The Adventurer in All of Us

At some point in our lives, something comes along that catches our eye and draws us off on a trail of adventure.  It may be something like hiking across the country, taking up surfing or as simple as riding a zip line.  Some of these activities are quite safe, while others involve personal risk.  I know that I’ve experienced a few risky endeavors in my life, and I’ve been fortunate to live to see another day.  The older I got and the more responsibilities I took on caused me to scale back on the risk I was willing to take.  I will say though that there was a lag time in the common sense aspect of my decision to be cautious.  We can probably chalk that up to me being a guy.  🙂

That brings me around to an unfortunate indecent that happened by us on November 17.  We were hanging out with our friends Linda, Jerry and Ron, discussing some landscaping that Linda and Jerry were going to be doing at their new mobile home they had bought last year.  As we were talking, a powered parachute flew over us a few hundred feet up.

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We see these craft flying up and down the beach all the time.  On one hand, they look to be great fun.  Ron even mentioned how much fun it be would to give one a whirl.  On the flip side, they appear to be somewhat dangerous.  The whole thing is nothing more than a parachute, motor, propeller, tank of gas and a pilot.  This particular evening saw a steady breeze coming in off the ocean, and the pilot seemed to be struggling with controlling the craft.  The throttle was up and down, causing us to wonder if he was having engine trouble.  And breaking from what we normally see, he was flying inland over residential areas quite a ways, instead of staying out over the beach.  Before long, we heard the engine slow down and we watched the paraglider descend  towards the county beach park to our north.  Next thing we heard was the sickening sound of electricity arcing, similar to when a transformer on a power pole explodes.  We could see the sparks flying from a 1/4 mile away.  There is a line of power poles extending along A1A that are a good 30 to 50 feet in the air, and we could see the fabric from the chute draped over the lines.  Diana, Ron and I jumped on Ron’s golf cart and Jerry and Linda jumped on theirs and headed over to see what had happened.

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From what we were told, the pilot cleared the wires, only to have the breeze blow him back into them.  His gas tank caught on fire at some point and he fell 30 feet to the ground…landing next to the bike path.  The young man with the grey shirt in the photo above stopped and smothered the flames with the only thing he had available; his truck mat.  Fortunately, there is a Brevard County Fire and Rescue between us and the crash site, and they were there almost immediately.  Jerry (blue shirt above) is a retired firefighter and Linda (yellow shorts) is a retired nurse.  They noticed a young woman pacing around with a tiny baby.  That person was the pilot’s wife.  They ended up pulling up their golf cart so she could sit down, as she was distraught.  They spent a good hour and a half with her, helping to calm her down.

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Before long, a helicopter arrived from Orlando…landing on the 3rd green of the adjoining golf course.  It took awhile to transfer the victim to the Life Flight, but soon he was on his way.

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This is the Brevard County Rescue photo of the remains of the craft.  Not a pretty picture, to say the least.

So, who was this person?  Well, it turns out he was a young man from Ukraine who was living and working in Miami with his wife and 3 month old baby.

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Dima was self employed, while his wife stayed home to care for their child.  He received 3rd degree burns over 20% of his body, along with broken vertebrae and ribs and a punctured lung.  He is lucky to be alive, but has a very difficult road ahead of him.  Turns out it was the first time he flew his craft. Should he have been attempting this with a young family to care for?  Most definitely not…but I’ll refer you to that lag time in common sense I spoke of earlier.  The adventurer inside of him was most likely gnawing at him, and he gave the sport of powered paragliding a try.  Unfortunately, it did not end well.

I think back to the times I took risks that could have ended this way.  One time in particular stands out to me.  I wiped out while slalom water skiing in one foot deep water while going 30 miles an hour.  I jammed my shoulder hard into the sandy lake bottom, but ended up hurting only my pride.  I could have easily broken my neck.  Was that stupid of me?  You bet it was.  That doesn’t change the fact that Diana would have had a very difficult life caring for me, had I been severely injured…much like Dima’s wife is going to have for the foreseeable future.  It’s that lucky-to-be-alive adventurer in us that is going to send them a little help via the Go Fund Me website that has been set up in their name.  If this story touches your heart and you wish to donate, the page can be accessed by clicking HERE.  If you are unable to donate, please send some good vibes or prayers their way, as this family is certainly going to need them.

Positive comments are appreciated and will be approved for publication.  Until next time; please be safe out there, fellow adventurers.

Wild About Florida

October 16 – November 4, 2018

Melbourne Beach, Florida

Changing things up a bit this year, we arrived in Florida a full two weeks early.  Our motivation was to see if I could get a UPS golf cart route closer to where we live.  Last year, I had to drive 24 miles just to get to my pod and golf cart.  It didn’t make a lot of sense, as our truck is fairly expensive to operate.

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So far, I am on a route that is only 12 miles away.  As the Melbourne Beach pods are put in place, I’m hoping to secure one of those.  It’s fun to be back behind the wheel of the golf cart, delivering those smiles that Amazon used to tell us about.  🙂

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We are back on our site at Melbourne Beach Mobile Park.  The vegetation grew like crazy over the summer, so we had a bit of landscaping to do.  Nothing as difficult as last year though.  It definitely feels like home!

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Our first morning back brought us a beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic.  Unfortunately for us…

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…the next week saw blooms of red tide work their way north on the Gulf Stream, kicked loose from the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricane Michael.  We had thousands of dead fish along the shores of Brevard County, and we ended up having to wear surgical masks to go outdoors, due to the smell from the red tide itself. We were concerned to say the least, as no one knew how long it would last.  Fortunately, it continued north and left our area within a week.

Slowly, our friends at the park started showing up.  Jerry and Linda who we visited in Rhode Island were already here, as they have bought a mobile home and are in the process of fixing it up.  We also had other friends roll into the area, so it was great to see them!  Bob and Pat (Michigan Traveler) are in the area until December, so we met them for dinner one evening.  We forgot to get a photo, but we will get one sometime here in the next month.  After that, we were paid a visit by Tessa (aka Fluffy Dog)!

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She brought her mom and dad, Jodee and Bill (On the Road Abode), so the five of us made plans to search for the wild side of Florida.

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They brought us a gift to keep us busy this winter: a Junior Ranger puzzle.  211 tiny pieces…

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…and detailed instructions on how to put it all together!  Hopefully we get a Junior Ranger badge if we complete it.  🙂

We had two different natural spaces in mind to visit with them.  The first was Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Nestled along the northern border of the Kennedy Space Center, this refuge if filled with all sorts of wild animals.

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We saw multiple alligators…

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…and birds of all different kinds.

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We even saw a wild pig!

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The Great Blue Heron were out in force.

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This beauty was twice as pretty as the rest.  🙂

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Its remarkable how large this preserve is.  The views seemed to go on forever.

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To the south, the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center looms in the distance.  Every Apollo rocket and space shuttle that ever flew was put together in this building.  At 129,428,000 cubic feet, it is one of the largest buildings on Earth by volume.

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And this is how a row of mangroves looks in infancy.  Some of the ones along the Indian River are so expansive, a kayaker could easily get lost in them.

