhart has beautiful Wellfield Botanical Gardens with over 20 individual sections. As a botanical garden Wellfield is unusual -it is built on wells that have provided most of the drinking water for Elkhart since 1885. Much of the Park acreage is devoted to water with fast moving Christiana creek flowing at the edge of the park and a small lake in the center.

Christiana Creek
Lots of sitting areas at Wellfield Botanical Gardens

I thought the children’s garden was quite delightful with a multi level treehouse to play on as well as an area with raised beds to learn about gardening. When I visited though, there was not a child in sight.

Children’s Garden Treehouse

Since opening, Wellfield has been improving their gardens with a current focus on a Japanese themed island garden to open this Fall. I took the photo below of the Asian inspired curved bridge.

Thanks for reading! In the next post I look at two years of full time RV living and our favorite states we visited during that time. Stay tuned!

Following the Quilt Trail in Northern Indiana

Quilt garden identification sign with garden in the background
Quilt Mural – Double Wedding Ring

Quilting is a popular activity in Amish country and six communities in Northern Indiana have created the Quilt Garden and Mural Heritage Trail. There are 17 quilt inspired gardens and 21 hand painted quilt themed murals. On two different days, I drove around to see the quilt trail and found it a nice way to learn about the area and enjoy some artistic creations. At each garden and mural site I found a sign with the name and information about the quilt pattern as well as the flowers selected for the gardens.

“Grandmother’s Cross” quilt pattern – the largest quilt garden with 3,500 plants

My favorite of the quilt gardens was located at the Dutch Country Market in Middlebury. They even had a platform to stand on to better view the garden from above. I really liked the lavender colored flowers.

“Mother’s Delight” quilt garden
Dutch Country Market with quilt garden

The Dutch Country Market was also a treat to visit. They sell a variety of items including jams, honeys, pickles, peanut butters and their specialty, homemade noodles. The store features a viewing window to watch the process of making the noodles. I saw racks of dough sheets hanging and watched as a worker fed the sheets into a machine to cut into strips.

I bought some noodles to try. Here in Indiana, they use the noodles in a soupy meat based broth. I prefer the browned butter noodles we had in Pennsylvania Amish country. One night for dinner I made some browned butter noodles using noodles from this market and fresh butter from a local Amish dairy.

Dutch Country Market homemade noodles

In the town of Goshen is the Elkhart County Courthouse hosting a quilt garden out front with a pattern of flying geese called, “The Wild Blue Yonder.” The garden was pretty but I thought the grand court house was the most gorgeous sight.

Elkhart County Courthouse, built in 1870
Goshen Old Bag Factory – “Reflection Quilt Garden”

I headed over to Bonneyville Mill County Park in Bristol for two reasons. The main reason was to see the mill, but also to see a quilt mural called “Trapunto and Appliqué.” This is a scenic park with a rushing stream, ponds and forest trails.

Bonneyville County Park Quilt Mural
Bonneyville Mills

Bonneyville Mills is Indiana’s oldest continuously operating grist mill, established in the 1830’s. The day I visited was “Scottish Oats” day with a demonstration on how the oats are ground and used. We were treated to homemade oat cakes and oatmeal served with real maple syrup. Brochures with recipes were also provided. A variety of grains ground on the premises such as flours, oats, spelt and cornmeal are sold here in cute little sacks.

Scottish oat grinding demonstration

In downtown Bristol is the Elkhart County Historical Museum (below) and another lovely quilt garden called “Turnstile Garden.”

The City of Elkhart has a quilt garden next to the impressive Ruthmere Mansion built in 1910. When I arrived the mansion was having their last guided tour of the day, so I popped in for a look. It took about an hour and a half to see the furnished home and grounds.

Ruthmere Mansion – “Joseph’s Coat” quilt garden
Ruthmere Mansion

Krider’s World’s Fair Garden in Middlebury featured a quilt garden called the “Krider Festival Rose Garden.” Krider’s World’s Fair Garden is a little oasis of lush green that was once displayed at the 1933-1934 Chicago World’s Fair so visitors could see what the nursery business had to offer. Krider’s gained more than 250.000 names and addresses from these visitors after they signed the register. Using this list, Krider Nurseries grew into the largest mail order nursery business in the U.S. One of Indiana’s first garden parks established in a town, it is still maintained today with many of the same features from the time of the World’s Fair.

Each year the Quilt Gardens Heritage Trail brings a change of design and sometimes location. It was a nice scavenger hunt and If I lived in the area it would be fun to see how it changes from year to year. I will close with a photo of the Varns & Hoover Hardware Store which displays the “Welcome to Middlebury Murals.” This store has been in business for over 125 years and is a fixture on Middlebury’s Main Street.

A Little of This, a Little of That – Exploring Shipshewana Indiana

The town is named for Chief Shipshewana of the Potawatomi Tribe

Staying in the Amish areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio has been one of our favorites, so we were very happy to also spend time in the Amish country of Northern Indiana. All three areas have also had their unique differences. Whereas Ohio was the hilliest of the three, we found Indiana to have the flattest topography. Indiana seemed to have more creeks and rivers. Just like in Pennsylvania and Ohio, the countryside and farmsteads were beautiful in Indiana. Alas, living amongst the Amish sounds inviting, could we join? Mark actually asked our Amish tour guide in Ohio if people do convert. The answer was yes, occasionally if they are willing to adopt the lifestyle and language. Mark’s question was more out of curiosity than seriousness, but these areas definitely appeal to us.

