Category Archives: Family

MacGregor Despite Them, Shall Flourish Forever!

September 13-19, 2019 – Scotland

Written by Diana

My maternal great-grandmother was born a McGregor. That meant little to me, until I started researching my genealogy a year ago. Her father, William McGregor, was born in Scotland and immigrated with his parents to New York, NY in 1829 at 3 years old. Later they immigrated to Canada, and eventually William immigrated to the U.S. with his wife. I have been able to trace this family line back to my 5th great-grand father who was born in Scotland about 1745. The reason I am not able to go beyond this may be that the MacGregor name was banned for almost 200 years! Yes, you heard right, outlawed.

Clan Gregor is one of the oldest clans in Scotland. They are descended from Kenneth MacAlpin, the king who united Scotland back in the 13th century. Thus their motto was: Royal is my race. The MacGregors lost much of their land through the years for various reasons. Eventually they were set up to lose a battle with another clan, but won even though they were very outnumbered. This upset folks as they said they didn’t fight fair, so they became victims of proscription. From 1603-1775 MacGregors could not use the MacGregor name, were legally hunted down, tortured and/or beheaded. They could not own land, weapons, or even a knife. They were referred to as “Children of the Mist” because they escaped to the highlands to avoid capture. Many changed their names. As you can imagine, learning this story was very upsetting to me.

The good news is that after the punishment of proscription was lifted in 1775, many families went back to using their MacGregor name and have been successful both in Scotland as well as numerous countries around the world. So the Clan MacGregor motto is now, “MacGregor despite them, shall flourish forever!” We visited several sites while exploring Scotland that relate to my proud MacGregor heritage.

September 13, 2019

While enjoying the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, we made it a point to find the Heart of Midlothian Mosaic. This is the site of the former jail where the MacGregor chief was quartered then hung, and 30 warriors were hung in the spring of 1604. This was all done as the public gathered to view the spectacle. Scots spit on it. As we were approaching a tour guide was explaining the tradition to his group. I spit on it with gusto and he commented, “And there you have it.” I felt it was the least I could do to express my disgust at the treatment my ancestors received.

September 14, 2019

We visited Castle Menzies because they have been gracious enough to provide a room for the Clan Gregor Museum. It was wonderful to see the displays and to learn more about the history of the clan. I really appreciated the staff answering my many questions and helping me to understand more about my family tree. My 5th great-grandfather was married to Janet Fleming. She said that the name Fleming was used for Flemish weavers that were brought to the area to weave the sheep wool.

I was very excited, as you can see! So much planning, and we were finally here.

After leaving the castle we headed to the Pitlochry Highland Games. This has been an annual event since 1852. It was great fun! Many events were taking place at the same time; including races, bag pipes, Scottish dancers, and other traditional Highland games. There were all levels of participants, from local school children to professionals. They even had a tent for international visitors were they treated us to a plate of goodies and a glass of wine. I enjoyed wearing my new hat and scarf, made with MacGregor tartan. Below a contestant is competing in the hammer throw.

September 19, 2019

We visited the Glenorchy Parish Church where there are historic MacGregor graves from 600 years ago. These stones of the leaders of Clan Gregor were once inside the church, but were long ago placed out in the weather. The Dalmally Stones Project is an effort to protect and restore these stones, but unfortunately it may soon be too late.

The Kilchurn Castle is castle ruins in MacGregor territory. MacGregors were caretakers here, and possibly built the castle. It later was given to another clan. We really enjoyed exploring the many levels of the castle and enjoying the view out to Loch Awe.

We made a somber visit to the Glen Fruin Memorial, site of the battle that led to the proscription of the MacGregor Clan. It serves as a modern memorial whose wording was agreed to by the families of both of the clans involved. Both sides suffered in this glen on Feb. 7, 1603.

Thank you to my third cousin Robert Fay, who I’ve gotten to know through ancestry.com, for providing this photo of our 2nd great grandfather William McGregor.

Note for my Halstead side: My father’s mother was Ethel Glass. Her mother was Ellen Swift, and her mother was Sarah Athere Narrin. The Narrin’s seem to go back to Scotland, but I haven’t nailed down the details yet. The original Glass family name also goes back to Scotland, but I haven’t been able to trace my Glass roots across the pond. I have Glass ancestors being born in the U.S. in 1755.