The next day, we went to Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge to visit the Barrier Island Education Center.  There we learned about the sea turtle nesting efforts along the east coast of Florida.  We followed that up with a visit to Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.  This particular wild place is special in that it was the first wildlife refuge ever established in the United States.

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They have a unique boardwalk that has slats inscribed for every one of the over 500 refuges across the country.

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And there at the top of the walk is Pelican Island, a small 6 acre piece of land set aside by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903.  What started out as a 6 acre preserve has grown to a national system of natural spaces  covering over 150 million acres.  Pretty cool to think you don’t have to go far to find a wild place in the United States.  Thank you Teddy! 🙂

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It was great to see Jodee and Bill (and Tessa) again!  It’s also great to be back in Florida, our adopted home state.  Stay tuned to see what other adventures we embark on over the winter. If you are in the area, give us a shout!  Until next time, safe and happy travels to all.  🙂

 

 

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

October 22, 2018 – Dayton, OH

When we were planning our trip south to Florida this year, we were originally going to take I-77 through the western Carolinas. With the sudden appearance of Hurricane Michael we decided that might not be wise, as Hurricane Florence had already soaked the area to its limit.  Instead, we chose the old tried-and-true I-75 route that we used to take when we lived in Southeast Michigan.  That route took us through Dayton, Ohio…and allowed me to fulfill a decades-old promise I had made with Diana.

Back in the 1990’s, the two of us traveled with my parents from Northwest Ohio to Dayton.  Mom and Dad were living in Findlay at the time, and Dad wanted to take me to what was then called the Air Force Museum.  With him being a World War II pilot and me being a certified airplane geek, it was pretty much a no-brainer.  At the time, there was two large Quonset hut-style hangers housing the various aircraft, along with another hanger at the opposite side of Wright Field that held the Presidential aircraft.  We worked our way through the huge exhibition space, taking a very long time in the WWII section.  We exited the building and got in line for the bus across the field and BAM…they cut the line at the group directly in front of us.  Last bus of the day, and we were on the wrong side of the cutoff.  Diana was crushed, as the Air Force One display was the one thing she had her heart set on.  I promised her that we would return someday, and that the Presidential planes would be our very first stop.

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It took us twenty-some-odd years, but we made it!  We pulled up to what is now called The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force to find two additional Quonsets beside the original pair.  The entire collection is now in one location, meaning the bus ride across the base isn’t needed anymore.  As was the case on our last visit, the museum admission was free of charge.  🙂  Once inside, we headed straight to the newest building, as that was where the Presidential planes were.  As luck would have it, there was a guide who was about to start a tour of the entire hanger, so Diana thought we should join in.

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Above is a panoramic photo of that space, a whopping 224,000 square feet!  Over 70 aircraft and missiles are displayed in this area in four separate galleries:  Space, Research & Development, Global Reach, and Presidential.

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The Apollo 15 command module that orbited the moon is displayed here.  This is the fifth moon capsule we’ve seen! (Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16)

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They have a shuttle trainer that has a full-scale mock-up of the crew compartment. My thought looking at this is that the astronauts would have been flat on their backs during a launch.  How did they get into those seats on the launch pad?  Hmmmm….

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This satellite is called Teal Ruby.  It was supposed to be an inexpensive spy satellite that could do a lot of things.  Originally designed in the 1970’s, it’s ride on the shuttle kept getting pushed back.  When Challenger exploded, it got bumped back to a point that it would likely not fly (for multiple reasons).  During it’s development, this inexpensive little beauty saw it’s costs skyrocket (pun intended).  We are looking at a $500 million museum piece, folks.

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Above is the X-1B.  Similar to the earlier X-1 ‘Glamorous Glennis’  that Chuck Yeager broke the speed of sound in, this aircraft was capable of flying over 1,600 miles per hour.  For the record, that’s more than twice the speed of sound!  Oh, and above it?  That’s the right wing of a XB-70A.  That plane is one of two experimental B-70 bombers built in the early 1960’s, capable of cruising at three times the speed of sound at 70,000 feet…far above Russian fighter capability at the time.  The other plane crashed, leaving this as the only remaining example.  Improvements in Russian surface-to-air missiles brought an end to the program.

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In the Global Reach gallery, we were able to board the C-141C, better known as the Hanoi Taxi…the first plane to bring POW’s home from North Vietnam in 1973.  At the time, it was a C-141.  It was found that the planes would ‘bulk out’ before they ‘grossed out’…meaning they would be full well before their weight limit was reached.  The Air Force stretched the entire fleet of 270 planes to utilize the extra cargo carrying capacity, renaming the modified planes C-141B.  Near the end of the fleet’s career, 63 of the planes were modified with modern digital technology, thereby making them C-141C’s.  Many of them…including this one…evacuated victims from Hurricane Katrina.  15 of these planes are on display at museums around the country, with the remaining aircraft having been scrapped.

On to the Presidential planes!

The museum has a wide variety of aircraft that were used by presidents, beginning with Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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Roosevelt’s plane was called The Sacred Cow, due to its status.  It was the only VC-54C ever built. Douglas Aircraft Co. installed this special elevator to help the wheelchair-bound president access the plane.  He only used this plane one time, a trip to Yalta for the famous conference with Stalin and Churchill, two months prior to the president’s death.  Harry Truman used it extensively for the first 27 months of his presidency.  It is interesting to note that he signed the National Security Act of 1947 aboard this plane, which established the Air Force as a separate service.  That makes The Sacred Cow the birthplace of the U.S. Air Force.

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This was the small presidential conference room near the rear of the plane.

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Truman followed with another Douglas aircraft named The Independence, after his hometown of Independence, Missouri.  This was a modified DC-6.

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This is Truman’s chair in the small conference room in the middle of the aircraft.  One thing to note:  The aisles through all of these aircraft were glassed off and narrow.  Not an easy place to be for folks who are claustrophobic.

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Next up was Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Columbine III.  He had three Lockheed planes at his disposal over his eight years as president.  This was a stylish aircraft, best known for its distinctive tri-tail.  It was named for the state flower of Mamie Eisenhower’s adopted state of Colorado.  She christened it with Colorado water, instead of the traditional bottle of champagne.

The most famous Presidential plane in the museum has to be the SAM 26000.

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A modified Boeing 707, this was the first plane to sport the now-familiar paint scheme used on all of the Presidential planes.  That look was created by industrial designer Raymond Loewy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.  This plane is best known for one fateful day: November 22, 1963.  At 11:30 that morning, the jet delivered President Kennedy to Dallas Love Field.  Less than three hours later, his body was brought back in a coffin to the plane after his assassination.  18 minutes after arrival, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President aboard the plane, with Lady Bird Johnson and Jackie Kennedy in her blood soaked skirt standing on each side of him.  Nine minutes after that, the plane departed for Washington D.C.

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To step aboard this aircraft is a humbling experience, to say the least.  It is to be noted that the plane’s interior was reworked several times, so nothing resembles what we saw on that fateful day.  The jet was used all the way into the Clinton presidency, finally retiring to the Air Force Museum in 1998, after 36 years of service.

