Saturday, September 29, 2007

(33) Heading South to Boonesborough Kentucky

Boonesborough State Park, Kentucky

Lexington and Richmond Kentucky
Dulcimer Class

Well I had to leave my serene place on the Ohio river and travel though the rural countryside of Kentucky. By the way Walt, I never did get those canned peaches your aunt made….
But back to the journey at hand. I took hwy 27 which parallels hwy 75. It wasn’t too bad until I got to the town of Paris and Winchester where I had to go on a small country road 627. Not recommended for anyone with a camper. Ekkk! Talk about a narrow country road rolling up and down those old roads so narrow, I think if I held each arm out, I could touch each side of the road.

Driving along those back roads this time of year the trees have just barely begun to change color and leaves from some of the trees are already falling. Driving behind someone, all I see are dancing leaves. The vehicle in front stirs them up from the road bed and the leaves look like they are dancing a few feet off the ground. It’s quite a cheery site. Then a gust of wind will come by and more leaves will come tumbling down from all the trees lining the roads.
When I arrived at the campground, it looked like Halloween was about to explode. One of the park attendants is a fanatic about Halloween and I think it contains about every blowup character ever made for the holiday, as well as a field of carved pumpkins. More work than I’d ever put into any holiday. But the display at night is really cool with all the orange lights covering all the buildings and a couple of large sycamore trees.

I’m visiting with Jerry and Nancy Ensor, former co-workers. They moved hear a couple of years ago into one of the new neighborhoods (The Reserve) of brick homes on the tops of rolling hills with expansive lawns. Seems many people from around the world have discovered this part of the country as many of the home owners are from as far away as South Africa and South America. Jerry gave me an extensive tour of the area and we passed by the vast horse farms of the Emerit of Dubai, who usually flies in with his two 747’s barely fitting on the Lexington runway.
The Toyota factory is near here, as well as Kentucky Bourbon. Most of the horse farms and ranches are gentry farms as they no longer produce enough to make a living off of. But the horse farms that raise horses for racing are some of the most productive and wealthy ranches to be found anywhere.

A little tidbit. Most of the fences are now painted a black creosote as the white paint doesn’t hold up as well now that lead is no longer in the paint.

When we got to Nancy and Jerry’s home, we took a walk around the area. Off in the woods, down a gravel road is a foundation for a big home on the edge of the palisades. A large cliff along the Kentucky river way below. We happened upon one of the owners (Terri) and her two dogs and she told us the story. It was begun about a year or more ago and the contractor went over the budget of the contract for digging the foundation. The cost doubled. Then he doubled the cost of building the foundation. The owners had to stop at that point and go to court to settle the issues and currently construction has stopped. They’ve put the property up for sale, but may continue construction in the spring when her brother, also a contractor, will have time to finish the project.

Dreams. I recently heard a saying that walls are put in our way to see how strong those dreams really are. Because dreams don’t become reality for the weak. Sorry not a direct quote, but I think you can get the idea.

Below my campsite are the primitive campsites in Sycamore Hollow. It’s where Daniel Boone and his troop started to build some rough cabins. A couple weeks later it was decided that the hollow could flood and they moved up the hill where the Boonesborough Fort now stands. Kind of neat to know that Daniel Boone once walked on and explored this area that I’m now camping in. Walking in the footstep of explorers.

One of the many mini tours I’ve taken was to Bybee Pottery with Nancy. It’s a pottery business that’s been operating in the same place sine 1809. The shelves are usually stocked about twice a week and are empty within minutes. If you get there before 3:00 you can tour the old log building where they make the pottery and talk to the sixth generation family members and their employees making each piece by hand. The building is as old as the business and looks every day of it from all the wear and tear. It’s simple country clay pottery that has an honest charm to it.

Mixed in with all the new brick homes gradually filling in all the smaller farms are the old barns and farm houses that make this area sing out with country charm. Kentucky has started an artistic endeavor to paint colorful square patches of classic quilts on the fronts of some of the barns. What a neat way to spend an afternoon, traveling the back roads in search of these quilts.

