Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hidden Lake Gardens

After we finished supper Monday evening, which was at a restaurant in Tecumseh, we drove west out of town. Just as I was glancing at a map of Michigan and noting that we were driving into the Irish Hills, I looked out the window and saw verdant rolling hills. That best describes the area. And tucked into these hills of southeastern Michigan is Hidden Lake Gardens. In 1926 it was started as a nursery and private garden, now it is a 775 acre botanical garden and arboretum owned by Michigan State University. We were warned by the attendant at the gatehouse that we had best first stop at the plant conservatory as it was getting late into the evening and would be closing soon. The conservatory certainly is a lot smaller than ours back home in the St.Louis botanical garden, but it still has some awesome large plants in it. Below is a picture of a bottle ponytail tree, a native of Texas and Mexico. Its large swollen trunk can store a year-long water supply.
After touring the tropical room of the conservatory we got into our car to drive the 6 miles of paved roads through the gardens. On the first part of that drive we saw lush green hillsides covered with hostas, ferns and myrtle. From there we were soon on the scenic woodland drive which took us to the glacial kettlehole. Here we could park and take a short hike into the natural depression which had been left by a mass of glacial drift. There are five miles of hiking trails in the gardens. Below is a picture of the kettlehole, a swamp can be seen in the background. While we were looking down into the area a small raccoon scurried into the woods.
As we were exiting the gardens we drove past the dwarf and rare conifers section. According to a park brochure it is one of the finest conifer collections in the country with 500 specimens. What an interesting scene, the conifers are in all shapes and sizes. It would have been fun to walk among them but it was getting late and the park closes at dusk. We saw a deer bounding through a field of wildflowers as we headed out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dundee, and Tecumseh, Michigan

We are currently parked north of my brother's home in Sylvania, Ohio, which  places us in southern Michigan. I know, I have not written on this site in about a week. A big benefit of our lifestyle is that we have the opportunity to visit many family members and friends, which we have been doing in the past week. Our home is parked south of the town of Dundee. One of its founding fathers wanted to name the town after his home town of Scotland, hence the name of Dundee. We spent our time in Dundee at the old saw mill which was built in 1828.
 It was later used as a grist mill, and by the 1930s it was in a state of disrepair. Henry Ford rebuilt it in 1935 and used it as one of his little factories to provide parts for his car manufacturing business. The mill is now the property of the village of Dundee. The town has made it into the museum with displays showing life in the town at the turn of the 20th century. It also has exhibits relating to the Native Americans who once lived in the area in the 18th century. Two postings back I discussed Malabar farm and the policies of sustainable farming which were instituted there. The Native Americans were already following those principles in growing their crops. The museum has a display regarding the three sisters of beans,corn and squash, which the Indians like to keep in harmony while growing them together in one field. Also the Indians were the first to make snow cones and Cracker Jacks. They used maple syrup over ice and placed them in birch bark cones for snow cones. Cracker Jacks were made by pouring maple syrup over popped corn and nuts. From Dundee we drove over to the town of Tecumseh, another historic town started at the turn of the 19th century. It has done a good job in restoring its older buildings. The one pictured below was built in 1881.
 While in Tecumseh we walked the art trail, an outdoor sculpture exhibit. The sculpture pictured below is has the title of "Three Tenors". If you are interested, the artist is Ric Leichliter, the cost is $3, 600.  It looks like three roosters crowing, in case you are wondering what it is.
There is one more sculpture, which John was intrigued with. This one has a price tag of $9,000. It is called the "Yellow Whisper Bench". We sat on each end of the bench and whispered sweet nothings to each other.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mohican State Park

The above plant is that of the wild raspberry,we saw a lot of that plant while hiking yesterday. I did not expect to do another posting from this area of Ohio. Until today we have had no internet connection and the postings I did write were done at a local fast food restaurant. Yesterday John and I went on a hike along the Clearfork branch of  the Mohican River.  In this park the river has carved out a beautiful gorge. The gorge is 300 feet deep and lined with towering hemlocks and virgin stands of white pine. While hiking we noticed trail markers still left  up since the 100 mile marathon, which took place over the week-end. We did not realize that the runners had to go over such rugged muddy terrain! And the trail went along some very high cliffs which, I am sure, could be hazardous at night, even with a flashlight. The picture below is of John trudging up one of the muddy slopes. You may notice a pink ribbon in the foreground, that was one of the markers for the run. I did not realize it was so close to where I was standing when I took the picture.
While in the park we noticed many chipmunks, which we found a bit unusual. All over the midwest we have seen a variety of squirrels, even a black one. In this park we saw only one,  maybe the chipmunks have taken over. It was impressive to watch those little critters  fly from one rocky boulder to another, I am use to chipmunks scurrying around on the ground, not doing acrobatics in the air!. There are two waterfalls  along the Clearfoork Gorge Trail; Big Lyons and Little Lyons Falls. Below is a picture of the smaller falls, it is flowing over a log. Today we have moved north to visit my brother Marcus and wife Heidi in Sylvania, Ohio