A quick tour of other noteworthy planes in the museum:

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The famous B-17 bomber Memphis Belle, known for successfully completing 25 missions over Nazi occupied territory in WWII.

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A Wright 3 Flyer, last modified in 1923.

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The B-29 Superfortress Bockscar, known for dropping the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945.  That bombing is what brought about the end of World War II.

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Again, humbling to see a Fat Man bomb that instantly wiped out so many people in that city.

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In the same display is a Little Boy bomb, the type used over Hiroshima.  This was once an operational bomb.

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The smooth lines of a B-1B bomber, with an F-15 fighter in the foreground.

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A B-2 Stealth bomber, able to fly undetected by radar.

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An A-10 Warthog, with its massive engines that are needed to counteract the recoil from its rotary cannon at the front of the plane.  Nothing worse than falling out of the sky by shooting your own gun!

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A Stearman trainer, in the color scheme that would have been used on the planes my dad flew at Maxwell Field in Alabama.

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My dad also flew in B-25 bombers as a tail gunner and co-pilot.  This display had to do with the Doolittle Tokyo raid, in which sixteen B-25’s, each with a crew of five, took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo.  The mission was more a psychological victory than anything else, as not much physical damage was inflicted upon Japan.  The planes were unable to return to the Hornet, with fifteen of them crash landing in China.  The other plane landed safely in Russia.  All but three crewmen initially survived the mission.

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The Doolittle Raiders held a reunion from the 1940’s until 2013.  Each year, the men would toast their fallen comrades with cognac in goblets inscribed with their names. The names were right side up on one side of the goblet, and upside down on the other.  As each airman passed, their goblet was turned upside down in the case.  Robert Hite was the last surviving raider, passing away in 2015.

It’s at this point that I wish to address accuracy when sharing history as a docent in a museum.  Diana and I took our jobs at Heceta Head Lighthouse and at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore very seriously, as to making sure the information we shared was correct. I’m not saying we are perfect, but our ultimate goal is to be accurate.  I am purposely not sharing the photo I have of our tour guide at the Air Force museum.  Story after story he told had an interesting twist.  When he shared the urban legend “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky” as fact…and followed it up with “Verified by the family of Neil Armstrong”, the story begged for us to Google it.  It’s a total whopper of a story, and it caused us to have to verify everything else he shared with us….most of which wasn’t completely true.  If he is reading this, he knows who he is.  History is amazing enough without making stuff up, my friend.  It was a stain on an otherwise great visit.

By all means, if you can spare the time while in Dayton, be sure to visit the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.  In addition, there are several National Park sites that are part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.  Most, but not all, are associated with the Wright Brothers.  It’s a fun place to explore!

Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

 

Michigan 2018 Wrap-up

Almost as fast as it began, our late summer in Michigan has come to an end.  The last few weeks were a flurry of activity, work, and fun!  Check it out:

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My sister Judy and brother-in-law Dale came to visit.  They went on a hike with us to Pyramid Point and checked out the maritime museums at Sleeping Bear.  We finished up the day with dinner at Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor.  It sure was good to see them!

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We also had a visit from my cousin Sue and her hubby John.  Its always fun to hang out with these two!  We caught a sunset with them at the Lake Michigan Overlook and a late dinner at Cherry Republic.

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Diana’s cousin Nancy and her husband David also stopped by, as did Nancy’s brothers Jerry and Reed.  After that, we saw our friends John and Julie, and then Diana’s cousins Evelyn, Linda and Brenda were in town.  We also were able to see our friends Camilla, Lane, Patti, Rod, Mary, George and Grace again.  Hope I didn’t miss anyone!

While at the National Lakeshore, we were encouraged to visit as much of the park as possible.  By doing so, we were able to give accurate information to our guests in the visitor center.  While out checking Good Harbor Beach, Diana spotted this cloud pattern, which is pretty typical over the peninsula.

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All that water makes for a dynamic sky.  🙂

The end of the season saw our maritime museum receive a fresh coat of paint.

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It was a tedious project, as there was lead paint that had to be removed. They really did a nice job!

We also were able to take a tour of Glen Haven with our supervisor, Marie.

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Here she is explaining the construction of the Sleeping Bear Inn.  The hotel was built in 1857, and the park is hoping to have it restored and put back into use.  Marie is a wealth of knowledge and a joy to be around.  🙂

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And here is one of the longtime residents, Leonard Thoreson, filling visitors in on the area history.  His parents owned one of the farms that is now part of the Port Oneida Rural Historic District.  Leonard can be seen riding his bike through the park just about daily.  The white plate on the front of his bike says “91”, which refers to is age.  What a treasure.

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One really fun thing we did was to work at the big relief map at the visitor center.  Here’s Diana explaining the park’s features to our guests.  It’s neat to learn about people’s interests, and match them up with what the park has to offer. People were really appreciative of our efforts.

Soon it was time to leave.

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We didn’t get a photo of Judy and Paul or of Bob and MaryJo, but we did get one of Rick and Debbie!  We sure enjoyed sharing our little campground with all these folks!

From Leelanau, we headed to Grand Rapids for a week.  While there, we were able to buzz down to Indiana to see my aunt and uncle again.  Both are doing well.  We also took care of annual physicals and such, finishing up the week in Kalamazoo for Western Michigan University’s homecoming.

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The weather wasn’t the greatest, but the rain held off for the game.  Western beat Eastern Michigan 27-24, so that added to the fun!

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We had quite the crew, first and second generation Broncos!  Brian and Sarah (olive and black shirts in the center) are getting married in a few weeks, and circumstance doesn’t allow for the group to attend, so….

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…we held a Bronco wedding!  Sarah was the Broncette and Brian was the Bronco.

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Brian’s brother Eric was the ring bearer, and he had us in stitches.   We had a reception, cake, dancing…you name it, we did it.  Diana and I even won the anniversary dance for a change! The entire event was way beyond what any of us thought it would be.  Man, we have fun when we get together!

From there, we headed to southeast Michigan to see Diana’s family.

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From left, our nephew Jared, Diana’s sister Cheryl, Dan and Becky (our niece), Diana’s brother-in-law Doug, Diana and I.  We had a great time catching up with everyone!

From there, we visited Diana’s uncle Bob and cousin Debbie.  While we were there, we camped in Diana’s hometown, Ortonville…just across the street from where we were married 36 years ago.  It was fun to be back there.  🙂

This morning, we headed south out of Michigan.  We are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Michael, as it is crossing our path to Florida.  It will be long gone by the time we get to Georgia, but we don’t know what sort of damage we are going to find.  The next few days should be interesting.

Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

Shipwrecks and Lifesaving on the Manitou Passage

One of the consistent statements we hear from visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is that Lake Michigan’s Manitou Passage looks like the Caribbean.  When the sun shines on these crystal clear waters, the deep blue and turquoise colors are breathtaking.

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Peaceful scenes such as the 1000 foot freighter American Spirit steaming past the North Manitou Shoal Lighthouse in the distance are common here in Leelanau County.  Looking at this, it’s difficult to imagine the fury the lake can unleash…often within a matter of minutes.  Many a mariner has been caught unaware in these waters, and their ships have been wrecked near these shores.

