Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Norway Michigan, Albino Deer, Rapids, and Waterfalls

We left St Ignace and headed west to Norway, Michigan. There we had multiple goals, visiting friends Dave and Jane and maybe buying a genie cabochon maker from Kingsly North. Viewing wildlife and scenery is of course one of our main goals and that's what the time there turned into.
Dave and Jane are two friends we met at Waterssedge, the rv park we winter in, and they have a beautiful ten acre piece of land near Norway Micgigan. We had talked with Dave, he was fishing, and he told us to just pull in and hook up. Soon after we arrived Jane got home and Dave followed later that evening,(He did have some northern and walleye fillets and so we of course talked about the fishing).
The next day they told us of Goodman park and some waterfalls on the Menomomie River and so we loaded into their truck and head out to sight see. Arriving we walked to the falls and decided that the river was way to high to canoe. The falls themselves were not passable in any season and the water was a strange reddish color from all the iron, dissolved into the water,(We are near Iron Mountain and old iron mines).
The next day we went shopping and headed to the Rock Shop where we found out that the cabochon maker was not in stock and would be dropped shipped to our address, not good when you live in a fifth wheel and travel full time. The trip wasn't a waste however as their geopicks were on  sale and so I purchased one. It was about time I had one as I bought Renita a pick axe for our anniversary last year and she won't let me use it.
We also bought some rock, more beautiful tiger eye, and some orbicular leopard skin agate. They also had some stunning Mexican crazy lace agate and I am kicking myself for not buying any. We spent the rest of the day checking out local artists and their shops and we traded stories and techniques for wire wrapping.
The last day in Norway was spent sightseeing as Dave took us to see an albino deer and Piers Gorge, a possible place to canoe. Again the water was way too high and the rapids were class three or maybe even four in places. They were way above our skill level and Dave suggested we should raft them some late summer, hmmmm.
We had a nice time there, buying rock, visiting with friends, and plan on returning there as part of a future fall leaf trip. The Upper Peninsula is such a nice place to be and a real relief after the heavy traffic out east. Clear skies.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Soo Locks

We decided to stay another day and drive the short drive to Sault St Marie. There we thought we would just kind of play it by ear, oh and buy some fudge if there were any shops around. As Renita drove we talked about the locks and she said she had never seen a ship lock through.
So we got to the Soo locks and passed through security. Inside was a small museum with displays and of course the usual film describing the history of the locks and their importance to the US and Canada. It surprised me that a whole division of troops had been placed there to guard the locks during World War II.
After watching the Corp of Engineers film, a real film epic as only the US Government can make,
We headed out to view the locks . A ship wasn't due to lock through until 1:30 pm so we left the locks and walked along the street, full of shops that sold fudge.
Buying some at the first store we returned outside only to see the ship had arrived early and was already being lowered. We returned to the truck, passed through security and joined the crowd, ok probably ten others, as the ship finished its lowering and then left the lock heading down to Lake Huron.
Now when I was younger, I had seen lots of ships locking through the locks on the Mississippi River and my cousin and I had even locked through once ourselves, in a small rented boat, so it wasn't that exciting to me but it was still neat and new information to stick in ones brain and so we watched as two other small barges and tugs passed downstream.
We shopped some more and we actually found a shop filled with stuff made by a local family of artists. It contrasted nicely with all the other stores filled with the usual junk form China. Renita was so impressed that she even bought some wire wrapped necklaces and pendants and as we make them ourselves, well the quality was that good. Surprised at the low prices we talked with one of the artists who said that they had to be low to be competitive with the other stores, and that there were a lot of customers that didn't have much money. It was obvious that she knew their market.
We ate lunch in the truck as it was really cold, before finishing our shopping, well I mainly munched on fudge. The drive back to St Ignace was short and of course tree lined .  Others places beckoned but not today. We do hope to return this way someday as we head to into eastern Canada and down through Maine Clear skies.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hunting Petoskey Stones? Start At Baileys Place

