Monthly Archives: August 2019

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).

Exploring the Newest National Park in Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Park

Indiana Dunes began as a National Seashore in 1966, but on February 15, 2019, it became a National Park. This makes a total of 61 National Parks located in 29 states and two territories. I was happy it had become a National Park shortly before we would be visiting Indiana, so we could check off another one on our list. This was the ninth National Park of our full time RV traveling. Located along Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes is between the industrial cities of Gary and Michigan City, Indiana. It seemed to be the most urban of the national parks we have visited as there was more nearby traffic and the Park is broken up into sections around population and industrial areas.

Mark asked a staff person at one of the visitor centers what is different now that it is a National Park. She replied: “Nothing, except the sign.” This new designation will raise the distinction of the Park and promote it more to the public. Once we checked into the Visitor Center and got our book stamped (with an old stamp that did not reflect the new status) we checked out what the Park offered. Most people seem to come here for the beaches along Lake Michigan. Within the National Park is the Indiana Dunes State Park where the highest dunes can be found and the most favored beaches. There is no fee to enter the National Park, but if one wanted to visit the State Park, a fee is charged which makes for an interesting situation. Since we were there to see the National Park and also figured the State Park would be more crowded, we decided to just visit the National Park sections. A few places I was interested in seeing required taking a ranger guided walk, for example to see the Pinhook Bog with unusual plants. Unfortunately, this walk wasn’t offered the day we visited. I was also intrigued to see the “heron rookery” with a trail listed on their park map. When I asked one of the volunteer rangers, I found it rather amusing when she reported that there really weren’t any herons nesting out there, it was just a name.

View of the Chicago Skyline

We drove the main park road to see a few of the beaches. This was Mark’s first view of Lake Michigan although I had seen the Lake for the first time about four years ago when my sister and I visited the State of Michigan. Did you know that Lake Michigan is the largest lake entirely in the United States? As we stood on the beach we had a distant view of the Chicago skyline which I tried to capture with my long lens. Mark sent a text to family that this was as close as he ever cared to be to Chicago! I would love to spend some time and explore that City. I have only flown in there twice and once during a work related trip spent the night near the airport when our connecting flight was grounded. Sigh, apparently my Driver is not excited to explore Chicago and has been known to say that he doesn’t like the big cities.

Florida Tropical House

The Park has a unique exhibit of five homes from the 1933 World’s Fair called, “A Century of Progress.” For over 70 years they have stood in this Park along Lake Michigan. They were built to demonstrate “modern” architectural design, experimental materials and new technologies. The houses were brought to the dunes by truck and barge after the Fair’s closing in late 1934 and early 1935. They are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are leased to private individuals or families who are rehabilitating them at no cost to the government. The bright pink house in photo above is called the “Florida Tropical House.” It has become a well known landmark for mariners.

Spiderwort – one of many wildflowers found at Indiana Dunes National Park

I decided to take a little hike on the Dune Ridge Trail to get an idea of the different habitats that can be seen on some of the dunes. This walk turned out to be a bit of a surprise as I wasn’t expecting to see the amount of trees, shrubs and plant life. In some places I felt as if I was walking in a jungle like environment due to the dense foliage.

Dune Ridge Trail
Dune Ridge Trail

Since I thought I would be walking around sandy dune and sparse plant life, I had worn shorter pants and no socks. As I walked, the loop trail became more narrow and the plants more dense. I was fearing poison ivy or ticks as I tried not to brush against anything. In general, tick bites have been my worst fear while outdoor exploring and this place looked like a ripe location. Other than finding a tick on our bed covering one time, we have avoided any tick encounters of the close kind.

Narrow trail on the Dune Ridge walk

The Park reports Indiana Dunes as one of the “most botanically diverse” of all the National Parks with over 1,100 native plant species. I could certainly see the variety on this trail which I am glad I explored, even though I ended up getting lost for awhile.

One of the more interesting species to be seen here is prickly pear cactus, one of the last plants I would expect to find in Northern Indiana near a Great Lake. The last time we saw prickly pear was in the Arizona desert. I saw small clumps of prickly pear along the trail near Long Lake in another part of the Park.

Finding prickly pear cactus in an unlikely location
Lots of water lilies on Long Lake

At West Beach we found some nice dunes with my favorite view the reflection of the dunes in this pond.

Overall, we found Indiana Dunes to be our least favorite National Park of our full time RV travels. Actually, it is the least favorite of the National Parks I have ever seen over the years. I did not think the Park was as attractive or interesting as others. As a Lakeshore, it is not near as impressive as Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, both in Michigan with stunning scenery. Perhaps if we had spent more time, explored a few more trails or areas, visited the State Park inside the National Park, our impression would have been different. But, there didn’t seem to be as much to see here and the setting did not seem “National Park worthy.” I do understand though the importance of protecting this natural area in a place with encroaching urban population. In spite of these observations, it was still nice to add this Park to our list.

Has anyone visited this new National Park and have some insight to share on your experiences here? Would enjoy reading about them!

Until next time with more on exploring Indiana!

Checking in From Northern California and Sending Thanks

I just wanted to send a quick note from Chico, California where we have come for an unknown amount of time. Our course of travel in the Upper Midwest got a little thrown off, but how great it is to be back with our family again! We are still RVers though and continue to reside in our little travel trailer. Although we are stationary at this time, I plan to continue to write blogs of our adventures in the last few months. Since my blogs are always behind, I still have quite a bit to write about our exploring in Indiana and Michigan. So stay tuned for more to come shortly! I also wanted to say thanks for the nice comments of concern on the last post of #beth’sdriver! We sure appreciate hearing from you!

We interrupt this program…

#bethsdriver here. Just want to take a second to let you all know there has been an emergency that will affect the blog. We were in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula when there was a family medical emergency in California. We traveled 5 long days and are now in CA with the family. The emergency has been resolved but there will be some recovery and follow up issues. #explorerbeth has lots more to write about and will probably be back at it soon. As she has put out things like clock work I wanted to explain the hitch. Thanks so much for all of you who have been following and stay tuned as there will be more to come.