Oh and right here in the Boonesborough State Park is the Riverfront Waterway Museum. The museum is housed in two of the lock masters houses built by the Army Corp of Engineers, on a hill above one of the locks. Kentucky has 14 locks on the Kentucky river which drops about 200 feet from beginning to end making the waterway navigable. Of course like so many of the canals and waterways built in the U.S., it became obsolete before they finished it, with the advent of the steam boat and railroads. The locks were operated until 1988. Now they stand closed and silent. Water flowing over the spillways in a mad rush to meet up with the Ohio River and the Mississippi. No commercial or pleasure boats can use the full length of the waterway even though the locks are still functional and in place. Occasionally the river still floods hiding the locks under many feet of rushing water until the waters finally recede.

On the local news today, it was mentioned that a number of black families in the area that have been supporters of Equal Rights, received a business card on their mailbox that said, “While you were sleeping, we were watching you”, from the KKK.

Last night I went to Jerry and Nancy’s Dulcimer class in Richmond. The Dulcimer has only 3-4 strings and only one string is used for the cords, the other two are for rhythm. A lot of dulcimer players take off the 4th string. It’s very easy to learn I’m told and the sound is very nice. The sheet music has all the notes, but also the numbers that tell you where to place your fingers. I think I could even learn this instrument.

Along with this new music hobby, Jerry and Nancy have their own hobbies they’ve been working on for years. Jerry’s a fine wood craftsman, he’s completely finishing out the basement in their new home and Nancy has a sewing room my sister Ann would be envious of.

Nancy was able to get us a private tour to Woodford Reserve Distillery. It’s a part of the company that also owns Jack Daniels, but produces a much more exclusive Bourbon in limited quantities. Her (faux) daughter works there and gave us a cool tour of the open cedar lined fermenting tubs, past the copper distillers made in Scotland (it’s the only company that distills it’s bourbon 3 times, filling the oak barrels and finally the storage warehouses where the liquid gold is aged for 6 to 8 years. A little tasting in the visitors center and a couple bourbon balls made for a very tasty afternoon. Bourbon is the only liquor invented in the U.S.

A bit more touring and then I head out, either east to Loretta Lynn’s home or south west to Nashville TN. You’ll find out next week which direction I go.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

(32) From Nasville Indiana to Cincinnati Ohio

Nashville Indiana

Cincinnati Ohio

New Richmond Ohio

I’m heading south now, on my way, I’ll be visiting with fellow campers that I’ve met during my winter stays in Florida. The campground is having a western weekend and my buddy Walt will be bringing his 4 horses for rides.

The campground is tucked away in a wooded section of the state, where the roads meander around farms, making 90 degree turns and curves as the road boarders each of the farms. What a fun weekend.
The campground had a movie night outside by projecting the movie on the whitewashed wall next to their swimming pool. I brought my gas fireplace over and we all huddled around it to keep warm. Tim brought over hotdogs and we roasted them while watching the movie. How cool.

The next day I was able to get a ride on one of Walt’s horses, Raven. I did pretty well too. Didn’t fall off or anything. There were a couple times while riding along the wooded trails, past a secluded pond, that we had to go down a steep embankment. At least it seamed steep to me sitting on top of a big ol horse. Raven knew how to navigate the hills and I just held on. What a fun rush.

Nashville Indiana

On Sunday we drove through these remote country lanes and went to a town called Nashville Indiana. A tourist Mecca about an hour and a half from Indianapolis. Apparently a writer/ comic strip creator for the New York Post (?) used to come here to get away from the big city. He liked it so much, that his friends started to follow him there as well to get away. Even a president, Franklin Roosevelt started to come here. Before you knew it, there were 350 shops filled with artists and craftsmen.
There are even two covered bridges in the area and a large state park. It’s a great town to walk around, have lunch or dinner and search for just the right gift for someone and enjoy art and even take in a play at the local theatre or enjoy the Little Opry house for some music. Oh and they have trolley tours and buggy rides through town providing some history of the area.

Finally weaving my way out of the campground and surrounding country side, I hit hwy 74 and headed towards Cincinnati. Amazing how the landscape changes between states sometimes. Indiana being mainly farm lands and the closer I get to the boarder of Ohio, the hillier it becomes and heavily wooded.


Cincinnati has an extensive highway system that surrounds the city and even cuts into a corner of Kentucky. I’m staying at Steamboat Bend Campground, run by the county and it borders the Ohio River. What a great campground. They only accept stays by the week or month. $120 a week (about $17 a night). I’ve been watching the long barges being pushed up and down river by those powerful tug boats. I absolutely love being on the water.