Leaving Connecticut we headed west through rain and downpours. Mile after mile of trees and rain, punctuated only by the occasional river crossing. The Hudson, the Delaware, the Susquehanna all large rivers and then more thick forests. Mile after mile we stopped only for a brief nights stay at Walmart's in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
As soon as we came down the Appalachians and entered Ohio the forest gave way to the prairie and farm fields appeared. We were still in a hurry and so we drove west and then north entering Michigan. We had done this leg before and so we splurged and spent a night in an rv park, resting, showering, and dumping the tanks along with recharging batteries.
Crossing the Mackinac Bridge we tried a new  park, new for us anyway at Tiki Rv in St Ignace. We planned on making it our base camp for a few days as we were after the famous Petoskey stones, yup its time to start collecting more rocks!
Our first attempt was marred by storms as we drove west on the highway and stopped to check out rocky points along the north shore of Lake Michigan. We found some rock, but it was mostly dolomite and it usually destroys fossils during its formation. Dark storm clouds promised and delivered heavy rain and so cut our day short but it was nice to get out of the truck.
The next day we decided to recross the  Mackinac straits and head to the city of Petoskey, a likely spot for Petoskey stones? Google searches had turned up several shops including a rock shop called Baileys Place. Renita called ahead and talked with the owner who was looking out the door as we arrived.
As soon as we entered she greeted us warmly and it became obvious that we had entered the presence of a master lapidarist whose expertise was in Petoskey stones. We told her of our prospecting and of our love of stone and wire wrapping and she told us how Petoskey stones were prepared. It involved cutting slicing and stabilizing, something we have never done so she took us into her workshop and showed us a crock pot filled with Petoskey stones sitting in a bath of opticon.
She warned us of the fake Petoskey stones, actually coral from Indonesia and fossil coral from China and she showed us how to recognize it. She also told us to go to town and look at the fake stuff being sold as Petoskey Stone,(Shame on you few merchants who sell such junk to unsuspecting tourists, the color and the center of the fakes are quite different).
Baileys told us that a place to look for our own stones was right in town along the shoreline, She also said that the last six years had been unusual springs and that the ice hadn't plowed up any new material during the spring ice out, making the rock hounding poor.
Driving into town we parked behind Glens Supermarket, where theres a large lot, and after eating a hurried lunch we headed down to the shore. I waded out and saw the green moss growing on the submerged rocks that Bailey had told us about. Returning to the high water mark I started to shovel stones with my feet as the surface has been picked by thousands of rock hounds.
It actually worked as we found a tumbler full of Devonian age coral mostly favosite,( a Devonian coral), fossils but even some Petoskey! I was surprised that we found so much in such a heavily hunted area and wished I had a rake to run over the stony surface. To add to our fun I even found a morel mushroom and so for a while rock hounding was forgotten.
Driving back we took the east shoreline and while we didn't find any rock hounding areas we were treated to an occasional view of the lake and mile after mile of forest. The floor of the woods were covered with white and pink trillium and it made the drive almost magical to see so may flowers..
It was a day well spent as we ended up with lots of Petoskey rough to work. Besides the pieces we had found Bailey had sold us some beautiful rock for sawing, slabbing, and cabbing and so it starts anew as nine pounds of rock are stored in the fifth wheel. If you hunt Petoskey stones you should take the drive to the Town of Petoskey and stop at Baileys Place, where you will meet a mistress of stone, Thank you Bailey! Clear skies