Next up, we continue our tour of the Scottish Highlands and its beautiful scenery. Be sure to stay tuned for that. Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

Now That We’re East…Let’s Go West!

Southern California – July 5-8, 2019

No sooner did we settle into our spot at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, than we flew back out of Traverse City to San Diego, California.  This trip was made to celebrate Diana’s uncle and step-aunt’s 90th birthdays.  We had seen them back in 2017 and really wanted to be there to celebrate with them.  Don’s children, Barry and Sandy, made plans for a grand birthday party to ensure the day would be extra special.

IMG_3008 (2)

Walking into the terminal in San Diego, a replica of the Spirit of St. Louis hung from the ceiling.  Ryan Airlines in San Diego built the original version for Charles Lindbergh, in which he was the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean nonstop in 1927.

IMG_3010 (2)

The airport also has this sculpture in their rental car center called Hive.  If you look closely, you will notice that it is comprised of 2200 Ford F-150 rear view mirrors.  Not to worry…Ford owners know that once you hit the gas, these are not needed. 🙂

Our base of operations was this cool little Airbnb in Temecula.

IMG_3022 (2)

This gem is hosted by Naomi and is called the Olive Tree Cottage.  We highly recommend it, if you find yourself in the area.  Also, note the SUV.  Since Hertz was out of Fords, we grabbed this Buick from the Gold lineup, in honor of Uncle Bob.  You may recall that he and his wife Marion passed within the last year. He spent his entire career at Buick in Flint.  This Encore was a fun little ride, but it couldn’t hold a candle to our Escape.

And here is a fun little slo-mo I took of the hummingbirds playing by the feeder on the porch:

 

It’s amazing to watch how they use their tails to keep still.

Friday afternoon we met up with Diana’s cousins Debbie (who flew in from Michigan), Barry, and his wife Dawn. We had a great time exploring Temecula. After a long day of flying and visiting, we settled in back at the cottage for the evening. Diana heard the closet door rhythmically rattle and thought ghost???  It couldn’t be…this place is too new.  I was sitting on the edge of the bed taking my shoes off and noticed the entire bed moving.  Was I still on the plane?  No, it was the Ridgecrest 7.1 earthquake, nearly 150 miles away from us!  No damage in Temecula…only a gentle rocking back and forth.  It took awhile for the chains on the ceiling fan to stop swaying.  🙂

The next day was the party, which was held in Escondido.  Around 120 relatives and friends were there to celebrate with Don and Barb, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

P1020358 (2)

This is Barb and Don with Sandy and Barry behind them.

P1020352 (2)

Here is Diana with her cousin Wyatt.  His twin brother Wesley was there also, so it was good they had name tags.  🙂

IMG_3038 (2)

And here is Diana with her cousins Debbie (Marion & Bob’s daughter), Evie (Ken & Margery’s daughter), Sandy (Lucille & Don’s daughter) and close family friend Jan.

P1020445 (2)

Don addressed the gathering, starting with “I’d like to say a couple of words.  Thank you.” He and Barb were highly appreciative of the outpouring of love that was sent their way.

The next day, several of us met for lunch and then went to Barry and Dawn’s place in Sun City for the afternoon.  It was a nice wrap up to a great weekend.  We flew home on Monday, passing several of the sites we had seen on our trip west earlier this year.

IMG_2170 (2)

Here is the western edge of the Grand Canyon.  The thing I find amazing about this photo is the fact you can make out the curvature of the earth at 36,000 feet!

IMG_2171 (2)

Here are the Coral Pink Sand Dunes.  We didn’t have the time to visit them, but we were in the vicinity.

IMG_3069 (2)

And here is Bryce Canyon from the west side.  Rainbow Point is to the right and Sunrise Point and Sunset Point are to the left.  We even flew directly over Jim and Barb’s bardominium in South Dakota.  🙂

IMG_3045 (2)

It certainly was a great weekend in Southern California.  We are so glad we were able to celebrate with this charming pair.  🙂  We will see them at their 95th!

