09 November 2012

Fourth Week in September 2012

It's Monday morning and I wake up without a Zeke on the bed. Why? Because I am at my mother's house in Illinois. I got up and had breakfast with mom, hung around, then met up with Michele for lunch. We talked about cars and writing, she is very encouraging. In the afternoon, I hung out with mom, and we ran a bunch of errands together. She also wanted me to take some pictures of my stepdogster, Daisy.

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You can see the family resemblance.

Later we ate leftovers and watched one of the strangest football games in the history of the NFL. At the end of the game I just said 'Wow'.

Tuesday morning I was off and on my vacation within a vacation. I hit the road and headed through Milwaukee to Green Bay. My first stop on the road trip was at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin. I made it in time for Mass. Our Lady of Good Help is the only 'official' site of a Marian apparition in the United States.


There were also quite a few flowers on the grounds. You can see all my pictures of the visit here. Quite frankly, I was expecting a tourist trap, and I was very pleased to see that it was not.

I headed out from there to Green Bay. As a Bears fan, I very much felt like a spy in enemy territory, probably more so than I would have felt like if it wasn't for the football game the
night before. I got lunch at Subway, I ate it at a pretty little park, then went to Lambeau Field to pay off my lost bet, and then I headed out to Marinette, WI and Menominee, MI.

When I was growing up, we had family friends (the ones that gave me chicken pox) who moved from Coldwater, Michigan to Menominee, Michigan. My family took a vacation there when I was young, so I stopped by and drove through the town(s) to see if they matched my memory. It was not as nice as I remember. There was a nice spot on the lakefront however in Menominee.

Maybe this should be my Facebook 'cover' photo.

Probably my favorite photo from the vacation. A lady and her dog walked by in the wet sand about five seconds before this photo, and it was gone with the next wave.

This picture took a lot of effort.

I left and headed north to Escanaba. This was about the point in the vacation when my cell service started to fail me, but the beautiful scenery did not, the trees were beautiful, although not as green as I thought they might be. I checked into my hotel, did some research on a local place to eat, but when I got there it was closed, so I ate at a Culver's. I did a little sight seeing, there is a beautiful lakefront there and some equally beautiful houses (not pictured).

Wednesday morning I was up at a reasonable hour (and I mean not too early), and hit the road towards Mackinac. I drove until I needed to take a break, at a rest stop in between the road and the north shore of Lake Michigan.

This did not quite come out like I wanted, but it was a learning experience.
I miss the panorama feature on the Kodak.

Maximum zoom on the 75-300mm lens, I don't think I scared him off...

...a second bald eagle showed up!

I got back in my car and made good time towards Mackinac. I stopped at a scenic overlook, that was scenic but not anything amazing, and then got back in my car and drove, about ten minutes later I went over the Cut River bridge, it looked pretty, and there was a parking lot, I practically wrecked the car turning in. This was the kind of scenery I was looking for while I traveled.

I'd like to give credit to creation for this picture, I just hit the button.

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It was a magical place to visit, even if only for a few minutes.

I drove on and got to the Mackinac area, St. Ignace, and promptly found a Subway and filled my face, I was a hungry camper. After I bought my lunch, I bought a ticket to get on the boat and head to Mackinac Island. While I was waiting, I bought souvenirs, before I got to the island, and off season, so I thought I got some good deals.

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Waiting for a boat. I chose which boat company to ride
because it matched Jenny's last name.

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I'm on a boat!

I thought that the boat ride would be longer, colder, and choppier, so I took dramamine before I left. There was no need, I was fine. The ride was short and calm. The boat arrived on Mackinac Island about 1500, the porter picked up my luggage and headed to my hotel. My room was beautiful. I took about five minutes to be thankful, took a short walk in the rain, and when the rain stopped my walk and went to the bike rental place. I rode around the island, if for no other reason that Jenny would have killed me if I didn't do it.

This ride convinced me that my current bike is not good.

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The ride is 8.2 miles. I did manage, somehow to knock the chain off
on the far side of the island. I had to fix it myself.

You may know that there are no motor vehicles allowed on the island. It was a cold, rainy, and late in the day, so when I got to the far side of the island, it was probably the quietest place I've ever been in my adult life. Not a sound, no machinery, no animals including insects and people, not a thing but my breathing. Eventually some other people came by, but I really enjoyed the quiet for a few minutes.

I came back to the hotel, took a very short nap, ate dinner, and then took my camera out in the moonlight to capture some pictures.

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I think it can be said that I officially love my new camera.
I don't think I could have gotten these shots at all with the old one.

I can tell you that when using a 2 second exposure and a flash, don't move until the end of the shutter opening. I came back to my room, watched a little television, then went to the (non-hopping) bar, had a few beers and then slept like a baby. I was up right at sunrise, and hurried down the mile or so to the eastern shore of the island to take sunrise pictures.