When I called to make camping reservations in the town of Shipshewana, I was told that we would enjoy our RV site because it was near the horses. Being around horses and buggies is one of the highlights of an Amish stay, so I was happy to hear that. There also seemed to be more horses and buggies here in Indiana. Since our RV Park was off a main thoroughfare, we regularly heard or saw the Amish traveling by like in the photo above. The pasture closest to our site had several draft horses, the kind that are used by the Amish to pull the heavy wagons or farm equipment. I tried to make friends with a couple of them but they were not interested.

What’s so funny?

The draft foal even laughed at me during one of my visits 😆. So, I decided to head over to the pasture bordering the other side of the Park where a passel of ponies lived. These little guys were friendlier and more interesting and I began visiting them each evening after we were done with our days’ activities.

There were a couple of babies, including this tiny one which was no bigger than a small dog.

There is always plenty of shopping in Amish country and our stay in Indiana was no different. We were just a short distance from an Amish bulk grocery store that carried everything imaginable. Of course, Mark and I can’t shop in bulk because we live in such a tiny space, but wandering around and seeing everything for sale was very interesting. Outside was the largest collection of outdoor furniture for sale I have seen with rockers, swings, benches, tables and playground equipment. I could probably happily spend some time just walking around trying out all the comfortable seats. The possibilities seemed endless. There were also lots of outdoor decorations including weather vanes, yard ornaments and baskets. Some of the huge baskets were used as planters.

As interesting as the Amish bulk store was, our favorite was a variety shop also located next to our Park. This is the place where the Amish buy fabric to make clothes as well as already made clothing items and shoes. I had to get another serious photo of Mark trying on an Amish hat. This time it was a more proper one for church and serious occasions.

The clothing for sale featured jackets and vests made with hooks and eyes rather than buttons, an Amish preference.

Besides clothing, the store seemed to sell a little of everything including toys, books, school supplies, cards and household items. I found a German reader that is used by the children in the local schools. It was the same reader I saw in the school building we visited in Ohio. Since I studied German in school and Mark and I lived in Germany for a few years (decades ago), I bought the book to see how much I could remember.

Dresses often seen worn by Amish girls

The biggest outdoor flea market can be found here – the Shipshewana Auction and Flea Market with 900 vendors. It is so big a map book is handed out in order to navigate the complex and find vendors of interest. I thought the auctions were really interesting at a flea market we visited in Pennsylvania, so I headed inside one of the largest buildings and watched auctioneers and bidders at work on an array of collectible items. With all the people it was loud and chaotic. Mark beat a hasty retreat and I didn’t stay long either.

What, no farm grown plants?

I was looking forward to seeing some “homegrown” plants, vegetables, fruits and flowers. But there was hardly any of that. Even the baked goods the Amish are so famous for were almost nonexistent here. We found only one place and they were selling hand pies, or what I would call fruit turnovers. Almost everything seemed to be made elsewhere, especially China. It was a huge concentrated area to buy any kind of “stuff” someone might want. Many people like that, but Mark and I really aren’t in to shopping for “stuff,” so we didn’t spend hours here. My souvenir for the day was the most “authentic” thing I could find, a discarded Amish horseshoe. It even came with a little paper describing the patches of “grit” which are placed on shoes to give horses more traction on pavement.

Mark and I couldn’t resist hitting up the Amish buffets while in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but in Indiana, we didn’t have any interest. At our age, you can only overeat so much 😜 . I was happy to see that we were staying almost next door to a soft pretzel cafe. Pennsylvania Amish country had great soft pretzels, but we didn’t find any during our Ohio stay. We zipped over to Ben’s the day after we got there. I didn’t care for the pretzels 🥨, but Mark found his way there a few more times.

We found better pretzels and more interesting shopping 🛍 at the Davis Mercantile in downtown Shipshewana. With four floors in a beautiful brick building there were many interesting shops, including the most beautiful quilt store I have seen, a store specializing in jigsaw puzzles (I do like puzzles), a candy shop, “Life is Good” T-shirt shop (my favorite t-shirts), toy store and musical instrument shop. They even have an amazing hand carved carousel. We had more fun browsing here than at the famous Shipshewana Flea Market.

Quilt shop at Davis Mercantile, Shipshewana

And now for some musings on lawn care. One of the things I like best about the Midwest are the beautiful manicured lawns. We never saw lawns like this in California, so I was continually amazed by them. I began wondering if it was some kind of civil offense 😊 to not keep a lawn continually mowed. Driving around Ohio and then Indiana, I never saw an unmowed or less than perfect lawn. People have very large front yards and even with all the continual damp weather, residents were out in force to make sure they were trimmed. Below is a shining example of one section of lawn along a driveway next to our Park. This isn’t even the whole lawn, it extends much further than in the photo. How do Midwesterners have time for all this yard work? For this Californian, the question remains.

Hope you enjoyed a look at Indiana’s Amish Country. More to come on this special area in the next blog.

View from our RV site – the rain became tiring, but oh the clouds were a joy

Below, a gallery of pictures of more horses and ponies as you can never have enough (in my opinion).