Category Archives: Indiana

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!

 

 

 

Rural Indiana – The Heart of the Midwest

There’s something about Indiana that makes Midwesterners like ourselves feel centered.  Perhaps it is because so many interstates converge on Indianapolis, which has earned the state its moniker The Crossroads of America.  Or maybe it’s the laid back rural landscape that holds very few surprises as we travel over it. Having lived our adult lives in West Michigan, the US-31/I-65 corridor through the Hoosier State has become a familiar route to us, as it was our preferred path south for our Florida vacations.  Even though we’ve yet to reside in the state, we’ve come to know it fairly well.

© 2017 Google Maps

Our first stop on our way south on Thursday was the town of Donaldson, Indiana.  Located on the old Lincoln Highway, this unincorporated community sports a post office, a railroad crossing and not much else.  If you keep going beyond the tracks for a mile or so, a steeple appears above the treetops. You may have recalled our post Paradise in a Corn Field back in 2014, when we introduced you to the beautiful convent where my aunt lives.  This is that steeple and convent.

Now known as The Center at Donaldson, this gorgeous piece of real estate is something to see.  A few years ago, my uncle (my aunt’s baby brother) took up residence at the independent living facility the sisters operate on the grounds…so we get to visit both of them on our way through!

Aunt Marge just turned 93 and Uncle Ed is now 91.  Both are doing quite well.  It was so good to see them!

The sisters graciously allowed us to park the rig at their receiving facility overnight, complete with electricity and water.  We left them a donation for their kindness.  

If you are ever going to be in the area, let them know through this link so they can give you a tour of their facility.  You won’t be disappointed.  People of all faiths are openly welcomed.

On Friday, we continued south around Indianapolis to Seymour, Indiana.  This is John Cougar Mellencamp territory.  We didn’t see any ‘little pink houses’, but the one that motivated him to write the song supposedly still sits west of town.  Our destination that day was Chateau de Pique Winery, a member of Harvest Hosts.

This 80 acre vineyard sits in the middle of some beautiful rolling farmland.  The tasting room is housed in this barn.

Angel greeted us and introduced us to their wines.  Yes, they also serve beer and mixed drinks as well.  We took a bottle of their Cabernet Franc home with us to enjoy that evening.

Our camping spot was behind the outdoor reception tent, complete with water and electric hookups.  Most Harvest Hosts don’t offer any hookups, so this was a treat!

Up the hill from our spot was this outdoor wedding venue.  They held a rehearsal just after we took this photo.  Not wanting to crash the party…

…we held one of our own.  😊   If you are a Harvest Hosts member, put Chateau de Pique on your radar!

Next up, a trip down memory lane in Kentucky, plus several places we had not seen before.  Be sure to stay tuned!

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A Four State Weekend

No sooner than we were all settled into our site in Leelanau, we jumped in Edsel the Escape and headed back south to Indiana. This was a planned trip, as my Aunt Marge was going to be celebrating her 70th Jubilee as a Catholic nun.  My cousins and my sister all were there, along with our spouses and my Uncle Ed (her brother and my Godfather).  Of the fifteen sisters who were in her class in 1946, five were here celebrating on this day.  Two others were celebrating 50 years, and Sister Johnilda would have celebrated her 80th Jubilee and her 100th birthday this month, but she passed in April.

The event was held at the Ancilla Domini chapel in Donaldson, Indiana, which resembles more of a cathedral than a chapel.  It’s stained glass windows and hand carved statues are all imported from Germany.  The altars were made in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  This branch of the sisters of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ immigrated from Germany in 1918.  The chapel and motherhouse was built in 1923, the year before my aunt was born in Detroit. As the pipe organ played, memories of my mom…an accomplished pipe organist…came flooding back.  I was a mess, to say the least.

Diana and I stayed at their retreat center, Lindenwood.  My uncle lives in their independent living center, which is actually in the 1923 motherhouse and is open to the public. The sisters also have a two year liberal arts college that started in 1937. They’ve recently noticed the birth rate falling in the surrounding community, so they are building dormitories to attract international students.  These ladies find ways to not only survive, but to also thrive and grow!  If you are ever in the area, be sure to stop in for a tour.  The sisters are always happy to have visitors. Ancilla Domini is listed as one of the top 15 hidden gems in Northern Indiana.