Monday, June 20, 2011

Malabar Farm State Park

This farm sits in the Appalachian Plateau region of Ohio and was once owned by Louis Bromfield. He was a Pulitzer prize winning author who wrote 33 books and numerous screenplays. Bromfiel was said to have mentored Hemingway in his writing. Funny thing is, I do know what Hemingway wrote and I can’t say the same for Bromfield.  In recent years, as conservative farming has come into vogue, Bromfield is becoming more well-known. He has been called “the father of sustainable agriculture”.  Bromfield used conservative farm practices such as terracing and contour plowing on his dream farm Malabar in the 1940s. After his death the buildings and ground were turned over to the state of Ohio. The farm is still a working conservative farm which feeds the nearby prison population.
On Sunday afternoon John and I took a guided tour of the fields, farm and country house of 32 rooms. The core of the Big House was a simple two-story frame home built in the previous century.
 Prior to moving into this house Louis and his wife Bromfields and three daughters lived in France. Many of the furnishings still found in the house today are what they brought over from France. Below is a picture of Bromfield’s study. A bust of Voltaire always had a place of prominence on the windowsill, Bromfield called him his muse.
 Louis Bromfield loved to entertain. His close friend Humphrey Bogart married Lauren Bacall in the country house in 1941.  His guests were always expected to work on the farm. Jimmy Cagney was said once to have been sent into the village to sell the farm’s produce. Bromfield had 1,000 acres, 600 of which he kept for  wildlife.  The full beauty of Malabar can be seen from Mt. Jeez, the highest point in the park. After touring the farm we drove up that mountain. From the top we could view the surrounding countryside, we were told that 5 counties could be seen from here. Malabar in the Indian dialect means "beautiful hills and valleys", that aptly describes Bromfield's farm in Pleasant Valley.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mansfield, Ohio.

After touring the prison Friday John and I drove into the town of Mansfield.  In the heart of the city is the Historic Carousel District. In this area there are tree lined streets and brick paved pathways.  The tourist may either wander in the quaint antique shops or ride the carousel. The historic area of Mansfield became home to the first hand-carved indoors wooden carousel in the 1930s. The charming carousel has, besides the usual prancing horses, a wide menagerie of other animals.
 The town also has a few native sons of whom they are quite proud. In the city park we found a memorial to John Sherman, brother of William Sherman and author of the Sherman Anti-trust Act.  Nearby, on the outside wall of a building, is a mural honoring Johnny Appleseed. He is known for not only planting apple seeds, but also for  a courageous overnight run in 1813 from Mansfield  to nearby settlements for reinforcements after Indians had killed a local shopkeeper. That was a piece of American history new to me!
 Saturday John and I drove  to Holmes County, a farming area which has the largest number of Amish  in the United States. This is quite a beautiful area with rolling green hills dotted with large barns and  austere farmhouses.  Crafts, antiques, produce and homemade foods can be bought from the Amish at roadside stands or in area shops.  The traffic was heavy on Saturday, I worried about the safety of  the  many Amish in their horse–drawn buggies driving on the roads among many high speed cars..However,the Amish did not seem concerned about traffic building up behind their buggies and drivers were patient with them. I guess this happens frequently for the Amish and they have learned to live with it.
Returning to our campground later that day we noticed the 100 mile marathon runners running/jogging by our motorhome. According to the locals this is a yearly event. The run had started earlier in the day, and according to the runners, was going to go all night until four loops of  25 miles were completed One runner commented to me: “I don’t know why I put myself through this”. I bet the little fawn, who was following the runner's path, also wondered what it all was about!