Next up:  We reunite with friends in Leelanau, and find new adventures in Northern Michigan.  All this while preparing for our trip to the UK in September.  That will be here before you know it.  Look for that in our next Saturday morning post.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

 

Playing Catch-up

With our truck issues putting us a week behind, we had some serious catching up to do on our trip west. Part of the reason for that was we wanted to visit family in Texas, and we were fearful that window had closed.  Fortunately the people we were visiting were able to reschedule one day later, so all was good. With that, we were off to the races!

The new truck ran like a champ across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.  Hank the Deuce has much more power than the 2008 F-350 and better fuel mileage to boot.  I had to learn about DEF and exhaust brakes, as my old truck had neither.  The other thing it didn’t have was a sunroof.

CDBA885B-99C1-4326-92D1-556AD8A5FC9F

This one makes up for that in a big way!  While this wasn’t something we were looking for in a new truck, the fact it was on it wasn’t going to keep us from purchasing the vehicle.  Turns out, it’s a handy way to keep an eye on Ketchup and Mustard!

We rolled into Waxahachie, Texas on Saturday, quickly set up the rig and headed into town.

IMG_2135 (2)

Once there, we met up with Thomas and Marlana.  Thomas is Diana’s first cousin-once removed on her father’s side of the family. He is her cousin Nancy and David’s son. It is always wonderful being able to spend time with them.  🙂

The next day we headed to Waco to meet-up with Seth, Diana’s first cousin-twice removed on her mother’s side of the family.  He is her cousin Deb’s grandson.

IMG_0586 (2)

We visited Waco Mammoth National Monument. This is an interesting place where flooding along the Bosque River drowned an entire herd of Columbian Mammoths during the Ice Age.  The find was discovered in 1978 by two men looking for arrowheads.  During their search, they found a femur protruding from an eroded bank.  Between that time and 1997, twenty-two mammoths were unearthed, and more continue to be found to this day.

After that, we ate lunch at Rudy’s.

IMG_2139 (2)

Seth recently joined the Army and is being trained to drive Bradley tanks at Fort Hood.  It was great to catch up with him and hear about his experiences.  He will be deploying to Korea soon.  We wish him well and are appreciate his service to our country.  🙂

Once we arrived in Vernon, Texas, we were back on schedule!  Vernon is the hometown of both Roy Orbison and former Federal prosecutor, Kenneth Starr.  The area was once named Eagle Springs by the Tonkawa Indians.  When settlers applied for the name Eagle Flats, the U.S. Post Office nixed the name as Texas already had too many towns with the word Eagle in it.  They chose Vernon instead, in honor of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home.

From Vernon, we moved on to Amarillo.  First stop: Cadillac Ranch!

IMG_0591 (2)

Something about this kitchy art installation spoke to us that we were finally on our way west.

IMG_0602 (2)

Or maybe we had entered the Twilight Zone!

IMG_0597 (2)

Anyone who has ever driven an early 1950’s Cadillac will know that this is where the gas goes in the tank.  My grandpa owned a couple of them, and I would have great fun pulling into a full service station in the 1970’s and asking for a fill-up.  I’d let the attendant walk around the car in frustration, looking for the cap.

273db854624ebac968ec6e2c047e5af2 (2)

When they finally gave up, I’d jump out and push in the reflector, lift up the taillight and reveal the gas cap.  🙂

IMG_0606 (2)

We doubt these cars will ever rust away, as there are hundreds of coats of spray paint on them.

We also went to dinner at Saltgrass while we were in town.

eZy Watermark_11-04-2019_04-43-02AM (2)

Two things about this photo:  One, it isn’t very often that a restaurant serves warm gluten-free bread with my meal.  Much appreciated, believe me.  Also, my new glasses are on the table, immediately to my right and out of the photo.  While trying to clean them, the screw came out for the second time.  I’ve also had the screws pop out of my new prescription sunglasses multiple times.  Moral of the story is: while the prices at Costco Optical may seem enticing, be aware that there may be a trade-off in the quality of the product.  I’m only saying this because I had previously recommended their service on Facebook.