The photo above shows the existing dorm and dining hall, along with a second dorm being built. The sisters also have a complex that is their retirement and nursing home.  The nursing home is where my aunt currently lives.  Her eyesight is very poor, but with her independent spirit, she still tries her best to move around.  She recently fell and injured her neck, so her orthopedic surgeon has her in a doozy of a neck brace and wheelchair.  She isn’t very happy with the arrangement.

But don’t pity her.  She’s still talking about the things the sisters are doing and looking towards the future.  This is one amazing and spunky lady.

And this is her baby brother, my Uncle Ed.  He will be turning 90 this June.  🙂

These sisters were all novices (trainees) under her at one time.  There was also a table of people she used to work with at St Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, including the CEO.  It was my aunt’s job to see that they followed their mission as a Catholic hospital.  It’s been 20 years since she has worked there, yet here they were here this day to celebrate with her.  She was obviously respected and loved by them.

A sister (by birth) of one of her novices had recently been fighting cancer and made several of these fleece blankets while undergoing chemo treatments.  She explained that it was her way of focusing on giving to others, rather than dwelling on her own health issues.   She gave one to my aunt…

…and one to my uncle.  That was very sweet of her .  🙂  We wish her good health in the future.

After we left Donaldson, we headed to Wisconsin to see Diana’s cousin and his wife.  We had a family heirloom that we wanted to take to them, and we also wanted to see the stately 1930’s home they recently purchased.  We left Indiana, scooted around Chicago and crossed into Wisconsin.  They live just across the border in Brodhead.

We really liked their place!  With my love of history, this home was right up my alley.

Lots of classic lines and period furniture, yet very comfortable.

While the home had an elegance to it that would typically make a person be afraid to touch anything, Duane and Gisela’s warmth and hospitality made it a cozy nest.  🙂

With them living in Wisconsin, they were sure to take us to the local dairy.  Sorry about the wind-blown hair, guys! We all got a chuckle when I said “Say cheese!”  The creamery’s offerings were delightful. The countryside surrounding the community consisted of rolling hills and neatly manicured farms.  We decided that we need to return to the area someday and do more exploring.

From their home, we had two options to get back to Wild Cherry.  We could drive either north or south to get around Lake Michigan.  If it were later in the spring, we might have chosen north.  Instead, we decided to retrace our steps and stop in Kalamazoo, Michigan to see our college friends Mike and Cindy. I wish I had photos, but we started right in talking and catching up…and never let up.  🙂  To offer a little history, we both had our houses built at the same time, and the four of us traded labor when we moved in back in February of 1999.  Amazingly, it was sunny and in the mid 40’s both weekends, which is unheard of in Michigan.  When we head back for homecoming at Western Michigan University every fall, the gang either hangs out there or at Paul and Sheryl’s house.  This particular evening, the four of us went out for pizza and then we spent the night.  They had to go to work the next morning, so they told us to just kick back and enjoy the place…which we did!  We ended up finally leaving at 10:30 AM.  🙂  After running some errands in Grand Rapids and Traverse City, we pulled into Leelanau by early evening.  Rod and Mary (who we worked with last summer, then spent the winter near in Melbourne Beach) arrived while we were gone, so it was great to see them again.  Their dog Gracie was happy to be back also.  🙂

That was our four state whirlwind weekend. We made a lot of memories in a short amount of time!  Thank you to our family and friends for making us feel so welcome and loved.  🙂

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Northward!

After our visit to Austin, Texas, we turned our wagon train northward towards Michigan for the summer.  We are returning to Leelanau for at least one more go-around, as we really enjoyed working at Wild Cherry. We met so many great people while we were there, and we want to spend more time with them!  We would also like to do some more exploring in the area. Our trip was a little bit faster than we planned, as my aunt hasn’t been doing well.  She fell and injured her neck, so we pushed a little harder to get back than we normally would have.  She is stable and in good hands, but we just really wanted to see for ourselves that she was ok.

On our way through Arkansas, we spent the night just south of Little Rock. We parked the rig, not even setting up, so we could get downtown to see the William Clinton Presidential Library before it closed for the day.  I’m going to borrow a thought from our friends Bob and Pat at Michigan Traveler and state that Diana and I like to visit Presidential museums, libraries and homes.  Doesn’t matter the party to us; if they were President of the United States, they’ve earned a place in history and our visit to their museum.  So please hold the political comments.  :). I’ll report on the nuts and bolts of the places.  Everybody has a different viewpoint on how they interpret the presentation of history, so I’m not even going to try to tell how I felt in this or any presidential museum…because you may feel differently.