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This chart shows the ideal route that ships aim for as a dotted line.  By going this direction a vessel can shave 60 miles off of their trip between Mackinac and Chicago, as opposed to going west of the islands.  This archipelago can also act as protection from strong westerly winds.  During a fierce gale in 1913, the steamer Illinois found refuge in South Manitou Island’s crescent-shaped harbor by nosing into the beach and keeping the engines running forward for 50 continuous hours.  It was at that point that the wind subsided enough for a crewman to go ashore and secure the ship to a large tree, so they could power down the ship.

Back in late 1800’s and early 1900’s, there weren’t any decent roads in northern Michigan and the lakes were considered a highway.  It wasn’t unusual for 100 vessels to be in the Manitou Passage on a given day, as it was also a major fueling station.  Wood was the fuel of choice back then for steamships, and these shores had plenty of it.  All of that traffic, combined with the occasional storm, brought about many shipwrecks. Over 100 vessels were known to have run aground, with many of them being refloated and saved.

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Over 50 were left in place to be dismantled by the power of Lake Michigan’s waves.

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One such ship was the Walter L. Frost, which ran aground along South Manitou Island’s shore in 1903.  It wasn’t too many years until nothing remained above the lake’s surface.

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In 1960, the Liberian freighter Francisco Morazan grounded on South Manitou Island after losing power, running over the subsurface remains of the Frost (blue arrow) in the process.

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Today, the remains of the Morazan are a visible reminder of just how brutal this lake can be to a ship….

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…and a flyover will reveal many of the other wrecks in the passage.

We had an excellent example of the moodiness of Lake Michigan this past week.

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This is a photo of the 620 foot long Mississagi, heading south through the fog towards Muskegon on Thursday.

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On the ship’s return northward on Friday, it was met with 50 + MPH gusts coming from the northwest.  As a reference, this photo was taken on the east side of the Manitou Islands, so the ship was not experiencing the high waves that were occurring out in the open lake on the west side.

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But look what the captain did once he was past Leland and North Manitou Island.  With the full brunt of the gale hitting them broadside, he choose to turn the bow northwestward and head across the lake to calmer waters along the Upper Peninsula shore.  Once there, he turned northeastward and headed towards the Straits of Mackinac.  As he passed Mackinac Island, he witnessed the only shipping casualty of that day’s storm. The tug and barge Defiance/Ashtabula had run aground.  Once the gale subsided, that ship was able to be freed from the clay bottom with little damage.  The storm was strong enough to not only close the Mackinac Bridge to high profile vehicles but also the Soo Locks.  That rarely happens.

Nowadays, rescues are performed by the Coast Guard with helicopters and enclosed motor lifeboats.  Back when the Illinois sought shelter in South Manitou Harbor in 1913, the U.S. Life Saving Service (USLSS) had other equipment at their disposal.

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For the wrecks that were farther than 500 yards from shore, the USLSS would use an open surfboat to rescue stranded sailors.  The Sleeping Bear Point Life Saving Station performed 5% of their rescues in this manner.  But since most wrecks occurred along the shore, a beach apparatus was employed to bring the crew to safety.

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That consisted of several lines, a breeches buoy, and a cannon (called a Lyle Gun) to fire the initial line over the ship.  The breeches buoy was nothing more than a pair of pants (britches) attached to a life ring.  What this apparatus amounted to was similar to a modern day zip line.

Here at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, we perform a daily demonstration (summer months only) of the beach apparatus using young volunteers from the audience as surfmen.  This program is called Heroes of the Storm.

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Here is Captain Diana with her crew, Raggedy Ann and Andy, calling for help from her stranded ship.  A simulated Lyle Gun fires a projectile with a line out to the ship, which allows the captain to drag out the heavier rescue lines.

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Here is Captain Jim on another occasion sending Ann towards the shore in the breeches buoy.

A special treat occurs on Thursdays, right after the Heroes program.  That is the day an actual Lyle Gun is fired.  This cannon is the only gun invented by the U.S. Army to save lives instead of take them.

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An 18-pound projectile, similar to the one I am holding here, is loaded into the Lyle gun.  A 200-yard long shot line is tied to the end of it.  That is fired out into Sleeping Bear Bay each week.  Once the line is hauled back in, it is hung along the station’s picket fence to dry.  Once dried out, it is the park volunteer’s job to ‘fake’ the line into what is called the faking box.

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Here is Diana winding the rope around the faking box pegs.

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And here we are with 200 yards of faked rope.  There is a lid that is put over this afterwards. Once at the beach, the whole thing is turned over and the rope is slid off the pegs and into the lid.  Hopefully it doesn’t tangle when they fire the gun!  Let’s find out in this slo-mo video.  This took place the day we faked the rope:

Lyle Gun video: CLICK HERE

So there you have it.  That brought a smile to our faces!

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Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

The Finest Hours

“You have to go out; you don’t have to come back” 

Unofficial Coast Guard motto

 

September 8, 2018

A few months back, you may recall that we stopped into the Old Harbor Lifesaving Station while we were visiting the Cape Cod National Seashore.  One of the reasons for that visit was to see how a tour of a maritime museum is conducted.  Our tour guide, a National Park Service volunteer named David, inspired us with his ability to portray what life in the U.S. Life Saving Service was like.  While we were there, he gave us a tip to go see a famous Coast Guard boat that was docked in Rock Harbor, some 30 miles to the south.  It was the subject of a movie called The Finest Hours.

This turned out to be a case where history stared us right in the face and we didn’t catch it.

The next day, we set off to explore Cape Cod’s elbow, first visiting Chatham, and then Rock Harbor.  At Chatham, we parked in front of the Coast Guard station and lighthouse. This complex overlooks the Chatham Bars, a series of sandbars that extend out into the ocean.

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We were a bit more focused on this shack constructed along the shore, but we did note how far out the waves were breaking on the ever-changing sand bars.  Shortly after taking this photo, a driving rain came in off of the ocean, so we failed to photograph the station and lighthouse.  Instead, we headed up to Rock Harbor to see the boat that David had mentioned.  Once at the dock, we were greeted by this sign:

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Still not familiar with the story or the film The Finest Hours, we descended to the lower dock to examine the boat.

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Obviously well restored and impressive to look at, the CG-36500 was tied up with little explanation to it’s storied past, short of the fact that it was a gold medal boat that had saved 32 men.  Not knowing much about Coast Guard history, we focused on how impeccable this boat was and not much else.

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The fittings on the craft were impressive.  Still, we were somewhat more interested in the U.S. Life Saving Service on this trip than the Coast Guard, so this small beauty’s story didn’t fully grab our attention.  We left the dock with the intention to see the movie and to research the boat’s story.  One thing led to another, and that didn’t happen.

Fast forward to our boat museum in the former Glen Haven Canning Company building at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.   When we started our stint as volunteers here at the beginning of August, it was hard not to notice the largest boat in the museum as being similar to the CG-36500 we saw in Massachusetts back in May.

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Turns out it was not only similar, but built from the same blueprint.  Our boat, the CG-36527, had been stationed at Duluth, Minnesota.