We also found a great place to do laundry, the Tornado Laundromat.

eZy Watermark_11-04-2019_04-45-26AM (2)

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the size of the folding tables!

The facility was spotless.  Diana commented to this attendant that she had “never seen anyone do that”, in reference to her cleaning out the soap dispenser with a paint brush.  She quickly replied “What….clean?”  We all got a chuckle out of that.  🙂  We really appreciated her hard work.

From there, we explored Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

IMG_2164 (2)

This is actually the second largest canyon in the United States!  A road was extended into the canyon by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1930’s.  While our visit on Wednesday was during a high wind event, the winds seemed to go over the top of us. That made our day an enjoyable one.

IMG_0615 (2)

The facilities in this park are top-notch.  This is the patio at the conference center. They also offer several campgrounds, some that can accommodate large RV’s.

IMG_0642 (2)

The views within the park are outstanding!

With that, we headed west towards Santa Fe.  Stay tuned for what we find there and beyond.  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

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.

s-l1600

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.

download

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.

0E210363-2E2B-41FA-BE21-96F4AB444D7F

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.

cadillaclanding

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

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.  🙂

IMG_8587

Rick, in Florida and Georgia.

temp (29)

Our Godson Josh and his bride Jaclyn, in Illinois.

temp (3)

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

IMG_9518 (1)

Jerry and Linda, in Rhode Island and Florida.

IMG_9509

Paul, in Connecticut.

IMG_9493

Kathy, in South Carolina and New York.

IMG_9235

Ellen, in Pennsylvania.

IMG_9022

Jim and Brenda, in South Carolina and Florida.

IMG_8809 (1)

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

IMG_8790

Jake, in Florida and Illinois.

IMG_6725

Shari, in New York City.

IMG_3489

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

IMG_3401

Phyllis and Bernie, in Florida.

IMG_1621

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.

IMG_1588

MonaLiza and Steve, in Florida.

IMG_1405

Bonnie and Fred, in Florida and New York.

IMG_1001 (2)

Rick and Debbie, in Michigan.

IMG_0902

Sue and John, in Michigan.

IMG_0901

Judy and Dale, in Michigan and Florida.

IMG_0880

Nancy and David, in Michigan.

IMG_0680

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

IMG_0386 (1)

Jodee and Bill, both in Michigan and in Florida.

IMG_0345 (1)

Linda and Steven, in Michigan.

IMG_0314

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

IMG_0289

Mike and Cindy, in Michigan.

IMG_0283

Jim’s Aunt Marge, in Indiana.

IMG_0051 (1)

Phillip and Marlene, in Vermont.

IMG_70501 (1)

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!

 

 

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:

IMG_0900

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!

IMG_0903

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.

IMG_0878

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.

temp (28)

All that water makes for a dynamic sky.  🙂

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

IMG_0361

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.

temp (27)

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.  🙂

IMG_0994

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.

IMG_0997

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.

IMG_1001

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.

IMG_1028

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!

IMG_70501

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….

IMG_1052

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

IMG_1045

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.

temp (1)

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!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Perfect Timing in New York City

May 11, 2018 – New York City, New York

When most fulltime RVers choose travel destinations, they envision trees, rivers, and views from lofty heights.  Many look for places where they can hike long distances in natural surroundings.  On May 11, we found the perfect place to accomplish all of that:  New York City. This post deals with how we navigated the first of two days on Manhattan Island…all with serendipitous timing.

This wasn’t our first time in New York City.  We had come here as part of our 25th anniversary trip back in 2007, so we knew how to get around the metro area.  Back then, our friends Karen and Bill had told us of a KOA up in Newburgh, NY that was convenient to the Beacon train station.  That campground also had a woman who would walk our dog Jenny for a donation to KOA Care Camps for children dealing with cancer.  That worked well for us on our two trips into the city that year, allowing us to stay into the evening.  So this time around, we chose the same campground for our week-long stay.  Even though Jenny is no longer with us, we were happy to see that Carol is still there taking care of the pups.  And by a stroke of pure luck, our friend Kathy was working there.  You might remember her from our Charleston post.  We had no firm plans this trip, just a list of possible things to do in the area.