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Peabody Museum, Yale

We always look for museums wherever we travel, and we really really really look forward to museums with rocks and fossils, so when my brother and his wife suggested we could visit the Peabody Museum we had to go.
Arriving at Yale we parked next to the museum and fed money into the parking meter. The old stately buildings looked fitting for such a storied place and the front of the museum was beautifully carved stone, what could be more fitting.
Our niece Ltjg Louise treated us and her parents to the admission tickets and we hurried upstairs to the minerals display. but before we reached the third floor the meteorites stopped me in my tracks. There were large meteorites from Canyon Diablo and The Red River Fall and of course I had to have models for scale of the two out of this world stones. To see the actual stones and touch them was a thrill as they are in just about every meteor book.
The minerals called and I hurried to the third floor and stopped as I reached the first display of diamonds in the rough. Having hunted Wyoming diamonds for the past two summers, and not finding any, I stared at the stones refreshing myself and my mind with the image of a rough stones, how I someday hope to find a double pyramid shaped specimen!
Th opal display showed all the fire one could expect and there were even tiger eye slabs, polished and shimmering with their chaytoyancy. I looked at the stunning specimens and realized how some of our specimens were of the same quality, its all in the cut after all.
The Egyptian room was fascinating and I wonder what my sister in law Mona felt as she gazed at the plunder of tomb robbers. Probably about the same as I did as we later strolled along dinosaur displays many collected/robbed from Wyoming. Dinosaurs from Wyoming need to stay in Wyoming!
We enjoyed the Native American display,(Hmmm no case filled with Germino's bones), where we both marveled at the bead work and the ivory carvings and I felt my need to carve jade growing stronger as new projects materialized in  my mind.
Stuffed birds, (my brother appreciated the humor in the image of him next to the dodo bird), and mammals, of course students attempting to draw specimens, and other museum visitors all seemed to blend into the experience. Of course a gift shop was at the end of the museum and I was a little disappointed to see the usual artificially dyed Brazilian agate slices.
Now the Peabody Museum isn't the best one we have visited and certainly not the biggest but it does have nice displays and is well worth visiting. Of course its simply the tip of the iceberg of fossils and specimens stored in the back rooms.It was still well worth the visit to walk the floors and enjoy the stories written in stone and bone. Clear skies.

Note big isn't necessarily best. If you want to see a great mineral display be sure to visit the Geology Museum in Rapid City South Dakota and for one of the best dinosaur display go to Thermopolis and its dinosaur Center. There they have an actual archeopteryx fossil found in Wyoming and quite simply priceless, the one at the Peabody is a cast.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Connecticut Wedding and a Family Reunion

The bride walked down the aisle and was given to the groom by her father. Tears welled in many eyes and they exchanged their vows. the vows written by each other and promising to always be at each others side. I thought of my vows ad our wedding and I listened as the minister struggled to describe what marriage is.....
I thought of what I thought our marriage is, about a man clinging to his wife and a wife to her husband. About always being there, about how we have stood besides each other in sickness and in health and I thought of how much the newly weds were in love. It was so obvious that they were really meant for each other.
During the reception we danced and talked and met the families friends. So many have been blessed to be their friends and they have been blessed too. The wedding was the first time in twelve years that my sister, brother and I had been together. it has been too long.
I watched as my brothers wife and family renewed their love for one another. My brothers wife even had an uncle from Quebec and another who had traveled from Norway. Family from Oklahoma, and Florida, from Louisiana and Connecticut and we of course represented Wyoming. Friends from South Dakota and Maine and of course many others from where we do not know.
Later the bride and her father danced and oh my were tears flowing, blessed tears. Later we threw birdseed and helped to carry gifts to our truck to take them to my brothers house, while the bride and groom left on their honeymoon. I wonder if they know how blessed they are, if not they will someday.
Clear skies.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Springtime In Connecticut

We finally reached our goal, Connecticut, and I must say it is spectacular.Of course being from out West there are way too many trees and we have almost gotten lost several times, but the spring flowers and blossoming tress are like a paradise.
Our nieces wedding is tomorrow and we have had a great time as its  a family reunion. Its the first time in twelve years that siblings have all been back together, too long. For now let me just post some pictures of the flowers in my brothers back yard.  Clear skies