The building itself was interesting in the fact that the upper floors were supported by this one set of columns on one end.  There’s the fire exit intertwined in it, unless you want to do a high dive into the Arkansas River.  🙂

Just inside the main door is one of the limousines used during his presidency.  Made in Michigan, as are most all of them.  This one is a Cadillac, but most have been Fords. 🙂

The Oval Office is an exact replica of how it was during Clinton’s term in office.

We have seen a few of these re-creations now, and this was the best…simply because they let you actually sit at the desk.  Of course they take photos of you and try to sell them to you for way too much money, but to sit at that desk and look around that room…well, that’s pretty neat.  Actually, that’s very neat!   I had to let that moment soak in for a minute.  🙂

They also had a replica of theWhite House Cabinet Room, which we found to be impressive.

The second and third floors were an open atrium with exhibits on both sides.  Those columns contain a portion of the hard copies of the library’s archives.

Bill and Hillary in their younger days.  I got a kick out of this photo, purely from the standpoint that we have college photos that could rival that.  🙂

Down the center of the atruim were these eight panels that discussed the timeline of each year of his presidency.  While we were viewing the displays on the back side of these panels, a small entourage walked through.  A woman was giving a tour to a well-dressed gentleman, and a few others were tagging along.  Then I noticed a man in a suit next to me, nonchalantly looking at a display.  He was wearing an earpiece…as were several others around the room!  Secret Service types everywhere. None of them were looking directly at us, but you bet we were being watched!  Not sure who the gentleman being given the tour was, but he had to have some major level of importance to be given that sort of protection.  Don’t make a false move, kids….

We enjoyed the Clinton Library, just as we do all presidential museums.  It was a very well thought-out design, and it was full of memorabilia and a plethora of information.

After we left Little Rock, we headed towards Indiana to see my aunt.  Earlier in the trip, I noticed I wasn’t able to get my expandable wheel chocks between the wheels on the passenger side of the trailer.  I thought maybe it was because I was on an unlevel surface…except it kept happening campsite after campsite.  Hmmmm….. Prior to our stopover at Effingham, Illinois, we noticed the right side of the trailer drooping. I thought one of our MORryde suspension springs was going bad, so I called ahead to MORryde headquarters in Elkhart, Indiana to schedule service.  Upon reaching Effingham,  I crawled further under the rig and noticed this:

Oops.  One of our sets of shackles had broken and the leaf spring was resting on the underside of the frame.  I called a local RV mobile tech who came out and installed new shackles on that one spring.  From there, we headed straight to Elkhart.

MORryde has six slots with 20/30/50 amp electric for people waiting for service to park in.  Even if you are scheduled to have service, it can take a few days to get in.  They are busy, and business is good.  So we camped there for two nights, listening to freight trains and the construction project next door.  Having read more than once about the scheduling and the trains on Howard and Linda’s RV-Dreams Journal, we rolled with it.  When we knew the first day that we weren’t getting in, we headed back an hour southwest with the Escape to see my 91-year old Aunt Marge. While the brace she was in seemed very uncomfortable for her, she seemed to be in fairly good spirits.  She definitely was getting good care.  If you recall our post from September 2014 called Paradise in a Corn Field, my aunt is a Roman Catholic nun.  She took her vows in 1946, after leaving home for the convent in the early 1940’s.  This will be her 70th year as a nun, and the Sisters are having a Jubilee in mid May.  We will be heading back down for that, as will the rest of the family.  Her baby brother, my Uncle Ed…who will be a very young 90 years old this year…also lives on the property.  The Sisters have a retirement community for the general public, and he hangs his hat there.  He’s my Godfather, and being with him is like being with my late mom again (before she had dementia)…funnier than all get out and sharp as a tack.  Those two were peas in a pod, and he chokes up at the mention of her.  No visit to see Aunt Marge is complete without seeing Uncle Ed.  He is doing fantastic.  🙂

Back at MORryde, we were able to get in the next day.  Sergio, our mechanic, came running out to tell us that they had a cancellation and that he was ready for us. Just like that, Clara was behind closed doors and Henry was all alone in the lot.