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Both crafts, along with the 128 sister TRS 36-foot motor lifeboats, were built by hand at the Curtis Bay Yard in Maryland.

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Not being in the water, it appeared much larger than it’s fleetmate out on Cape Cod.  The boat is self-bailing, self-righting, 10 tons and its motor will run upside down.  Solid as a stone and virtually unsinkable.  It is rated to carry a crew of four and up to twelve survivors.

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The ‘pudding’ bumper on the front is a work of art.  Visitors comment that it resembles a mustache.

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Standing on an easel by the front of the craft, this poster is displayed.

There’s that movie we failed to see…

So we watched the movie, then read the book of the same title.  The story goes like this:  A ferocious winter storm off the coast of Cape Cod in February of 1952 caught two World War II era tankers in its grip.  Both ships split in two between their bows and sterns.  The Fort Mercer was able to get a distress call off, and the Coast Guard sent most of their boats to assist in rescuing that ship’s crew.  The Pendleton wasn’t able to get an SOS off before it broke up, and it wasn’t until they were noticed on radar that the Chatham stationmaster Daniel Cluff went into action.  He ordered Boatswain’s Mate Bernie Webber to gather three other men and head out in the CG-36500 to see if there were any survivors.  Doing so meant they had to cross the dangerous Chatham Bars that we mentioned earlier.  Those sandbars have been known to rip boats to pieces in mild seas, and the waves that afternoon were upwards of 60 feet high!  Most of the locals considered it impossible.

“You have to go out; you don’t have to come back.”

Crossing the bar meant timing the waves, gunning the throttle on the upside and switching to full reverse throttle down the backside…so as to keep from driving the bow into the sand.  The ship’s compass was ripped loose and lost overboard almost immediately and the windshield was shattered.  Miraculously, they made it past the bars, but they were now running purely on Webber’s knowledge of the currents and the winds.  They somehow found the stern of the Pendleton, which was still afloat.  On deck were 33 men, anxious to get off.  (It was discovered later that the bow section had partially sank, killing the captain and crew that were in it.)

Remember, the CG-36500 is rated to carry a crew of four and up to twelve survivors.

Suddenly, a Jacob’s ladder was thrown over Pendleton’s stern and the men started down.  Webber brought the little lifeboat in close to get each man, backing away in between to keep from smashing into the tanker’s side.  Men were packed into the survivor’s cabin and onto every available space on deck.  The only man that didn’t make it was Tiny Myers, the ship’s 300 pound cook.  He fell into the sea and a wave threw the lifeboat into him, killing him.  Once everyone was on board, Webber pointed the CG-36500 back towards shore, hoping to beach it somewhere.  The tide had risen and they were able to cross the bars rather quickly.  As luck would have it, they ended up at the mouth of Chatham Harbor and were able to come directly into the dock with their soaked and freezing survivors.

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All four crew members were awarded the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their efforts.  They tested CG-36500’s limits, which in turn performed beyond its intended purpose for them.  The mission is considered to be the Coast Guard’s greatest small boat rescue ever.  The craft continued to serve until it was decommissioned in 1968.  It was donated to the Cape Cod National Seashore with the intention that it would be displayed in a museum.  Funds never materialized, and the boat was left to rot in a storage yard, totally exposed to the elements.  The Orleans Historical Society acquired it in 1981 and restored it to the operational beauty it is today.

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In 2002, the crew was reassembled for the 50th anniversary of the rescue, and they were able to take the CG-36500 out for a tour of the harbor with Webber at the helm..  That would have been a sight to see. Clockwise from the front:  Andy Fitzgerald, Richard Livesey, Charles Bridges (Pendleton crewmember who later joined the Coast Guard), Ervin Maske and Bernie Webber.

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If you find yourself on Cape Cod, be sure to stop in Rock Harbor and view this wonderful piece of history.  Maybe rent the movie or read the book. Or if you find one of the 15 or so remaining 36 footers that grace our nation’s maritime museums, take a moment to imagine that night in 1952 when the Coast Guard witnessed their finest hours.

Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie!

August 17-20, 2018

Some weekends are meant to be remembered.  Such was August 17 through the 20th for us, as we flew to St. Louis, Missouri for our Godson’s wedding.  We caught a very early flight out of Traverse City on Friday morning for Detroit, then a hop over to the Gateway to the West following that.  When we got to the counter at Alamo Rent-a-car, we informed the agent that we were going to picking up two more people, and I asked if a standard SUV was big enough.  When I informed him that one of the people was a hair stylist, Charles looked at me and said “You need a bigger car.”

Expedetion

He set us up in this awesome Ford Expedition for a slight up-charge.

Carpooling

Perfect for Carpool Karaoke!  Where’s James Cordon?  To be fair to Christine (2nd from left), her civil engineer sister Nina had more luggage.  🙂

That evening, while the families of the bride and groom were at rehearsal dinner, the rest of us hung out in Alton, Illinois at the Bluff City Grill.  Mike asked Christine to tell us about her travel day.

Christine

Hands flying, she proceeded to go into detail from start to finish, leaving us all in stitches.

The next morning, we all prepared for the big event.

Jim Jess and Sue

Here is the father and mother of the groom, Jim and Sue, with their daughter Jess.  After a lovely ceremony in Edwardsville, Illinois, we all headed to the reception in Alton.

Friends

Here are our first and second generation Western Michigan University friends who attended the wedding.  From left:  Sarah, Brian, Mike, Cindy, Bill, Christine, Nina, Billy, Alissa, Karen, Sheryl, Paul, myself, and Diana.  After dinner, we all got up to dance for the first song and pretty much remained on the dance floor the rest of the night.  I can’t remember a reception we’ve been at that was as much fun as this one was!

The next morning rolled around quickly.  Over in St. Louis, Josh and Jaclyn were ready for another day of celebration with their families and friends before they headed off on their honeymoon.

Josh and Jaclyn

Here is the happy couple!  No doubt who the bride and groom were.  🙂

We all planned a get together later in the afternoon, so several of us headed to the Gateway Arch for a ride to the top.

Alissa looking at Arch

Heading in, Alissa’s look summed up her thoughts.  “We are going up THERE???”  

Once inside the base of the arch, we checked out the museum.

Mike and Teddy

I’ve always thought Mike had a resemblance to Teddy Roosevelt; here was my chance to make the comparison.  Do you see it?

Arch View

Once we were at the top, the little windows offered us a great view of the city.

Arch straight down

And since they are angled at the bottom of the triangular shape of the arch, it is possible to look straight underneath, over 600 feet down!  The curved, dark streak is the shadow of the arch.  The people below look like ants.  🙂

Friends in Arch

Before long, we lined up for the tram back down.  Once on terra firma, we went out for lunch and then took a trolley ride around the city.

Forest Park

Either this group is fascinated by the view of Forest Park, or they are mooning the photographer.  🙂  All too soon, our weekend came to a close.  It is, no doubt, one we will remember for a long time to come.