Pink Dogwood
Blood root
Lily in The Valley
Bleeding Hearts?
Jack In the Pulpit

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


In the Northeast corner of the Gettysburg Battlefield a flame burns bright against the clear blue Pennsylvania sky. Eastern blue birds sing and flit back and forth along a split rail fence claiming their territory, or at least their favorite perch. One of the sides of the monument reads, "An Enduring Light to Guide Us in Unity and Fellowship". If only every American could travel here and read the message carved in stone.
In our travels we have visited Vicksburg, Fort Sumter, Antietam, and now Gettysburg. They all tell of the same messages. We fought for states rights, we fought because free slaves would take our jobs, we fought to end slavery, or we fought to preserve the Union....
The Battlefield itself is covered with monuments, Little Round Top, the Peach Field, the Wheat field, Devils Den, Cemetery Ridge and the Copse of Trees. The monuments all tell of the sacrifice our ancestors paid. The Pennsylvania Monument dominates the battlefield, and rightly so, but there are so many others including the Louisiana Statue standing across the mile wide field memorialized by Pickets charge.
I  have always been interested in the history of our country and why we fought the Civil War and sadly it seems to me we fought because the end of slavery meant the loss of so much money to wealthy slave owners and the loss of their way of life.
The parallels today of what is happening in our country and the greed that seems to drive it all sickens me. I was raised a Catholic and the Bibles Beautitudes were hammered into me by sisters who dedicated their lives to teaching me what is really important in life, and so I became a teacher.  If only people could see what we have seen and traveled the roads we have traveled......Clear skies

Monday, May 9, 2011

Shenandoah National Park,A short Day on the Skyline Drive

Before we left Winchester we wanted to explore a little bit of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. The parkway road travels through much of Virginia and North Carolina along the  top of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is about 450 miles long. We hope to travel along it some future fall.
Friends had told us not to take our fifth wheel along the road but of course we wanted to see for ourselves if it would be possible to go this way,(We have traveled the Natchez Trace and strongly recommend it!).
It didn't look to good as we neared the parks North Entrance Station. A sign warned that the side of the arched overhang was only 12.2 feet but the arch looked higher and we are only 13 feet tall.  We showed our pass and started to climb, driving through a thick hardwood forest.
I had to pull off before we reached the first overlook as I had a line of cars behind me. I thought of the traffic jams in Yellowstone and why we avoid that place in mid summer. We reached the Shenoandoah Valley Overlook and saw Massanutten Mountain and Signal Knob in the distance. The South Fork of the Shenandoah River was far below and the sky was filled with a haze that prevented us from seeing  the sights clearly but it was still a beautiful panorama of hardwood forests.
We drove further and passed and stopped at other overlooks,  Marys Rock Tunnel approached and we drove through it and it looked like we would fit if there weren't any traffic going the other way....
Stopping we took some images of the tunnel from the Tunnel Overlook. A group of young men asked us to take their image and I had trouble with their camera but at last I got it.. They thanked us for rour kindness and I thought how nice young people can be.
Reaching the Pinnacles Overlook  we glassed Rag Top, a rocky peak far in the distance. I walked into the woods  and looked for morels but it was too early at this elevation and it was definitely to early for any berries. I didn't see any copperheads among the rocks, which would have been really cool as I have never seen one in the wild.
Returning we took Highway 211 and left the parkway passing under another low entrance station. Several cars were parked along the roadway as we headed down the mountain and I knew they were looking for mushrooms as the growth here looked further along.
It didn't take long for us to reach Winchester and our house, which is what we call our fifth wheel. We had checked some things off our list and had added to our knowledge of the east, it is time to head into Pennsylvania for a few days at Gettysburg and then to my nieces wedding in Connecticut. A long awaited family reunion. Clear skies

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Antietam and Harpers Ferry, Hisory All around Us