On Friday, May 11, we were drinking our coffee in our PJ’s and trying to decide our schedule for the week.  A quick look at the Weather Channel revealed rain and low temperatures in the forecast for most of our stay,  which meant the best day weather-wise was upon us.  Time to get moving.  We grabbed showers, sandwiches, sunglasses, water, and we were out the door!  Looking at the train schedule, we knew we were going to be close to making the 10:08.  The next train wouldn’t be for another hour, so we really wanted to catch it.  With it being 11 years since our last visit, we weren’t exactly sure the details of accomplishing that feat.  Well if there are two attributes to New Yorkers, it is that they are efficient and willing to help.  After a very quick transaction with the smiling toll collector on the Hudson River bridge, we were in the parking lot at the station.  “Toot-toooooot” … we could hear the Metro North coming!  We ran for the platform and quickly navigated the parking pay station (pay by plate) and up the stairs for the bridge over the tracks.  We passed a woman and asked if we could buy tickets on the train. “Yes, but it will cost you more,” she said without missing a beat.  Ok, so onto the platform, I quickly paid for two tickets in the vending machine as the train came in.  We literally grabbed them, turned to our left and stepped on the train. Ahhhhh….we had an hour-plus to chill. 🙂

z16

The beauty of riding this route is that it runs along the Hudson River the entire way.  The valley is lined with steep basalt cliffs known as the Palisades.  We could see the castle-like U.S. Military Academy at West Point across the river, along with many beautiful old homes, countless boats, and a fair amount of waterfowl. It is here that I will note that the two train cars furthest from the city (last ones inbound and first ones outbound) are now designated quiet cars.  That is probably a result of our incessant talking and newspaper rattling back in 2007, that resulted in a few glares from the commuters.  🙂

While we were rolling along Diana texted our friend Shari, a professor at Rutgers close by in New Jersey, because we had tentative plans to meet her in New York City that weekend.  She commented that we should be going today, as the weather was so beautiful. Diana responded that we were on way, and asked “Are you in?” She was in the middle of getting her hair done, but was able to grab a bus into the city immediately afterwards.  We made plans to meet for a late lunch at 2:30. We love it when a plan comes together!

Shari was the one who taught us how to navigate the subway system our last time here.  Back then, we toured Greenwich Village, Soho, and the Garment District with her.  We even ended up on CBS Sunday Morning, when we walked into Blue Ribbon Bakery.  They were doing a story about picnics.  Check it out HERE, between 17 and 22 seconds on the video (our five seconds of fame).  I’m the one in the Hawaiian shirt.

As we approached the city, the train slid underground for the final few miles to our destination.  Once inside Grand Central Terminal, we walked up into the main concourse.

z4

We never get tired of seeing this beautiful building!  Financed by the Vanderbilts, this huge structure was completed in 1913.  In this photo, we are actually one level below the streets.  There are 44 train platforms…the most at any terminal in the world… along with three subway lines that intersect here.  A very busy place that, despite the volume of people, works exceedingly well.

Once on the street, we had three hours until we were to meet up with Shari at the intersection of Gansevoort and Washington…about 2.5 miles away.  Plenty of time to take a hike and catch that lofty view I referred to earlier.  We spotted a North Face store across from the station; after all…you would fully expect to find an outdoor store here.  😉  We were wanting a smaller day pack, and the people inside were able to help us accomplish that.  Out the door we headed for the second highest spot in the city, the Empire State Building!  Quickly navigating the mostly-empty queues (due to it being a weekday in early spring), we were soon outside on the 86th floor observatory.

z6

I looked up to see if King Kong was on the mast, just in case.  Nope…we were good.  Amazingly, this 1454 foot tall tower took only a little more than 13 months to build.

z11

Looking north, you can see Central Park beyond the tall buildings.  Lots of construction can be seen, as this city is constantly changing.

z13

This is looking west-northwest.  If you had been here on January 15, 2009, you could have seen Captain Sully land his plane on the Hudson from this point.

z12

This view is northeast, with the art-deco Chrysler building to the left and the East River behind.  I noticed that it was actually somewhat quiet up on the observatory deck, even though you could hear the street traffic far below.

z7

And the view south towards the Freedom Tower.  The Statue of Liberty can be seen to the right in the distance.  The Flatiron building is in the foreground on the point.  Amazingly, it was once one of the tallest buildings in New York when it was completed in 1902.