My friends Walt and Ben have brought Walt’s horses to Cincinnati to stay on a farm for a while, so we’ll have some time to tour the area. After setting up at the campground, we headed off to New Richmond. A small historical town right on the Ohio River. This area was well known for the underground railroad and a number of buildings have signs providing information on this part of our history. Cincinnati has a huge museum dedicated to the subject.

The next day, we all went to the museum that’s housed in the original Train Terminal, an absolutely beautiful art deco building that began it’s decline almost before it was completed as cars quickly reduced the need for passenger trains and mass transit. The building has wings for taxi’s, busses and trolleys to meet up with the trains. They never connected the trolleys.
The Train Terminal has a couple different museums to visit and we selected the history of Cincinnati. An expansive history going back to the native Indian tribes that built some of the most extensive earthen mounds in North America. One in the shape of a snake covering many acres. I got a scoop from a park ranger a couple of days later that the local Chippewa Indians now think it could represent Halley’s comet. More research is going on behind the scenes so you’re the first to hear about this publicly. Unfortunately, the museum didn’t give this part of native Indian history much space or information.

A complete miniature scale town showing the area back in the 1800’s is super cool. Especially the incline rails that took the trolleys up each of the hills surrounding Cincinnati. They’ve all been torn down along with the trolley lines and canals that ran through the city.

Walt told up that the city built subway tunnels around the time the canals were filled in, including the stairwell leading down to them. They have never been used. No subway ever ran in the subway tunnels. Hmmmm. You can still see some of the tunnel entrances from one of the highways going through town as well as the blocked of stairwells. I did a Google search and you can see some of the remaining couple miles of tunnels online.

Oh, and the city built some great over head bronze glass enclosed walkways between all the major buildings downtown for use during inclement weather. One goes from the second floor of a large skyscraper to the other side of the street and just ends. Doesn’t go anywhere, apparently never completed. Walt said the city is beginning to tear the overhead walkways down. Hmmm.

And the city has one more thing to be famous for. Jerry Springer was the mayor here before he became a famous T.V. star. Now isn’t that interesting.

There is little rhyme or reason to the road system from the first timers perspective to the city so it takes a while to get used to. I’m staying on the east side of town and I have to travel into Kentucky to get downtown. But it is a neat city built around heavily wooded hills and the river flowing through it separating Ohio from Kentucky. Lot’s of industry and a very active downtown area as well. Proctor and Gamble is headquartered here.

On the darker side of Cincinnati, the downtown has a couple of sections that aren’t safe to be in. There’s usually a couple of shootings reported on the local news every night and in the morning, the traffic reports show at least 6 accidents on the major highways as well as the usual 5 mile back-ups. Hate to say it, but the shootings usually involve blacks. 5 people were shot just the other night. Kind of sad, since this town was a main center for helping free the black slaves during the civil war period. Even being a major part of the underground railroad.

Although I’m camping right on the riverfront and it looks so idyllic from the tree lined bluff, I take a dirt path down to the rivers edge from the picnic area. I walk along the brown sandy shoreline. The waters warm to the touch. The hillside covered in weeds, brush and trees. From the waters edge all I see are old tires, tree trunks, rusted out metal boxes and part of a barge that sank along the rivers edge. Deer tracks, raccoon and a few other animal tracks are clearly visible in the wet sand. None of this is visible from on top where my camper sits.

I met up with Sam a newspaper editor today. I drove downtown then walked across the Purple People Bridge over to the Kentucky side to Newport on the Levee. It’s a shopping complex with good restaurants, movie complex and aquarium. It’s one of those places that wants to be a popular destination, but half the shops in the new complex are vacant. Waiting to be discovered.

Over lunch we had a great discussion about the city, it’s politics and we even got into discussing ways I could possibly make a few $$ on my writing. My new BLOG could be the beginning of it all.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

(31) Mac Wood's Dune Rides, Windy days, Michigan

Mac Wood’s Dune Rides

Good Eaten at Dave’s and Dorothy’s

Windy days

Since my truck has been in the shop all week getting pretty, I’ve been driving around with my sisters car. Dorothy and I decided to go up to Silver Lake to go on one of the dune buggy rides. Sleeping Bear Dunes, Douglas Dunes and a couple others also have dune buggy rides.