Next up, a fascinating bit of maritime history that just about floated by us.  Be sure to stay tuned for that.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleeping Bear 2018

July 29 – August 14, 2018

We are happy to be back in Leelanau County, Michigan for the months of August and September.  We will be volunteering for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.   As we did for Oregon State Parks, we will be working as Interpretive Volunteers throughout the park.  Our duties include working in the two maritime locations, the visitor center, and as narrators on bus tours of Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.

Campsite

As compensation, we are given a campsite at D.H. Day Campground.

We came in a few days early and camped at Leelanau Sands Casino, just north of Suttons Bay.  In order to stay there, we had to sign up for a Players Club card.  First time cardholders are given $10 in free slot play.

Leelanau Sands

I had a pretty lucky night.  The machine I was playing started going wild!  The guy next to me was laughing, as he thought I was doing pretty good for a 30 cent bet.  When I informed him I was playing on the casino’s money, his jaw hit the floor.  By the time we walked out, I was over $180 in winnings.  Not bad for someone who doesn’t frequent casinos!

Before we headed to Sleeping Bear, our friends Linda and Steven came and stayed next to us at Leelanau Sands.

Linda and Steven

We all went to Patti and Lane’s house for dinner, along with Rod and Mary.  We also went out to eat a few times and checked out Peterson Park.

Peterson Park

We love the view from up there, as it’s possible to see four islands on a clear day.

We also went kayaking on Little Traverse Lake with Lane and Patti.  Here they are heading back out after we had to get ready to go back to our camp.

Patti and Lane

Pretty soon, it was our first day on the job….which also happened to be out 36th anniversary!

First day Sleeping Bear

Here we are in the Cannery, which is a fruit processing plant turned boat museum.

Cannery

The boat I am sitting in front of is identical to the one from the movie, The Finest Hours.  It is self-righting, self-bailing, practically unsinkable and the diesel engine will run upside down.

The other maritime location is the 1902 lifesaving station.  The boathouse is said to be the most completely equipped station in the United States.

Boathouse

Here I am letting one our visitors feel how heavy the Lyle gun projectile is.  That particular gun would shoot a line over a disabled ship in order to establish a lifesaving zipline, then called a breeches buoy.  The Lyle gun was the only cannon ever developed to save lives, instead of taking them.

Surfboat

We also have two open surfboats on display.

Heroes

And every afternoon, the park puts on a program called Heroes of the Storm, a reenactment of how a Lyle gun rescue works.  Seven children are pulled out of the crowd to serve as surfmen.  The sailors they save from the ‘ship’ are Raggedy Ann and Andy.  It’s really fun.  🙂

And on Thursdays, the park fires off a real Lyle gun.  It is a sight to see!

Lyle Gun 1

The initial blast…

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…pushing out the flame and the projectile.

Lyle Gun 3

As the projectile gets dragged by the shot line coming out of the blue box, it turns around and heads out over the water….

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…eventually landing 200 yards out, dragging the shot line behind it.  The surfmen back in the day could launch the projectile up to 600 yards.

We also worked at the Port Oneida Fair, which is a celebration of the early 20th Century rural culture. Living history activities were held at several of the historic farms, as well as the school house, that are a part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

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Diana worked at the washtub station, teaching children how to do laundry.

Laundry

When the local TV station started filming, we  decided to watch the news that night.  Not only was she on there…

Corn Sheller

…so was I, teaching kids how to run a corn sheller.  🙂

Dulcimer

One gentleman was even teaching youngsters how to play a hammer dulcimer.

Blacksmith Shop

And who is that in the Blacksmith shop?  Well that is Diana, providing lunch relief for the blacksmith and keeping the fire going, while explaining the role of the blacksmith in the town of Glen Haven.  🙂

Northport

We also were visited by our friends Jodee and Bill!  Here we are at Music in the Park in Northport.

Gravels and Belisles

We also checked out Sleeping Bear and the Old Mission Peninsula with them….

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…and their sweet fluffy dog Tessa.  🙂

Our last night with them, we managed to get tickets for The Accidentals.  We have been following this trio for several years now.  Their latest album Odyssey has been played in our CD players from Oregon to Florida to Maine and back to Michigan.

The Accidentals

Diana and I have seen them perform twice in the past at outside venues, but it was great to see and hear them inside an auditorium.   The four of us were blown away, hooting and hollering throughout the show.  If you ever have the opportunity to see them, don’t miss it.

Well, that gives you an idea of what we’ve been up to the past few weeks.  Stay tuned for our next post as we continue to find new adventures to share with you.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

Photographs and Memories

July 6 – 28, 2018

“Photographs and memories
Christmas cards you sent to me
All that I have are these
To remember you”

Jim Croce

Sometimes our lives move so fast, we forget to look back and see where we’ve been.  And while our 4 month rambling trip from Florida to Michigan was anything but quick, we had a tendency to focus on the road ahead to our next destination.  That all changed when we left Cooperstown, NY.  It was about then that our plans completely turned to Jello.  We knew we had several people we wanted to visit in Michigan and Indiana, but nothing spoke to us as what route to take or what order to do it in.  We had several options to choose from.  Day by day, the next stopping point was chosen, but the overall route continued to elude us.  What we didn’t realize was that a single event was going to end up choosing our path for us.  And once we were here, it turned out that each location held a period of reflection for us, filled with boxes of photographs and memories.

Our first stop beyond Cooperstown was Seneca Lake, NY.

Rig at White Springs Winery

We had wanted to spend some time at one of the several Harvest Hosts locations that our friends Linda and Steven (The Chouters) had stayed at last year.  We chose this dandy spot at White Springs Winery, just south of Geneva.

Jim at White Springs Winery

It was a great place to not only share a bottle of Pinot Grigio, but to enjoy a fabulous view!  Our original plans had us staying at two separate wineries, but we opted to move further down the road after a two night stay.

From that point, we had to decide whether to route through Canada or the United States.  We chose the latter, as we were thinking we would want to visit my aunt and uncle in Indiana first.  We spent a few nights at Westfield, NY on the southern shore of Lake Erie.

Barcelona Lighthouse

This charming little community is home to the Barcelona Lighthouse, which was built in 1829.  It has the distinction as being the first lighthouse to be lit using natural gas.  A concrete dome was built over a spring a half mile away to trap escaping gases, and a pipe was laid between the two structures.  Pretty fancy technology for the early 1800’s.  We also discovered that the area is a major grape-growing region, and was home to Welch’s near the end of the 19th century.

It was at this location that our route became clearer.  Diana received a call that her aunt wasn’t doing well.  We’ve always been close to Aunt Marion and Uncle Bob, so we made tracks for Flint, Michigan without haste.  We stopped at Cabela’s in Dundee, Michigan for the night, close to 300 miles from our starting point that morning.

Cabelas Dundee display

If there is one thing that Cabela’s does well, it’s how they showcase the mounts in each store.  The displays in this 225,000 square foot location are spectacular.  Instead of one musk ox, they show an entire herd of them facing off against a pack of wolves.

By the time we reached Flint the next day, Aunt Marion had passed.  We were fortunate to get a camping spot at the Flushing Moose Lodge just a few miles from Bob and Marion’s home, which ended up working very well for us.  We spent the next days with family, sorting through photographs and remembering happier times.