Once we were done, we rode the subway down to 14th Street.  From there we hoofed it to a restaurant called Bubby’s to meet Shari.  We exchanged hugs at 2:31….not bad!  🙂  The cafe had recently had a kitchen fire, so they were going to be opening up for the first time in a week later that afternoon.  Instead we ate at another place named High Street on Hudson, which was very good.  After that we did a little shopping.  She took us into a Christian Louboutin shoe store. Known for their red soles, the prices started at around $300 and rose quickly from there.  Not that any of us were buying, but it was fun to see how the other half shops!  We then headed to the southern end of the High Line.

z5

What is the High Line you ask?  It is a former elevated railway that carried freight to southern Manhattan.  It opened as a 1.45 mile long linear city park in 2009.  Talk about nature!

z10

They left the tracks and incorporated the landscaping around them.

z14

Check out the trillium and the ferns.  Are we in Leelanau?

z8

Looking up reveals we weren’t.  🙂  Hey…we were just up on top of that tower!

z9

And here is a dandy bit of construction going on.  That crane is level and plumb.  Look closely at the tower.  They are building it to be tilted like that.  I’m assuming it is an optical illusion that the floors themselves look slanted.  Go figure!

zzz

Shari took this photo of us on this cool park feature.  It is built like a theater with windows at the front.  People are able to sit and watch as traffic on 10th Avenue zips out from under them.  Nice place to hang out and play the license plate game.  🙂

After we walked the entire length of the High Line, we grabbed dinner in Hell’s Kitchen at a restaurant called The Marshall.  Again, very tasty!

z1

It is always guaranteed to be a fun day when we are able to hang out with Shari!  We said our goodbyes near the restaurant and Diana and I trekked over a few blocks to Times Square.  It was starting to get dark by this time, so the bright lights were in all their glory.

z15

Right above that ‘2018’ is the mast that the Waterford crystal ball slides down on New Years Eve.

From there we grabbed the Shuttle subway line directly to Grand Central.  While we were waiting for the train we met a young man from Columbia who was trying to find his way to Connecticut, and he asked if he was on the right subway.  I knew enough to tell him the New Haven train ran from Grand Central, so we helped him navigate his way across town and to the information kiosk in the center of the main concourse of the terminal.  As we entered that grand hall, he stopped cold in his tracks.  “Whoa, hold on!!! I have to take a picture!”  He was in awe of what he was seeing, and we were happy to be able to help him.  With that, we made our train back to Beacon with just minutes to spare, capping a day filled with perfect timing and loads of fun.  We logged over 21,000 steps and 11 floors on our Fitbits, once all was said and done.  Whew!

Next up, we spend a second day in New York, checking out several sites in lower Manhattan.  Be sure to stay tuned for that adventure!

 

 

Rockets and Red Cars

This season is shaping up to be the winter of rockets and red cars for us.  Living on the Space Coast of Florida, we’ve been fortunate to see several launches this winter, as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance have been very busy.  As you probably have seen by now, the biggest rocket contained a red Tesla roadster.  While that was beyond cool, it wasn’t the only red vehicle launch for us.  More on that in a bit…

On January 29th, our friends Phyllis and Bernie came up from Fort Pierce for a visit.

a11

Diana and Phyllis worked together back in West Michigan.  They checked out our park and then we went to Sebastian Beach Inn for a late lunch.  It was great to see them again!

On January 31, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a communications satellite.

a4

The mission required a full thrust to a high orbit, so the booster wasn’t able to return to the Cape.  I was fortunate to get our Nikon focused enough to get this shot as the spacecraft flew by us.  This is zoomed all the way, plus cropped to make it even bigger.