We drove along a number of wooded country roads with more fruit farms along the way. The keen observer would note that the hills in the area are actually old sand dunes, thinly covered with ground cover and trees.

When we got to the dunes around 10:30, we were the first visitors there and after the owners unlocked the store, we had a great opportunity to talk to them and learn more about the area. The granddaughter (Shelby) told us how the rides got started. Her grandfather owned a cottage and land along the dunes and one day he decided to try driving an old jeep over the dunes. He had so much fun, he came back and told grandma to join him on a ride. They had such a good time and after telling neighbors, one of the neighbors said he’d pay 25 cents for a ride on the dunes. Then another and another and before you knew it, they had themselves a business.

We had a great driver, Weasie Olson (her son Chris recently married the granddaughter Shelby and what a fun couple). Weasie told us how the dunes got started. By clear cutting all the timber off the land bordering Lake Michigan in the 1800’s, the strong winds off of the lake quickly revealed the sand dunes. Eventually burying most of the tree stumps and light soils and underbrush that once covered them. Eventually the trees will take back the sand dunes which have also been stabilized by the planting of sea oats and grasses. But before the dunes disappear, a number of cottages along the edges of the dunes and Silver Lake keep getting buried each year by the advance of the dunes especially during the winter. The poplar trees are survivors though and can continue to grow higher and develop new root systems even as they get buried deeper each year by the dunes.

What a fun ride on an overcast day. The contrast of the lighter sandy dunes against the dark skies and white capped lake, seagulls playing on the waters edge, fresh crisp air whipping around the sides of the dune buggy as we climbed around and over the dunes, with an occasional sprinkle hitting our faces just made the day feel energizing and alive.

On our way back home, my sister and I stopped at the Country Dairy farm in New Era Mich. It’s a full working dairy farm with a farm store and deli and a Moo school tours. We had a great lunch and all the milk you could drink included. Michigan is so much more than Detroit and cars. If you like Lakes, sand dunes, kayaking, canoeing and sailing, country farms and fresh air, this is the place to visit.

Note for future trips: From Sault St Marie (Canadian side) there is a train ride called The Agawa Canyon Tour Train. It travels 114 miles north through what I’m told is awesome scenery into the Canadian Shield. This is a trip I plan on taking in the future. Cost about $59-77 depending on the season.

Well I’ve had a great week spending time with my sister Dorothy and her husband Dave. Dave has completely spoiled me by creating some great dinners. Bourbon Glazed Salmon, Hand made pizza including the dough, Chicken, black beans with onions and green pepper burritos, and of course the melt in your mouth baby back ribs.

Indiana. I’m pretty much traveling through Indiana. Nice farm country to travel along. I’m taking a secondary road, U.S. 31. Going around Indianapolis the other day on their loop road, 465, was a pleasure. There were no repairs going on and the traffic really flowed nicely. I’m in a small hamlet called Trevlac and Bean Blossom. It’s all winding country roads. The Army Corp of Engineers/State campgrounds are a bit pricey, around $25 for a site with elect. I can usually do better in other states, but it seems the price of campgrounds continues to creep up.

I’ve met up with buddy’s, Walt, Ben, Scott and Tim. We’ve all met up at a campground where Walt will be giving horseback riding trips to the campers. Who knows, I may even get on a horse myself.

I’ll be heading to Cincinnati to meet up with a newspaper publisher and will discuss my Roving Reports… who knows, I may find a source for publishing some of my articles. Although I think the blog is just too cool for right now.

Then on to Richmond Kentucky where I’ll meet up with Nancy and Jerry and on into Tennessee .
Note: Photo of Lake Michigan by Louis Olson

Friday, September 7, 2007

(30) Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, to Montague Michigan

Pictured Rock National Lake Shore, Michigan

Montague Michigan

On Labor Day we had a chance to take the boat tour along the Pictured Rock Lake Shore. The tour begins in Munising Mich.

I of course tried to get a senior discount and was flatly refused…. They don’t give discounts ($31.00) and I was labeled a trouble maker right away . Well why not start the day right eh. When we got onboard I assured everyone we would be able to get coffee at their snack bar. Shot down again! No coffee. Had to settle for a coke. Really. What kind of a tour boat is this?

