All posts by exploRVistas

We are full time RVers on a mission to find America's story. We feel that by moving our house to a location and living among the locals for a bit, we allow ourselves the opportunity to understand that area's people. Our motto is "Don't just see it...BE it"©

Deep Roots in the Motor City

Detroit, Michigan.  A city that, to many, represents the heart of the rust belt.  A poster child for urban decay and decline.  Yet this was once the place to be, as it was the birthplace of the mass-produced automobile and the home of some of the most stunning architecture in the country.  Detroit was the fifth largest city in the nation in the 1950’s, with a population of 1.8 million people.  And from a little two-story house on West Grand Boulevard, some of the greatest musicians of our time churned out hits at Motown Records, beginning in January of 1959.  A mere 6 months before that, just a few blocks to the west, I came into this world at Providence Hospital.  That building sat due north of the western tip of Windsor, Ontario, giving me the distinction of being born north of Canada.

My entire world revolved around the Motor City.

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My parental grandfather owned a Willys-Knight and Whippet automobile dealership in the suburb of River Rouge.  Dad himself started out working in the machine shop at Ford Motor Company before pursuing a career in business.  Mom’s dad built huge homes in Indian Village, structures that still command a high dollar to this day.  Mom’s maternal grandfather built all or part of some of the finest churches in the city at the end of the 19th century, along with Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City.

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Indeed, my Detroit roots go back quite a ways.

Being in the city has always made me feel grounded and safe.  That may sound odd to most folks, as Detroit has a reputation as being anything but safe.  Is it a place I want to live again?  Michigan’s winter weather quickly answers that for both of us, as we prefer to bask in the Florida sunshine in January.  Besides, we would much rather to be in natural surroundings over asphalt and concrete.  But there is some magnetic pull that has always been there for me…not so much beckoning me to come back, but more to evoke a calm feeling that I am home when I’m there.  A few years back, flying at night from Baltimore to Grand Rapids, I peered out at the unmistakable outline of Detroit from the air.

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As I gazed over the city, I started picking out landmarks.  Then I estimated where all of my relatives from long ago were buried, and I realized just why that pull was so strong.  I had people scattered over this entire photo…on both sides of the river.

Well, until recently, I had no idea of just how far back those roots went.  Digging into my lineage via Ancestry.com, I found many relatives born in the late 18th century in the region that is now Detroit.  Back then, it was mostly French explorers and settlers.  As I got back to my fifth and sixth great-grandparents, I made a several unique discoveries.  In 1775 my fifth great-grandfather, Claude Charles Moran, was farming his land in northwest Detroit when his brother-in-law brutally stabbed him.  Why, I have no idea.  Unfortunately, that was the fifth of many murders to come in Detroit.  Joseph Hecker, his assassin, was one of only 13 people ever executed in Michigan, being hung from the gallows in the center of the city.

But my family goes even further back than that…

St. Aubin, the street my mom’s grandfather built his house on , was named after an early settler and my sixth great-grandfather, Jean Baptiste Casse dit St. Aubin.  He was around in the first years that Fort Ponchatrain was there.  I can’t even begin to count how many times I referenced that street in my dealings with my maternal great-grandparents.

And the line goes back even further still…

On July 24, 1701, Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac stepped onto the shore of Rivere du Detroit with a party of a hundred or so men to establish Fort Ponchatrain.

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Within a week, the wilderness they landed on became a bustling trading post…and commerce has taken place there ever since.

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In the heart of downtown Detroit, in Hart Plaza, stands this plaque that commemorates the spot where they landed.  The sixth man down the list on the left, Henry Belisle dit Lamarre, is my sixth great-grandfather.  He was a surgeon and was hired to go along on the trip.  Only the Native Americans had set foot on that land previous to their arrival. Indeed, my roots run deep in the Motor City, and its no wonder I feel so grounded there.

As I dig further back, I am finding even more surprises in my lineage.  I will pass those along sometime in the future.  Do you have any interesting people you have found in your ancestry? Is there a place that inexplicably makes you feel grounded and safe? We would love to hear your stories in our comment section below!

2019 Spring and Summer Plans

In our last post, we jumped ahead to what we were planning for in September and October of this year with our trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland.  After quite a bit of trip routing, we are ready to reveal our spring and summer plans!

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Like these pelicans along the shore, we will soon line up with everyone else and fly northward.  Once we get to Jacksonville, we are turning westward for a journey to the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area.  It will be a very busy slate. Look for a spring full of posts about that trip.  We have three months before we have to be back in Michigan to start our volunteer gigs at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  We will be there for two months before heading overseas for a month.  And after that???