A mere 7 days later, SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy rocket for the very first time.  Luckily, this coincided with a visit by my sister Judy and her hubby Dale!

a5

It was a perfect day for a show!

a8

There were a lot of people watching up and down the beach.

a6

And it’s liftoff, as viewed from Melbourne Beach!  The Cape is just far enough away that it’s over the horizon.

a7

This is my best photo of it.  We were viewing it from the side, so it’s hard to see the side boosters.  There is a Tesla in that nose cone!  We did see the boosters separate, then fire side-by-side to begin their return to the Cape.  A minute or so later, they relit and landed in almost perfect unison.

a10

My cousin Mary was much closer up at Cocoa Beach and posted this photo on Facebook of the boosters coming in. Beyond cool!

After the launch, the four of us went to dinner at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

a9

What a fun day!

So what else have we been doing?  Well, between substitute teaching assignments, Diana and I decided to go for a drive in Edsel the Escape yesterday up to Jacksonville.

a11

Before Edsel knew what happened, his license plate was off and Diana was shaking hands with William the car salesman.  Meet Edsel 2 on the left, our new 2018 Ford Escape!  Now all we need to do is to make sure Elon Musk doesn’t launch it into space. 🙂

We’ve also been planning our summer trip, which we will talk about in a future post.  It’s also maintenance season for our rig and vehicles….uhhhh, well one vehicle.  We sort of took care of any maintenance that needed to be done on the Escape!

a10

The biggest job of all is waxing the fifth wheel.  It takes me a few weeks to complete the job, as I only tackle a section each morning.  That strategy to be much easier on my body than trying to knock it out in a couple of days.  And that leaves the afternoons free for the beach and the next rocket launch!

Mid-winter Road Trip

With the arrival of our halfway point in Florida, we decided to give the fifth wheel a mid-winter spin this past week.  As fulltime RVer’s, it’s a good thing to move down the road on occasion, if nothing more that to remember how it’s done.  After all, we are getting older.

With that being said, we set out to visit relatives and friends last Sunday, and to take in the RV show in Tampa.  The latter actually involved us boondocking at the Florida State Fairgrounds for a few nights, which we will talk about in more detail below.  We left the Escape on our site in Melbourne Beach, along with our carpet and our solar yard lights.  Even with that presence, we were the talk of the park when we left.  One of the residents waited for us to pass by his rig and asked, “Are you coming back?”  People tend not to move, once they are here…and most leave their rigs onsite all year long.  We are the anomaly in the fact that we actually use the wheels that are attached to our rig.  We have to remind ourselves that, even though we are surrounded by RVers, most people in the park are not fulltiming in their rigs.  Either way, we all are having fun…and that’s all that matters.

Our first stop was at Southern Oaks RV Resort in Summerfield, Florida, between Ocala and Leesburg.  We spent one night there to see Diana’s brother and his family.  We went out for pizza at Stavros in Lady Lake, which was very tasty!

111

From left.  Our niece Danielle, Diana, Danielle’s children: Sarah, Dalton, (cute but not related neighbor boy in the green jacket), and Caydon. Diana’s sister-in-law Carla, Diana’s brother Dan, and me.  It was really fun being able to see them again!

The next morning, we headed further west to the town of Beverly Hills, Florida, to see our friends Rod and Mary.  You may recall that they work camped with us for two seasons at Wild Cherry Resort in Michigan, and they also owned a home in Melbourne Beach.  They were the ones who found our park for us.  They recently bought a brand new home further inland on one acre of land, which gives them a lot more breathing room than they had on their 5700 square foot lot here by the beach.  The only other time we had been to the area was many years ago when Diana’s dad was the construction superintendent on a community college in neighboring Lecanto.  We were pleasantly surprised by the area, as it features more hills and oak trees than anywhere else we had visited in Florida.  We set up camp at Sandy Oaks Resort, which we thought was nice.  That evening, they treated us to a wonderful Filet Mignon dinner at their home. And we got to see Gracie girl, their wonderful English Shepard.

The next day, the four of us headed to the Withlacoochee State Trail, which is a 46 mile long asphalt rail trail between the towns of Dunnellon and Dade City.

222

Even though it was a brisk morning, the sun warmed us up pretty quickly.  The vegetation surrounding the path reminded us of late fall on the Leelanau Trail in northern Michigan.  We rode 5 miles north from Lecanto Highway to the northern terminus and back.