Leaving Munising Bay and traveling along the shoreline of Lake Superior, the day began a bit overcast and eventually cleared up as we traveled along the pictured rocks. There’s a loan short road that leads to one of the first outcroppings so we saw onshore visitors along with the castle rock. A sandy beach followed and then it became one shear wall of sandstone colored with stripes, streaks and horizontal lines, caves, grotto’s and even waterfalls.

One of the really neat events was when the tour boat (a fairly big boat) drove right into one of the grotto’s, high sandstone walls on either side and in front of us. Barely a foot or two of clearance. Wow, what a rush.

On our trip back the Capt. Was able to get really close to some of the shear walls then eventually crossed the bay again to give us a great shot of a wooden lighthouse that once housed the lighthouse keeper his wife and 12 children… imagine.
check out the video at:

Oh, after the boat tour we went into town and had lunch at Dogpatch. Lil Abner cartoon characters are all over the walls of this wood and beamed ceiled restaurant. If your lucky you may get a great waitress with tons of fun attitude and the food is pretty darn good too. Ron had stepped outside and she went after him waving a menu and told him to get back inside and order… I had a chef salad that was really awesome.

Leaving Grand Marais was like coming back from the edge of the world. What a unique remote part of the world. I headed south on hwy 77 and along U.S. 2 which follows the top edge of Lake Michigan. It’s been rainy and overcast, but if you like the water like I do, seeing it even in the rain is cool. The foreboding dark clouds hung so low on the horizon, that only a lighter thin band of clouds on the horizon lit up the scene. Dark low clouds and churning Lake Michigan. Occasional stops at Michigan’s wayside parks, those pleasant little parks that are all over the state. Crossing the Mackinac Bridge was almost like the golden gate, only bigger. Rolling fog covering the top half of the bridge which is painted a wheat color and light green. It must have been painted recently because the bridge looked spanking new.

Entering the Lower Peninsula I traveled along hwy 31 following the coast line of Lake Michigan. If I hadn’t made reservations in Montague Mich. (across the river from Whitehall) where my sister Dorothy lives, I would have stayed in a really neat town called Petoskey. Except for having parking meters everywhere, which I detest, the town is charming. And apparently thriving as a seaside vacation retreat. About a dozen guys were fishing from a bridge leading to the campground. Must have had lots of fish running the creek leading into Lake Michigan. Many expensive gated communities line the lake shore, but there were also a number of public campgrounds in the area as well as vacation motels etc. On the outskirts of town one can explore the many fruit farms, having everything from cherries, blueberries, apples, peaches, grape vineyards, you name it, it’s up here.

But, well how shall I say this. I had a boo boo. One never likes to admit mistakes, but since my buddy Ron already knows about it and he has a big mouth I figured I better tell everyone. As I was setting up camp in Petoskey in the rain, I was trying to avoid a large puddle and wasn’t looking behind me as I was parking the truck. Bang, crunch, Ekk! I backed into the 5th wheel Pin and tore the back right light and truck bed panel up.

Called my brother-in-law and got the name of a repair shop and set up an appt. to have them fix my mistake. Turns out the insurance company will pay all of it except for my deductible. Yippee.

To make things even better, I’m staying at a campground (Trailway Campground) in Montague Mich. I’m literally 50 feet from an ice-cream stand and grocery store. There’s a 25 mile bike path right outside my door and I can walk into town which is right across the parking lot. The bay with it’s boat docks is on the other side of the street from the campground. What more could you ask for.

The campground is reasonable and if I could stay a month, it would cost only about $350 a month, full hookups w/cable T.V. A real deal and great location.

Ps, I'm having a great time visiting with my sister Dorothy and her husband Dave the Chef.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

(29) Hancock to Grand Marais Michigan

Hancock Michigan
Ojibwa Casino II, Marquette Michigan
Grand Marais, Michigan

My last couple of days in the Copper Country were fun. I attended the Houghton County Fair, a truly small town fair, with horse contests, 4-H displays, Monster Truck shows, a mid-way with all the fair rides and characters that come along with it. I particularly enjoyed the music of two groups, Fiddlehead and a country singer, Tom Katlin. Tom was particularly good with a great husky voice and a deep sounding guitar.