Bob and Marion

Here is a photo of Bob and Marion, looking their usual dapper selves.  🙂  They were quite a duo.  Marion was Diana’s mother’s sister.

During our stay, we took the opportunity to drive by Diana’s childhood home and to visit the cemetery where her parents are buried.  On the way back to Flushing, we drove by the house where Diana’s mother grew up in Goodrich.  This also was the spot where Uncle Bob met Aunt Marion over 70 years ago.  The current owners were outside, so Diana mentioned to them that her grandparents used to live there.  They graciously invited us in!

Diana at Grandma's house

Needless to say, Diana was overjoyed to be able to show me the home.  Many memories were shared, and several of the owners questions were answered as to how the house used to be. The woodwork on the stairs to the basement survived several remodels.

After the funeral, we headed north to visit my sister Judy and brother-in-law Dale in Harrison, Michigan.  We attended a benefit concert for the local library and visited the local veteran’s museum that Dale helps out with.

Grandpa Belisle

One of the displays was of Judy’s and my paternal grandfather, a veteran of World War I.  He was a Canadian citizen at the time, fighting as a U.S. Army soldier.

Jim paddleboarding

While we were there, I even had the opportunity to try out Judy and Dale’s paddle board.  I never fell off, but I sure felt it the next day!  🙂  Judy and I also pulled out a box of family photos, as I was looking for a particular photograph.  I never found it, but I did come upon this gem:

GG Schmitt

This is my Great Grandpa and Great Grandma Schmitt.  He’s the one who built Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse, among other things.  This photograph is probably from the 1870’s.  We are only three generations apart, despite the many years.  Do you think we look a bit like each other?

From Harrison, we headed south towards Indiana.  We stopped along the way at the Moose Lodge in Otsego, just north of Kalamazoo.  We used that as a base to travel down to see my aunt and uncle.  We also went to dinner with our friends Mike and Cindy, and then the next night with Paul and Sheryl.

Vennix's and us

We completely forgot to get a photo with Paul and Sheryl, but here we are with Mike and Cindy.  There was lots of catching up on what we’ve all been doing.  Two great evenings with two sets of wonderful friends.  🙂

And in Indiana, we were able to catch up with Uncle Ed and Aunt Marge, two of my mom’s siblings.  Uncle Ed wasn’t feeling the best, so we didn’t pester him with a photo.  While we were at Aunt Marge’s, we took a look through her photos to see if I could find the family photo I was looking for.  No luck again, but I did find these beauties:

Grandpa and me

Here I am with my maternal grandfather in 1976.  He was 92 and I was 18 at the time.  For the record, I loved Detroit back then and I still do today.

Grandma and Grandpa K

And here are my maternal grandparents, just before World War II.  Grandma is the daughter of the Schmitts in the earlier photo.

Mom and siblings

And here is my mom with my aunt and uncles.  Uncle Ed is in front, with (left to right) John, Mom, Marge and Fritz behind him.  All three boys would soon be in the war and Aunt Marge in the convent.

Aunt Marge and me

And that is where she is today, as sharp as ever at 94 years young.  It was great to be able to spend time with her and Uncle Ed.  🙂

We’ve spent the past few days taking care of doctor and dentist visits, and the general things we like to take care of around Grand Rapids.  We visited my parents’ graves and even found my buddy Richie’s crypt in a mausoleum in the same cemetery.  That kind of knocked the stuffing out of us for a bit.  You might recall him from our post, Reflections in the Rear View Mirror.

So after a bit of a pause while sorting through old photographs and memories, we are ready to move forward and make some new ones.  This week we head north to Leelanau to start a new adventure for us.  Be sure to stay tuned for our next post, as we describe what that entails.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good and it could be again.”

James Earl Jones as Terence Mann, Field of Dreams  – 1989

July 2-6, 2018 – Cooperstown, New York

After leaving Lake George, we decided to head to Cooperstown, NY.  This is a place that celebrates so much of what my early years were about: the game of baseball.

Growing up in suburban Detroit, my world centered around the Detroit Tigers.  That was passed down from my dad. As a teenager, he would jump on a streetcar in River Rouge and head to what was then known as Briggs Stadium to see the legends of the 1930’s play.  Stories of the Tigers greats were a given, but they were also peppered with other heroes like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  Detroit was the only team in the majors to top 1 million a year in attendance during the Great Depression (in 1935 and 1937), which shows the depth of the love of the game in the Motor City.  On many occasions in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, Dad would come home from work and say “Jimmer, want to go to a game?”  Within half an hour, we were in the bleachers cheering on our Tigs.  Quite often, those excursions would include my sister and my mom.  Judy could have become a baseball statistician, as she was awesome at filling out a scorecard. Mom loved the game also, and was one of those gals who would come ten feet out of her seat when the Tigers scored a run.  It didn’t matter that Detroit itself was falling apart at the seams, as baseball seemed to transcend the tensions of that era.

So coming to Cooperstown is like returning to Tiger Stadium for me.  Diana and I were here one other time in the 1980’s, and we were awestruck by the quaint charm of the town and beauty of the area.  At that time, we had dropped down along Lake Otsego from the New York Thruway.

I88 in NY

This time, we came in from the south.  We were amazed how beautiful the scenery was on the southern route along Interstate 88.  If there is one thing that has become apparent to us on this trip, it’s that the State of New York is an absolutely gorgeous place. 🙂

Lake Otsego

Cooperstown itself is a cozy little hamlet, nestled along the southern shore of Lake Otsego.

Mouth of Susquehana

It is here that the Susquehanna River begins it’s long journey to Chesapeake Bay.

While most of the stores on Main Street are baseball themed, there are a few that are normal, small-town America establishments.

Cooperstown DIner

One of those is the Cooperstown Diner.  Strictly a short-order type of place, you practically have to back out after eating, as there is no room to turn around.  We ate there on our first visit and enjoyed it.

Doubleday Field

Tucked behind Main Street is Doubleday Field.  This is the ‘home’ of baseball, as lore has that Abner Doubleday and friends first played the game on this spot in 1839.  Back then, it was a cow pasture.  During baseball’s centennial year of 1939, the first All Star game was played here.  That was also the year the Hall of Fame opened its doors.  Since then, there has been an annual Hall of Fame game played here between two major league teams, along with 350 other baseball contests of some sort.

Jim at Doublday Field

Watching a game here is a treat, as is evident by the smile on my face.   Sitting on the wooden benches brought new meaning to the term ‘box seats’.  🙂

The Hall of Fame itself is tucked into a series of storefronts at the east end of Main Street.  One of the first things seen upon entering the building are a series of 30 lockers, each one representing a major league team.

Tigers locker

Here is the Detroit Tigers locker, which contains a few items that relate to the team.  In case you are wondering, Jackie Robinson didn’t play for the Tigers; the commissioner retired his number league-wide on April 15, 1997.  That was the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking the color barrier in the majors.  Also, since no one wore a number in the early days of the game, Tiger great Ty Cobb didn’t have a number to retire.

Many other Tiger items were scattered throughout the building.