Ketchup and Mustard kept a lid on the situation.  🙂  About 5 hours later, we were good to go.  Sergio installed a heavier version of their MORryde vulcanized rubber shear springs than we previously had, much heavier duty shackles than before, new greaseable bolts (the original ones couldn’t be greased), checked the brakes and repacked the wheel bearings. I also had them readjust our pin box, as our trailer had been riding nose high.  Sergio had Keith bring the nose down two inches.  We still have plenty of clearance between the truck rails and the underside of the fifth wheel, and the lower front end will help us level easier in situations where we don’t unhook the truck and trailer for the night.  With us having the Escape to drive at our destinations, we don’t need to unhook…as long as the campsites are long enough.

 It is here I want to say something about the standard equipment suspension on most trailers.  Even though Colorado put on MORryde equalizers, they failed to put on greaseable bolts or heavy duty shackles.  Our friends Tracy and Lee at Camper Chronicles just had the same issue with their shackles on their Open Range fifth wheel.  They did as we did and opted for the heavier duty shackles and greaseable bolts.  They are headed to Alaska this summer and thank goodness that didn’t happen to them in the middle of the Yukon.  The heavy duty parts don’t cost much more, and I believe that they should be standard equipment on all trailers that still use leaf springs.

From MORryde, we drove 20 miles east to Shipshewana for a few nights.  We needed a break!  Nothing like planting yourself in the middle of Amish country to slow down your heart rate.  :). We enjoyed our time there, then headed back up to Grand Rapids.  I must say, the trailer felt like it was riding on a cloud. We needed to be in Grand Rapids to take care of a few things, in regards to Diana’s mom.  Once we are done here, we will be heading up to Leelanau!  If any of you are going to be up that way this summer, please let us know.  We would love to see you!
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Paradise in a Corn Field

On Saturday we visited Jim’s aunt and uncle in Donaldson, Indiana. Jim’s aunt is a nun in the order Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ that has its roots in Germany. She had the honor of being in charge of her order in the United States, and was also the first non German born member of the council that leads her order world wide.

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Diana is standing in front of the mother house. It always amazes us because you drive Indiana country roads through acres of corn fields to reach this bit of paradise. There is a full size cathedral, a small college campus, retreat center, retirement homes with several levels of care, lake, cemetery, cattle farm, and art center. Jim’s uncle has an apartment in the independent living portion that is open to the public.

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Above is a conference center where groups of any faiths may hold meetings.

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This is the independent living home for the retired sisters. To the left in the background of this picture is the cemetery for all of the US nuns in PHJC.

We enjoyed spending time with family in this little slice of heaven.

RV-Dreams rally

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This past week, we attended the RV-Dreams fall educational rally in Goshen, Indiana.  It was held at the Elkhart County 4H Fairgrounds, which was a nice facility for this type of get together.  The rally itself was extremely informative and a lot of fun.  RV-Dreams is owned by Howard and Linda Payne, a charming couple we first met in Grand Rapids this past winter at an RV show.  They have been full time RVing for just shy of 10 years, and have chronicled every bit of it on their website RV-Dreams.com.  Although we were planning this lifestyle for years, they can certainly be credited for our accelerated move into it.  We highly suggest that you follow their journeys, as they know their stuff.  Salt of the earth folks, for sure.

We met so many wonderful people at the rally, and we are sure that we will keep in touch with them in our travels. Of those that we weren’t able to get to know, we are sure we will catch up down the road. One of the nice features of the rally was the “open rig walk-throughs”. A lot of us opened our rigs for people to look at, which was very informative.  Another feature of the rally was tours of the local RV manufacturers.  We took a tour of the DRV facility, which we found to be extremely educational.

The last night of the rally was a catered dinner, followed by a glow party.

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We hadn’t danced that much in years!  Definitely a great time!

On the final morning, we had a catered breakfast, followed by a goodbye speech by Howard and Linda.

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Linda sang “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts.  Howard tried to join in, but was a little choked up…as were most of the rest of us.

As we pulled out, we had our rig weighed by them. They are safety specialists with RVSEF, and they weigh each individual wheel.  We were pleasantly surprised that we were only heavy on one tire in the entire rig, and we can easily remedy that with a shift in our cargo.  Howard gave us recommendations for tire inflation, which we will be sure to follow closely.  It was a huge relief to know our truck and 5th wheel are correctly sized for each other, and that we also don’t have to jettison weight.  We came fully loaded for what we feel we need on the road, including our kayaks and bikes.

We will be finishing up packing the house this next week in preparation for our closing on Friday. We may be a little busy up until then, so we will try to post an update after that.

Safe travels to all!