The next day I drove around the Keweenaw Peninsula in search of light houses. I got to three of them, The 5 mile Lighthouse, The Eagle River and Eagle Harbor lighthouses. I believe the 5 mile lighthouse has been featured on T.V. It’s now a B&B and when I got there, there was no one around, so I just snooped in and around the place. Filled with way too much stuff from antiques to just old stuff, but fun looking around and the setting was gorgeous. The Eagle Harbor lighthouse comes with 4 museums for the $4 entry fee and is worth it. The views of the lighthouse, sitting on top of those rock outcroppings is quite spectacular. One of the museums has a 1927 Chrysler from The City of Bangor freighter. A really “cool” story of how the car got here. But if I told you, you’d have nothing to explore and find out for yourself.
If anyone would like full mega pixel pictures of it, I can send them out separately.

My sister Ann and I had one last evening together and we stayed up all hours of the night trying to catch up and share experiences with each other. Her new adventure begins in Oct and I can’t wait to hear from her on her move to Minneapolis. If anyone has any good contacts for her in the Minneapolis area for a job in elder care, senior living communities, she’d make a great manager. She has a degree from Marquette University and is eager to get into a great new facility that can utilize her talents.

I’ve driven to Marquette and I’m staying for one night at the Ojibwa Casinos. They have 6 campsites, first come first served, with electric and it’s free. I believe you can stay for about a week for free. No check-in or anything. I LOVE free! The drive from Houghton was smooth. Many of the roads up here have recently been newly paved. The trees are already turning color along the way. Fall comes early in the U.P.

The U.P. is truly an undiscovered area of the country. I used to live up here and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of discovery. After leaving the Ojibwa Casino this morning, I drove for miles along hwy 28, passing by acre after acre of national forest land, Hiawatha, state forests, Lake Superior State Forest, and Seney N.W.R. Each blending one into the other, creating huge tracks of forested lands with only the occasional cottage hugging the shoreline of Lake Superior. Driving through the small communities of Au Train and Christmas bordering Lake Superior, I was stunned by the beauty of the lake. Hard to miss it, with dozens of way-side parks and scenic vista stops along the way. Munising is where one can get aboard a tour boat to see the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore or hop a ferry to Grand Island.

I traveled another hundred miles east and due north on hwy 77 which is really a country road. Actually, 25 miles of country road with virtually no houses or structures until you reach the end of the line, Grand Marais. Talk about a hidden gem! A small village with harbor, Lake Superior and the Grand Sable Dunes. It’s easily 60 to 75 miles to the nearest town and surrounded by rugged forest and grand views of lake Superior. Church bells chime every hour and half hour adding charm to a peaceful setting. Hardware store, grocery, a couple restaurants, small white churches and a bar complete the setting.

A really fun structure, the Pickle Barrel Cottage, sits in the center of town and once belonged to the Teenie Weenie cartoonist William Donahey. He and his wife summered in it for 10 years. But with so many visitor wanting to see the barrel cottage and the author, they finally gave it up. Come on up here to learn the full story of why it was built in the first place.

My buddy Ron tells me that building cottages along the shoreline is a long process requiring many permits. Once the permits are obtained, the home or cottage can only be used as a temporary dwelling, not a permanent residence. That’s why small established communities like Grand Marais are getting to be a bit expensive to purchase homes in. The lady in the pickle barrel told me that many of the homes are now owned by retirees having moved into the area. Making the school harder to maintain with less and less children living in the area. Their high school class had a total of 6 graduating last year.

Bordering Grand Marais is the Grand Sable Dunes, the highest dunes I’ve ever seen. The views from on top the dunes, overlooking Lake Superior, really gives a clear view of how crystal clear the lake is. We were able to see the lake bottom from our vantage point 500 feet above. Sable Falls is tucked in there and has quite a long stair step and boardwalk viewing area leading right down to the sandy beach. I saw where there was a log slide coming down off of the dunes with just a glimpse of the Au Sable light house. We weren’t able to get close enough for good picture taking but the views along the shore line are just spectacular. Almost the entire forests of the U.P. were harvested back in the late 1800’s. Now completely re-grown, hiding hundreds of smaller lakes within the forests.