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Well, the fact that I installed a flagpole sleeve in the ground at our site in Florida, I guess that’s a pretty good indication of where we will be next winter!  We’ve really come to love it here.  Good friends, good weather and…

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…rocket launches!  This particular launch was the Crew Dragon demonstration mission that SpaceX sent to the International Space Station last week.  The capsule safely returned on Friday about 200 miles off the coast.  Future splashdowns will be within 25 miles of shore, so we should be able to get some photos of them parachuting down.

And an update on our genealogy work:  Diana is finding a plethora of information on her roots that will ensure that we have plenty of places to visit when we get overseas.  She has been able to go way, way back in her lineage.  On my search, I’m currently working between my sixth and tenth great grandparents on my dad’s side.  To let you know how involved that is, every one of us have 256 sixth great-grandparents.  By the time you get to your tenth great-grandparents, that number balloons to 4096 people!  Thanks to the Catholic church records in Canada, there is a record of most every one of mine.  And I know that there are several hints waiting to take me beyond that level.  Time will tell what I find on my mom’s German side.

We’ve also found time to have fun with our friends in the area.

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We checked out the St Katherine’s Greek Festival one day with Fred and Bonnie.  It was fun to see the dancers doing traditional Greek dances in their costumes.

We also met our friends Jim and Sue, who were down from Alton, Illinois to see their son Jake pitch for Fontbonne University.

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He didn’t end up pitching that afternoon, but he did start today.  He got the win, and the team is 10-0 on the year so far.

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The four of us rented a nice home on Airbnb which worked out extremely well.  What a great time!

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So as our time winds down for the year in Melbourne Beach, be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming posts as we head west.  Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

Beyond the Horizon

It all started by spitting into a glass tube.

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At the urging of our niece, Diana and I purchased DNA tests through Ancestry© while they were having their Black Friday sale.  Diana received her results before I did and it was almost exclusively from the United Kingdom and Ireland.  As she began to work on her family tree, she uncovered places we never knew existed.  Generation by generation, she stepped her way back past the reign of King Henry VIII to the end of the Middle Ages.  It didn’t take long for me to say to her “We need to go over there.”

Having never been outside the US and Canada, we were not sure how a trip like this would even look.  A visit to AAA to speak with a travel agent quickly eliminated joining a tour group, as we are going to need time to explore in each of her ancestral regions. Would we rent a car and find lodging in each locale?  If you’ve followed us for any length of time, you know that is not how we roll. 🙂

Enter a YouTube video by the RV Geeks.

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There is a link to it at the end of the post.  In it, they talk about their trip around the United Kingdom in a small motorhome.  The video even addresses the one issue with motoring on the British Isles…

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…which is driving on the opposite side of the road while sitting on the right hand side of the vehicle.  🙂  According to them, it is more of an adjustment for the passenger, as that person is in the spot where there should be a way to drive the motorhome!  No worries, as it is said that if you can get through the first fifteen minutes, you’ve got it made.  We will see about that…

Let the planning begin!  First thing we did was establish the time we had available to go.  As we will be returning to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (news flash!) for the months of July and August, we set aside most of September and early October.  We quickly discovered that the monetary exchange rate between the British Pound and the US Dollar is currently favorable to us, which might change in the next few months because of the Brexit issue.  The more things we can purchase now, the better.

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First order of business was round trip tickets between Chicago and London.  We booked flights on British Airways, which includes a ride on the new double-decker A-380 on the way there.

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Once there, we will spend four full days touring the city from an Airbnb in the Chelsea district.  After that, we take a train to the motorhome rental facility outside of town and head off for a month of exploring new vistas!

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We will cover most of what is seen on the above map.  While is seems like a huge area…

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…it looks a lot more manageable when you compare it to Texas.  Although, as most of us know, Texas is a big state!

To plan the route, we gathered several reference books and maps, and Diana pinpointed the places where her family came from.

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We grabbed a study room with a view at the local library and mapped out our route.  We have found that detailed planning actually offers us more flexibility than just winging it, as we don’t need to burden ourselves with finding a place to spend the night while we are there.  We decided against boondocking as we want to be plugged into electric each night, so we want to nail down our campgrounds now.  As said earlier, we don’t know what the exchange rate will be in September, so we are paying in full now.  We are also booking the ferry between Scotland and Belfast at this time, as that price will go up as the passage nears.  We did purchase trip insurance, which makes us feel more comfortable with making all of these reservations.