Ty Cobb sweater

This is Ty Cobb’s warm-up sweater.  Teams now wear jackets during chilly games.

Ty Cobb bat and spikes

They also had one of his bats and his spikes.  Legend has him portrayed as a dirty player, born from his take-no-prisoners style on the base paths and his aggressive style of play.  By the time his career ended in 1928, he has amassed 90 major league records.  Many of those still stand today.  After his baseball career, he became a successful businessman and was a generous philanthropist.

Another larger than life player from that era was Babe Ruth.  The Hall of Fame has an entire section devoted to him.  George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth was born and raised in Baltimore, where he had a reputation as a hell-raiser.  He was sent to a Catholic reformatory at age 7, and was eventually taken under the wing of Brother Matthias.  During his twelve years at the school he became proficient at stickball and baseball, eventually being noticed by the then-minor league Baltimore Orioles.  From there, his contract was purchased by the major league Boston Red Sox.

Babe and Helen Ruth

The day he arrived in Boston, he met a waitress at a coffee shop named Helen Woodford.  Before long he proposed to her with the line, “How about you and me getting married, hon?” I chuckled at this, as everyone is “hon’ in Baltimore.  🙂  She said yes, and the teenagers were married three months after that first meeting.  Babe went on to become one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.  His 575 foot home run at Navin Field (later Briggs Stadium and then Tiger Stadium) in Detroit still stands as the longest home run in major league history.  His career 714 home runs stood from 1935 until 1974.  Sadly, Ruth died from esophageal cancer at age 53.

The person who broke Babe’s home run record in 1974 was Henry Aaron.  Hammerin’ Hank, an African-American, received hate mail and death threats at the prospect of him breaking Ruth’s record.  After finishing the 1973 season with 713 homers, his biggest fear was that he wouldn’t live to break the record the following year.  He did, and he ended up finishing his career with 755 home runs.  A home run that didn’t count towards that total was one he hit in the 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit.  I was one seat behind the guy who caught it in the upper deck of right-center field.  The ball had a dent in it, resulting in it not flying straight (and me ducking).  My dad so wanted to catch it for me, but the guy in front gave it to his boy, and the kid was overjoyed.  I told Dad, ” That’s ok, Dad…look how happy he is!”

Hank Aaron medals

Aaron was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush for his contributions to the United States.

Another story from the 1971 All Star Game was the home run that Reggie Jackson hit.  We were sitting in the upper deck below the light tower in right-center, which was hidden from our view by the roof above us.  The ball jumped off of Jackson’s bat and he stood in awe (as did the rest of us) as the ball rose high in the Detroit sky and over our heads.  When the ball fell back to the field, we assumed it had hit the roof.  We found out after the game that it actually hit a transformer on the light tower, a whopping 400 feet from home plate.  Had that tower not been there it could have easily surpassed Ruth’s record homer on the same piece of real estate, as the ball was still rising when it hit.

Tiger Stadium at All Star Time Detroit

Because it struck the transformer (see the blue arrow in the photo above), it technically was not hit out of the park.  Diana and I were fortunate enough to witness him finally clear that roof to the right of that arrow in 1984 when he played for the Angels.

There are so many memories for me in that stadium.  With two complete decks circling the field there was a constant level of sound from the crowd, even when nothing exciting was happening.  At the point when something did happen, the place erupted.  When Mom, Dad, Diana and I saw our last game there in 1999, I stopped Dad as he started to walk down the tunnel to leave the stands.  I wanted to get one last glimpse of the field with him, knowing the Tigers were moving across town the next season.  He reluctantly turned, revealing tears in his eyes.  Neither one of us said a word.  We didn’t need to.

Back to Cooperstown.  The Hall of Fame covers all aspects of the game, including the Negro Leagues, the Latin connection. and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.  The latter was founded during World War II to keep baseball in the public eye, as there was a fear that the majors would cease play due to a lack of players.

Grand Rapids Chicks

Teams such as the Grand Rapids Chicks, the Rockford Peaches, and the Kalamazoo Lassies were highlighted in this exhibit and in the movie A League of Their Own.

San DIego Chicken

And who can forget the San Diego Chicken?  🙂

The actual Hall of Fame is the place where the plaques of baseball’s greats are showcased.

Baseball Hall of Fame

It extends to a central point where the original 5 inductees are displayed.

Ty Cobb

Right in the middle of those 5 is Ty Cobb, sporting the Tiger’s Olde English D on his cap. 🙂

Babe Ruth

Next to him is Yankee great Babe Ruth, one of the most beloved players ever.

Hank Aaron

And here is Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, who holds that spot in my heart from 1971.

A couple of the many Tigers in the Hall that are special to me are…

Al Kaline

…another Baltimore native, Al Kaline.  One of the greatest Tigers ever, he started with the team at 18 years old and is still employed by the team at the age of 83.  You may recall our post Al Kaline and a Day with Family that included a giant photo of him that we delivered to Diana’s brother in Florida.  Dan had won a Detroit Free Press contest as a child after he wrote to explain why his school should get the photo, and was dubbed the World’s Greatest Al Kaline Fan.  His school displayed the photo for awhile, then offered it back to Dan.

Sparky Anderson

And a fan favorite, long-time Tiger Manager Sparky Anderson.  Even though he managed many more years with the Tigers than he did with the Reds, he wanted his plaque to have him in a Cincinnati cap, as they were the ones who first took a chance with him.  A classic exchange between him and Kirk Gibson during the 1984 World Series can be seen at the end of this post.

The 1984 Tiger team has two members being inducted into the Hall this year: Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.

Trammel and Morris

The backing plates with their signatures stand ready for their plaques.

Jack Morris

Just outside the Hall is a display with some of Morris’ memorabilia…

Alan Trammel

…along with some of Trammell’s treasures.

Ernie quote

And my all-time favorite Tiger was the guy who penned this quote:  Ernie Harwell.  He was the radio announcer for most of my life.  To most Detroiters, his voice was the music of the game the city loved so much.  Many summer nights were spent listening to him on my transistor radio next to my bed.  His easy Georgia accent was very soothing to listen to.  When a batter took a called third strike, Ernie would say, “He stood there like a house by the side of the road,” and a Tiger home run would result in, “That ball is LOOOOOOONG gone!”  On a foul ball into the stands he would say, “A man from (insert a name of a Michigan town) got that one,” as a way to acknowledge listeners from the region.  As a kid, it took me many years before I realized he really didn’t know where the person who caught the ball was from.  🙂

Ernies mic

Ernie’s microphone is displayed in the Hall of Fame, along with an audio recording of him calling the first inning of the last game ever played at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.  I actually remember listening to that game.

Ernie Harwell

He is enshrined at Cooperstown as a Ford C. Frick Award winner, given to broadcasters for their major contributions to the sport.  A recording of some of his calls can be heard by clicking HERE.

And the Sparky Anderson video can be seen HERE.

Be sure to listen carefully to Sparky’s voice after Gibby’s home run.  It’s classic. 🙂

That wraps up our time in Cooperstown.  Be sure to stay tuned as we head back to Michigan to spend time with family and friends.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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