 The Cornfield, Bloody Lane, Burnside Bridge, all names familiar to readers of history. The ranger who gave us our introductory talk told of how the Civil War could have ended in 1862 with Lees annihilation at Antietam and how Burnside was too slow developing his attack after taking the bridge. Could it be that simple?
We left the visitor center and walked to Dunken Church, a prominent sight during the battle of Antietam. From there we drove the auto tour reading of the courage and honor of men long dead, The stories and monuments of the cornfield, such sacred ground. The monument to Hood's Texans who suffered 82 percent causalities in their charge but stabilized the Confederates line.
From there we drove to Bloody Lane and walked the lane a bit before climbing the observation tower for a look at the battlefield. It was simply too much to take in trying to imagine the waves of Union troops attacking the position and then to walk among the ghosts of the dead confederates in the lane.
From there we finished our tour by walking down from the heights defended by Georgians, as Burnside threw attack after attack across the bridge that now bears his name. The bridge and the woods seemed so peaceful. A Baltimore oriole sang its song and gave us a good glimpse of his spring plumage. Looking at the Confederates positions across the bridge one wonders how anyone could have had the courage too attack them.
Our history lesson wasn't done as we asked the directions to Harpers Ferry and headed down narrow roads along the Potomac. Arriving at the park we showed our entrance pass, parked, and were quickly on the bus. The recorded history of the Harpers Ferry started its talk and I couldn't hear because the young people behind us were chatting. Using my sternest teachers voice I turned and said, Miss, we are trying to hear the recording would you please be quiet? The twenty something was pissed and snarled back at me but at least she shut up.
Getting off the bus one of her male companions made a comment as to my rudeness  as they passed and Renita remarked at how nicely I asked for them to be quiet. There is no way I could be a campground host as many of our friends do, I have simply used up my patience dealing with rude people.
We walked along the streets of Harpers Ferry. It was cool and the busy summer season hasn't started. There were no people reenacting the early life of the famous city. We stopped and gazed at a daughters of the confederates monument, and the read the verse of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, posted next to it,
Crossing the railroad bridge we took a look at the town and the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Renta started to sing Oh Shenandoah and we both felt the history of the place. It was a fitting end to a long day of history lessons and we were both tired as we drove back to Winchester and our house. A day well spent. Clear skies

Friday, May 6, 2011

Heading North into a Giant Traffic Jam

We left Charleston and headed North through Columbia and then Charlotte, North Carolina. The traffic was ok and we turned off I 26 onto ! 77.  It picked up a bit as we crossed into North Carolina but we hit Charlotte at the right time and it wasn't heavy. About the only thing I remember was crossing the Pee Pee River.
Entering Virginia we stated to climb the Blue Ridge Mountains and the truck traffic became heavy as the rigth lane was full of slow moving trucks and the second lane had trucks that were trying to pass. Our Chevy climbed the hill with ease and we passed vehicle after vehicle climbing to the gap,(Out west we call these passes but here they are called gaps, hence the term water gap?).
It was a beautiful drive and then we saw the sign, I 81 was closed ahead due to a sinkhole collapse. We were ready to stop anyway as we had driven over 340 miles,a a long day for us, and so we took exit 101 on I 81 for Claytor State Park.
The park was virtually empty and we had our choice of campsites. Campground D had a bunch of pull throughs and even though the online site said that the maximum was 35 feet we didn;t have to unhook our truck as we stayed attached and just slid.
Going to the kiosk I discovered that while camping cost just 26.25 we had to pay 5.25 in a pet fee for our dog! 5.25 for a shi-tsu! I talked with another camper and he said that you only had to pay 15 dollars for a week, how kind of Virginia, I thought as I decided to spend as little as possible in a state that charges for dogs.
It was pretty there and we did have a nice walk to the lake. We saw cardinals and titmouse and lots of eastern towhees and it was cold so cold! The temperature dropped to forty degrees that night and it frosted in the area but not where we were at. We left the next morning having no idea of the mess we were heading into.
The news had reported on the sink hole and the first sign we saw said a detour had been made so we thought no big deal right. The sign read that the detour was from exit 195 and then back on I 81 on mile marker 200. It didn't sound bad until I had to stand on my brakes as the truck in front of me suddenly stopped at mile marker 187, oh no a seven mile traffic jam!
A Virgina DOT pickup backed past us with its sign telling people to slow down, and I realized that the Virginia people didn't have a clue. It took us an hour to go two miles. As the next hour passed we reached an exit for I-64,(mile marker 191 and still four miles from the detour), and using the GPS and truckers atlas Renita found a route so we headed west and then north on  US 11(At that point we wer still four miles from the detour exit).
It turned out to be a great decision as we only had to stop for a few minutes as we crossed under I 81 and we found the spot where the traffic was exiting the jam and merging onto 11. We made it past the jam! We did have to stop a few places but after 20 miles of detour we reentered 1-81 and sped back up!
We had planned on driving to a rv park at the north end of the Blue Ridge Parkway but Renita consulted the Woodalls and found out it was rated a two, which is real bad! It was priced at 38-68 bucks a night and as I was tired I had almost resigned myself to finding a walmart when She found another park at Winchester, Virignia.
It was far enough north for us to visit Antietam and Harpers Ferry but still close enough for us to Check out Shenandoah National Park, so we grimaced a bit and paid for four mights at forty six dollars a night! At least it was a nice quiet place outside the city limits. Time to rest a bit and become tourists as we sight see some history. Clear skies.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Charleston, Walking Around the Downtown.