So, in early September, we are going to store our rig and vehicles in Grand Rapids at a friend’s home in the country.  Many thanks to them for their hospitality!  Also, our friend Ron tipped us off to the money-saving idea of renting one way cars to Chicago and back, as compared to the cost (and worry) of parking the Escape near O’Hare for a month. Huge score…thanks, Ron!  We’ve also asked for some tips from our friends Linda and Steven, as they are going to be living across the Atlantic for the next several years and motorhoming in Europe.  If the stars align, we may even find time for a pint at a pub with them while we are there.

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Be sure to follow along with us as we discover places new to us, using a mode of travel we are familiar with.  Of course going from our usual 5th wheel and two vehicles, to a small European motorhome will be an adjustment. Maybe we will find we like it better. Also, if you’ve done the math, we sort of skipped over what we are doing in April, May and June.  We are going to save that for our next post, as that is still in the rough draft stages.  And future years may have us exploring my French, French-Canadian, and German roots, along with Diana’s family’s path across Colonial America. Lots to explore, for sure.

Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

You can view the RV Geeks video by clicking HERE

 

 

Hanging Out on the Space Coast

Hmmmm….where have Jim and Diana been?  No, we haven’t been eaten by sharks or drifted northeast on the Gulf Stream with the sea turtles.  It’s January, which means it is time to catch up on our annual chores and to plan our travels for the year ahead.  We’ve also been hanging out with our friends here in Melbourne Beach, which is always fun.  🙂  The only thing that has been missing is the parade of rockets flying by from Cape Canaveral, as a slew of missions have been pushed into February.  So, without further adieu…

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On New Years Day, the Melbourne Beach Historical Society held a walking tour of the town’s historic district.  Fred, Bonnie, Diana and I tagged along, as we all wanted to know more about the area’s past.  While the area is rich with history, our presenter failed to deliver the story in the riveting manner it deserved.  We also picked up on the fact that impartiality was not his forte.  He is handing over the reigns to a new historian next year, so we will be sure to check that presentation out.

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And remember Cuki the sailboat?  Hurricane Irma ripped her loose from her mooring in Key West and sent her on a 350 mile journey to our beach back in 2017.  Time, vandals, and the ocean had not been kind to her, with her masts and fittings disappearing in that period.

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With the ship being buried in sand to its’ inland gunwale, the decision was made to haul it away in a couple of refuse roll-offs.  It was a mess, to say the least.

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Speaking of fiberglass; our rig was ready for it’s annual wax job.

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Look at that shine!  I can’t say enough about that three-part Meguiar’s restoration system I use.

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We get it through Amazon, but I’m pretty sure West Marine carries it also.  We also want to give a shout out to whoever manufactured the decals for our 2007 Colorado fifth wheel.  Twelve years of sitting outside and they look practically new.  They are proof that it IS possible to make decals that stay put and look good.

While I was waxing, Diana was deep into her genealogy. We both signed up for Ancestry DNA when the kits were on sale on Black Friday.  She has been building her family tree, which has been very fun!  I am starting my tree this weekend, as I delayed the start to allow time to finish my UPS job and the annual rig maintenance.  We have to say that Ancestry.com is very good at what they do, and they have been very helpful to Diana on her journey to discover her family’s origins.  The amount of information contained in their database is mind boggling.  We’ve also become huge fans of the PBS show Finding Your Roots, which is hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.   Check your local listings and give it a look.  It is fascinating!

We also have an update on the powered parachute pilot who got tangled in the utility lines near us.  Dima had been in an induced coma since the middle of November until recently, while the doctors in Orlando worked to repair his broken spine and graft his burns.  It was a tough few months.

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Needless to say, we were thrilled to see this photo that his wife Katya posted the other day.  🙂  He is one lucky man.

Midway through my waxing duties, Jerry and Ron invited me to tag along on a trip to the Mecum Auction in Kissimmee.

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We went on a Tuesday, which was not an active auction day.  That meant there were less crowds!

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Here is a predecessor to my truck, Henry.  Those front fenders are wide enough to land a plane on!

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And here is a salmon Edsel convertible.  Diana’s Escape, Edsel 2, would be proud.

While the auction was mostly cars…close to three thousand of them… there were a few boats sprinkled in.

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This Gar Wood boat was built in Detroit.

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My paternal grandfather had a boat similar to this.  Top speed on this beauty was in excess of 70 miles an hour!