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It wasn't really even that early.

I came back to the hotel, and then immediately found a restaurant and ate a big plate of pancakes. I packed up, left my bag at the hotel, and headed out on a four mile walk.

The camera can't really capture how steep this is.

Fort Mackinac.

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From the highest point on the island, Fort Holmes.

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The cemetery, the first one tells a sad tale.

There was not a lot of wildlife,
but I saw several bluejays and at least one woodpecker.

The Grand Hotel.

I got down to were the boat was with about 15 minutes to spare, and discovered I lost my ticket to get off of the island. I remember grabbing it, but I couldn't find it. This cost me $17 to get a new ticket. If that was the worst thing that happened to me on vacation, I can deal with that. I was back on the the boat, and off the island. I had less than 24 hours there, but I'm sure I'll remember it the rest of my life. You can see all of the pictures from the Mackinac Island part of my vacation here.

My car was waiting for me when I got back, and I hit the road and started towards the bridge. The Mackinac bridge was really the star of the vacation. To the engineer in me, I am fascinated by the way bridges are built and work. There is more than just that inside me though, at some level I am scared to death of being on a big bridge. It's a thrill almost unlike anything else I've felt. Both hands on the wheel, ten miles an hour under the speed limit, totally aware of everything. I think part of it is fear of drowning in a car, it didn't happen, I made it across safely, relaxed and drove down through the middle of Michigan.

About 1400 I got a little tired, so I pulled into a very pretty rest stop, took a nap and some pictures.

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After I woke back up, I continued driving. The forest eventually gave way to farmland and then Lansing. I drove on until I came to Coldwater, MI. Coldwater is the town I grew up in from four years old until fourth grade.

This is the house. It was painted white when I lived there, and there was only a one car garage, but other than looking smaller than I remember this is it.

If you want to hear a sad tale, ask me about the fire mentioned in this sign.

Where I went to school for second, third, and fourth grade, if it looks small,
it's because it is. I couldn't believe how tiny it was.

I remember Coldwater as a friendly, small town. I didn't remember the railroad that I crossed to get to school in Kindergarten and first grade, in fact I don't think I remember the railroad at all, even though it was five houses away. The town seemed poorer than I remember, but it's hard to tell really, I hadn't seen it in 40 years. The Dairy Queen was still in the same place I remember, I made sure it was still good.

I left Coldwater ahead of schedule and only had to get to South Bend, Indiana by 2030, about two and a half hours to go 80 some miles. I decided to go the scenic route down US 12 and then somehow go south to get there. I'm not sure that I got 'lost', but I sure got confused. I ended up running parallel and to the south of the Interstate, then when I got to Mishawaka I encountered more road construction than you can shake two highway workers watching another one working at.

I was staying with Katie, she arrived home from school about two minutes after I got there. We went out to eat at a Red Robin, and sat and talked for a couple hours. Despite knowing Katie for four years, it was the first time that I've sat down and had a long talk with her, I really enjoyed this time. We also stopped by the grocery store, and then I headed to guest room and slept.

Katie had left for school when I woke up Friday morning, so I got in the car and got ready to go. Beth had encouraged me to visit the Notre Dame campus and Katie had told me where to park. I'm always amazed when I can just walk onto a campus or into a school ... shouldn't someone be watching? The campus was very pretty, quiet, and well maintained.


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Basilica of Sacred Heart.


Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.

I finally left, hit a Steak and Shake, and headed towards Chicago. Apart from standstill traffic just to the southwest of the loop, I made it back to mom's house in pretty good time in the early afternoon, and promptly took a nap. In the evening I had dinner with my high school classmate Maureen at the Public House in Woodstock, and then got some ice cream at Baskin Robbins. For the second time in a two days it was so nice to have sit down time with someone who I got to know a lot better.

Saturday was a complicated day. It was supposed to go one way, then it changed, then back again with all my plans. No one was at fault, but after all the changes, and being worn out from the rest of my trip. I decided shortly after I woke up to drive home. I left at 1000, drove straight through to Williamsburg and stopped, shopped, ate (thank you Arby's substituting a salad for fries at no extra cost), and took a nice nap. I woke up, filled up the car with gas, and hit the road arriving home just after sunset.

I did make a stop at Kaleb's house for game night, and it was a very short visit, and then came back home. I walked down to Frank's house for the finish of Vivian's birthday party and a firepit. That was quite the exhausting day, and week.

Sunday was kind of a blur. Church, lots of laundry, and a little loving. You can see all of my pictures from my vacation here.

Next week: recovering from vacation and two Bears wins!

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