We left Fort Sumter and headed for the visitor center. Now Renita had already discovered that Charleston had a free trolley system and so we left the truck parked on the street and took the trolley to the visitor center.
After watching a lady making beautiful sweet grass woven baskets we determined that the parking spots were too small for our truck and so we got back on the trolley to spend a little time at the City Market. As we got off the trolley the City Market reminded me of the market in Boston but as we entered I didn't see any food stalls and I realized I was in for it, a day shopping in Charleston.
It seemed to me that every other stall was another basket weaver and while they were really beautiful we wondered how they would survive the low humidity of Wyoming. We decided not to purchase one but they were pretty neat.
Strolling down the City Market we really didn't see art of the quality of Savannah. We got back on the trolley and rode some more and there were named shops that Renita recognized but they meant nothing to me. We did find some local stores that sold some quality one of a kind jewelry but again we were somewhat disappointed.
The next day Renita wanted to return so we drove to Charleston and found a parking spot that we actually fit in It cost eight bucks but it was for all day and we don't often pay for parking, welcome to city life! We passed several sea food cafes and decided we would have sea food for lunch as it would be our last day on the coast.
Walking past construction we found more shops and even found a local artist who made blown glass art. He was even selling pieces which his parents made and then wrapped in silver wire, similar to our work. It was fun to talk with another person who understood and appreciated our work as he admired Renitas sodalite silver wrapped pendant.
Deciding to find a place to eat we noticed a sea food place called Hyman's  Seafood and it had a lot of people in it so in we went. It urned out to be a lucky find as we had one of the finest sea food meals we have ever had! I had the scored and fried flounder and Renita had grilled Mahi Mahi. While eating the owner sent us free calamari and green fried tomatoes and he even showed up after the meal to talk about the restaurant and welcome us to their restaurant.
Now I don't usually give a place a plug in my blog but if you ever find yourself in Charleston and love seafood you must eat at Hyman's. Seafood. Its that good! Oh I almost forgot to mention we were given free ice cream in a cup and of course I had the peach!
Walking and shopping we passed Calhouns monument and grave, Charleston College, and scores of sun worshipers spread out on the lawn!. I told Renita I felt sorry for the students as many couldn't afford much in the way of clothing and she gave me the look I know too well.
All in all we have enjoyed our time here, there is a lot more to see as we have barely scratched the surface and its a place we will come back to someday. The food was excellent but we both enjoyed the old town center of Savannah more than the downtown shopping in Charleston. It is simply too big for us. Clear skies

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Flags of Fort Sumter, Charleston South Carolina

I do not celebrate the death of any man, but I do celebrate justice so often denied or delayed. Our middle east wars still bring me so many memories of students who have sat in my class room and served and even died. Manuel Davila was the first who gave his life in the first Iraq War and I still remember his smile. He died from friendly fire but he still died while serving.
At one time I had thirty four former students serving during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and while I understood the necessity I said a prayer for all of them and for all who have served. As the towers fell down I cried for the firemen and policemen who gave their lives as I thought of my son who serves as a state trooper.
So I don't celebrate the death of any man only the cost of freedom as I post the pictures from our visit to Fort Sumter. The first picture is the actual battle flag that flew during the bombardment and was lowered at the surrender by Major Anderson. The second flag is the Palmetto Flag of South Carolina that flew after the Confederates captured and manned the fort.
Such honor and courage and such a price we pay for freedom. Clear skies