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If there is one car that has consistently taken my breath away, it is a Candy Apple Red 1969 Boss Mustang.  My dad once acted as an agent for a guy who wanted his sold.  Mom wasn’t too thrilled when Dad took her to church in it one Sunday…although I detected a twinkle in his eye. 🙂

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Looks like the value of these things have gone up a bit.  Talk about taking your breath away!  We all agreed that we’ve never seen so many near-perfect cars in one place, and the three of us have seen our share of vehicles in our time.  The cool thing about the auction is that you are allowed to sit in most of the vehicles.  Being able to do that brought back a lot of memories for us.

January has seen a group of us checking out the local music venues.

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Here is Libby, Linda, Jerry, Nancy, Ron and us at Summer Crush Winery in Fort Pierce a few weeks ago.  The venue was hosting a Corvette show, so us guys got another dose of nice cars.  🙂

So until next time…

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we will be watching the sunsets…

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and the moonrises.  We’ll be back with an update on our 2019 travel plans in early February, as we should have everything in place by then.  It is going to be an exciting year, to say the least!  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

 

A Very Social 2018 in Pictures

Diana and I were fortunate to have been in the presence of many wonderful people this past year.  While we don’t have photos of everyone we met up with (our apologies!), we enjoyed each and every meetup.  Each photo will have the name of the person and where we saw each other.  We hope you enjoy our little picture summary of our past year.  🙂

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Rick, in Florida and Georgia.

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Our Godson Josh and his bride Jaclyn, in Illinois.

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Jared, Cheryl, Dan, Becky, Doug, in Michigan.  We also saw Doug and Cheryl in Florida.

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Jerry and Linda, in Rhode Island and Florida.

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Paul, in Connecticut.

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Kathy, in South Carolina and New York.

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Ellen, in Pennsylvania.

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Jim and Brenda, in South Carolina and Florida.

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Left to right, after us: Nancy, Ron, Nick, Betty, Linda and Jerry, in Florida.

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Jake, in Florida and Illinois.

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Shari, in New York City.

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Left to right after us: Nancy, Bill, Sharon and David, in South Carolina.

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Phyllis and Bernie, in Florida.

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Paul and JoAnn on the left, Jeff and Sonja on the right, Rod and Mary in front, in Florida.  We also saw Rod and Mary in Michigan.

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MonaLiza and Steve, in Florida.

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Bonnie and Fred, in Florida and New York.

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Rick and Debbie, in Michigan.

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Sue and John, in Michigan.

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Judy and Dale, in Michigan and Florida.

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Nancy and David, in Michigan.

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Left to right: Sarah, Brian, Mike, Cindy, Bill, Christine, Nina, Billy, Alissa, Karen, Sheryl, Paul and us, in Illinois.

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Jodee and Bill, both in Michigan and in Florida.

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Linda and Steven, in Michigan.

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Lane and Patti (not in photo), in Michigan.

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Mike and Cindy, in Michigan.

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Jim’s Aunt Marge, in Indiana.

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Phillip and Marlene, in Vermont.

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Our WMU Homecoming crew, in Michigan.

We had a fantastic 2018, and we are grateful to have each and every one of our friends and family in our lives.  If we weren’t able to meet up with you in 2018, let’s hope our roads converge in the new year!  Safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

The Past Beneath Your Feet

As most of you know, I have spent the last two Christmas seasons delivering packages for UPS on a golf cart.  Last year I had a great route in a gated community that was, unfortunately, an hour away from our rig.  That cut heavily into the profits I was making, so I pushed management this year to give me a closer route.  After working a route about 15 minutes away for a few weeks, the neighborhood I wanted that was 3 miles from home opened up in the town of Indialantic-by-the-Sea.  In the photo below, the area I was responsible for is outlined in red.  The pod I worked from was where the yellow dot is across from Wendy’s. More on that light blue circle in a minute…

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A typical day would be somewhere in the vicinity of 90 stops and 120 packages, topping out one day at 156 stops and 210 packages.

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Here is my pod on one of the busiest days.  It was also one of my rainiest days, and I had to tarp my 3rd, 4th and 5th loads.

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Here is my cart with the first load ready to go.  Somebody is having Omaha steaks for Christmas!

The lot where my pod was located was about a hundred yards from the beach…meaning it was mostly comprised of sand.

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Several of the drivers bringing us our freight had issues with their 26 foot U-Hauls.  Fortunately, I own a 4 wheel drive Ford and a tow strap.  After the third time, I left the holes so future drivers would avoid this area.  That worked.