333

What a great morning for a ride with friends!

That afternoon, we headed a few miles over to the town of Crystal River.  Rod and Mary rented a kayak and we put Ketchup and Mustard in Florida waters for the first time ever.

888

Our destination was Three Sisters Spring, as the manatees like to congregate there.

777

Mary was able to capture this gentle giant coming up under their boat.  We saw several manatees along the route, which was really fun!

444

When we were done kayaking, we headed to dinner at Crackers in Crystal River, then said our farewells for a bit.  We hope to see Rod and Mary again before we leave Florida in April.  We had a wonderful time with them, as we always do!

4 AM Wednesday morning came early, as we packed up the rig and headed south to Tampa for the Florida RV Supershow.  Our goal was to get their early enough to set up the rig in the parking lot without the hoards of people who come in their cars for the event.  We actually did rather well, considering it was foggy in places, and the fact there was heavy traffic along the route.  The usual traffic jam by the show had not materialized yet, so navigating the parking lot was fairly easy.   This was the first time we had attempted to bring the RV.  Our logic was that the show is so large it usually takes two days to see it.  They even ticket the event that way, giving attendees the second day free.  It cost $12 (one time) to park the RV and truck, along with $20 for each night we stayed.  No hookups are provided, so we were sure to come with a full water tank and empty grey and black tanks.  We also brought our new generator, which we looked forward to trying out.  The one thing we failed to do was to fill the one propane tank that ran out the previous night.  With the Wednesday night temperature forecast to drop to a low of 29 degrees, we knew we would need to make a propane run after the show closed on Wednesday.  Unfortunately, the U-Haul dealer we went to for a fill-up had a broken pump, and the other stations in the area either didn’t carry propane or were unwilling to sell to us at night.  We did fine that night, but I was sure to be at another U-Haul dealer in Brandon at 7 AM when they opened.  I needed to be back to the rig before the masses started pouring into the show at 9 AM.

As far as the show goes, Diana and I covered the main indoor building on Wednesday morning and started looking at rigs in the outdoor area in the afternoon.  A raw north wind rolled in after lunch, and made being in the rigs much more desirable than being outside!  We did see one layout that caught our eye, but we really aren’t ready to move in that direction just yet.  Still it was fun to see what’s out there.

555

On Thursday, we checked out more of the show before lunch, then we headed back to the rig.  We made plans to have our friends Kelly and Bill from BK American Odyssey over for chili.  It was great to see them again!  Afterwards, the four of us checked out the show for a few more hours, which is always fun.  We ran into fellow RV-Dreamers Guy and Sue from Our ‘Rovin’ Journey, who attended the same Spring 2014 RV-Dreams rally that Kelly and Bill attended.  It was the first time we had met.  Hopefully we will get to see them again down the road!  Midway through the afternoon, Bill and Kelly had to head out for a dinner date, so we finished up the show on our own.  Afterwards, we both realized that we had forgotten to take photos.  At 6 PM, we headed back to our rig as the vendors were all closing up for the night, so we definitely put in a full day!

Friday morning, we packed up the rig early and exited the fairgrounds before the crowds showed up.  We chose a different route back to Melbourne Beach, taking State Route 60 all the way across to Vero Beach, then north on A-1-A to our park.  Despite some traffic lights and suburban congestion near Tampa, the route was much easier than trying to navigate Orlando on the way back.  As a bonus, the Thursday night Atlas V launch from Kennedy Space Center was delayed until Friday evening, so we were fortunate to be able to watch it streak by as it headed southeast past us over the Atlantic.

 

All in all, it was a great week with friends and family, and a great little getaway!  Tune in next time to see what we’ve been up to.  As always, thanks for following along with exploRVistas!

_________________________________

PASSPORT AMERICA NEWS!!!

If you join Passport America between now and January 31 and use us as a referral, you receive 6 months free.  That’s 18 months of half price camping for just $44.  We’ve been members for several years and have saved way more than the membership fee.

If you would, go to https://passportamerica.com/joins/signup and enter the following number in the member referral section near the top of the page:

C-643950

We certainly appreciate using us as a referral!