So back to the map and that light blue circle.  On my first day, not yet being familiar with the route, I loaded up my packages in order of the numbered streets: 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and so on.  When I headed down 9th Street, I realized that the name had changed to Tradewinds Terrace, and that it interrupted the east/west flow of my deliveries.  Hmmmm…how did we go from a grid with streets and avenues to an oddball street named Tradewinds Terrace cutting across the checkerboard???  Well, I continued on my way, adjusting the method I used to deliver the packages.  I put the odd little street in the back of my mind and continued on.

Next thing I noticed is that most of the houses were built in the early 1960’s.  That is consistent with the need for housing when Kennedy Space Center was in its’ heyday of sending men to the moon.  Some of those homes have since been torn down and larger homes have been put in their place.  But every so often, there would be an old Spanish style home sprinkled in.  Looking at them, I figured they were from the 1920’s.  Couple that with the fact that the streets were only a car and a half wide, I began to wonder just when the neighborhood was originally developed.  A quick Google search led me down a very interesting path.  I’ve always said that it does not matter how common a place seems, something interesting probably happened there at one time.  Indialantic-by-the-Sea tuned out to be just such a place.

In the late 1800’s, the area north of Melbourne Beach and south of what is now Cocoa Beach was a series of pineapple plantations.  Hard freezes in 1894 and 1895 wiped out the pineapple industry, and the land remained uninhabited for a number of years.  The only way to get to the barrier island was by boat.  In 1915, a man named Ernest Kouwen-Hoven brought his family to Melbourne from Chicago for health reasons.  Staying at the Carelton Hotel, he was intrigued by the land he could see in the distance across the Indian River.  The following year, he began buying up that land and laying out streets.  Before too long, he had a wooden bridge built from the mainland to the barrier island, which opened up the area for development.  The current causeway is named after him.

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By the mid 1920’s, the streets that would become my UPS route were mostly in place, except for a large parcel in the middle of it that contained a hotel and a golf course.  At first, the hotel was named the Indialantic Hotel after the development of the same name.  Indialantic is a combination of Indian River and Atlantic Ocean, the two bodies of water that the town lies between.  The hotel’s shadow can be seen just to the right of the number ’14’ on the photo above.

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The  hotel saw many famous guests, the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Jack Benny and Werner von Braun, to name a few.

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As seen in the photo above, the accommodations were quite luxurious for that time.  The Great Depression put a crimp on the development in the area, and the smattering of 1920’s era homes sat without many neighbors.

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By the early 1950’s, development began to increase again, and the golf course was sold off.  The hotel itself remained, renamed the Trade Winds Club.  Ahhhh…. now that street name is starting to make sense!  By the mid 1980’s, time had taken it’s toll on the structure, and the salty sand used in the concrete during construction compromised the steel beams to a point that the hotel had to be demolished.  A north/south street named Tradewinds Terrace was put in, running right through the location of the former lobby in the interior photo above.

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This spot, as close as I can tell, is the same spot where that lobby photo was taken.  Who would’ve known that this common subdivision had such an uncommon past?  The clues were there; all I had to do was follow them.

As a bonus, I was fortunate to be able to deliver packages to many of the older homes in the area.

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This one is owned by the famous undersea explorer, Robert Marx.  It is fabulous.

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There is also a photo online of an old apartment building from 1926 called The Palms.

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Here it is today, virtually unchanged.

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I had to run a package upstairs to one of the residents, which revealed this lovely common area.  The stairs creaked like an old Woolworth store.  🙂

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And to keep me on my toes, I delivered to this beauty a few times.  Walking through the ornate iron gate to the gigantic front door, I was sure this was one of those grand old Indialantic homes.  That was until I pulled it up on Google Street View to show Diana:

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This is the same corner not too long ago.  The house is brand new, and all that established-looking landscaping is also!  The homeowners are the nicest people, leaving Ghirardelli chocolates and San Pellegrino water out for the delivery guys.

I really enjoyed the new route.  With the houses all being different, it kept things interesting.

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The Christmas decorations were great, including Snoopy on his Zamboni.  They must’ve known this old ice rink rat was going to be delivering for them.

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I even looked up while driving north one day to see SpaceX sending a Falcon 9 towards the ISS.  This is the one where the booster landed in the ocean and was floated back to port.  All in all, it was a fun neighborhood to deliver packages in!

So wherever you are, stop and think for a minute what may have happened there in the past.  Look for the clues that point the way.  No matter how mundane the place may seem now, the history beneath it may surprise you. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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!