Ohio State Reformatory Historical Site

We have moved on to Loudonville, Ohio. Friday we drove to Mansfield, the location of an old prison. As you can see from the picture this building is beautiful. The castle-like structure was built in 1886 and was considered by many to be a 19th century architectural wonder. Its style was meant to give the inmates a rebirth of their spiritual lives. Initially the prison did help many of its inmates turn their lives around. In this prison they could learn almost any skill they wanted. The prison was self-sustaining in that it produced, prepared and even canned its own food. There was also a large furniture shop. Classrooms and teachers  gave the inmates an opportunity to get their high school diploma. However, by the 1970s over-crowding gave the prison a sub-standard rating (at certain times in its history it held 2200 to 3000 men).  It was quite sobering for John and I to view the two cell blocks. In the East Cell Block alone (there are two of the blocks) are six tiers which can house 1,200 men in cells 7’x9’. The platform shown in the picture below was left behind after a movie was filmed there in that cell block. That picture was taken looking down on the tier of cells. Many of prison walls do need a new paint job!
Six movies have been made within these prison walls, Shawshank Redemption being the most popular one of them all. We found on our tour of the prison quite a few signs indicating “Hollywood Prop” sites.  Some of the sites were certainly not part of the original building, as you may see in the picture below. The hole where the prisoners escaped in Shawshank can be seen to the right of Morgn Freeman.
 The prison closed in 1990.  After it was cleaned up, tours of the building were given. The building also became available for weddings. Every November there is a “Glamour in the Slammer Expo” when future brides can meet the vendors who will assist them with planning their wedding in the Central Guard’s room. While we were there the room was being readied for a wedding reception that evening.   Paranormal activity has been reported everywhere in this prison, this would not be my choice for a wedding site!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Carillon Historical Park, Dayton, Ohio

In my last posting I mentioned this historical park, where the Wright brother’s first plane is housed.  The park has 25 exhibit buildings relating to Dayton’s rich heritage of creativity and invention. In 1884 Dayton was a rapidly modernizing city which provided a rich milieu for the Wright Brother’s curiosity and creative genius. The entrepreneurial boys ran a print shop from 1887-1899. In the Park there is a 1930s era working print shop with period equipment. Pictured below is the printer which Orville Wright gave his great-nephew to use while he was in college- to print out the college newspaper and other items, which provided him a little income.
In 1895 the Wright Brothers added a bicycle shop to their business ventures, the first step on their path to the invention of an airplane. The Park has a Dayton Cyclery building which houses a collection of rare and antique bicycles with a special emphasis on Ohio’s role in bicycle evolution. Pictured below is a 1899 Cyngnet bicycle for ladies, made by the Dayton Stoddard Manufacturing Company (the company also built cars and farm implements). There is a netting over the back wheel which protected dresses from the spokes and chain. That bike has real class!
 From 1908- 1912 Charles Kettering and his “Barn Gang” of scientists developed the electric self-starter for the automobile. In the Park there is a replica of a Dayton barn where those first experiments began. Lastly, I would be very remiss if I did not mention John H. Patterson, who also played a big role in Dayton’s modernization. He was the founder of the Dayton National Cash Register Company. The museum has an exhibit of the company’s old advertisements. We enjoyed touring the Park, it certainly is a very unique museum. In this posting I mentioned only a few of the many exhibits which can be found there. The park is named because of the presence of a 24 foot high carillon which is present on the grounds. Concerts with the carillon are played weekly during the summer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Orville and Wilber Wright in Dayton

There are five sites in Dayton where one may follow the path of the Wright brothers to the invention of the airplane. Since John and I are already on the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Monday we stopped at the Hoffman Prairie Flying Field located on base. Hoffman field in the late 1890s was flat open pasture land.. A Dayton banker, Torrence Huffman, allowed the Wright brothers to use that field for their flying experiments. His only requirement was that they keep his cows out of harm's way while flying their experiments.Trolleys from Dayton stopped at a small depot called Sims Station, located near the field. The depot allowed the Wright brothers to transport equipment from their bicycle shop in Dayton to the flying field. A replica of that depot is pictured below. No trolley tracks can be seen there today.
 In the spring of 1904 the brothers cut the tall grass of the field with scythes to prepare the terrain for flying. Below is a picture of the field and a replica of the first wooden hanger they built for their airplane. They soon built a much larger hanger. This also later became the location of  Wright Flying School.
 From this area John and I drove to the Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center, also located on the base. In the center we were able to try a flight simulator using the rudimentary controls which the Wright brothers built into their first plane. With the assistance of a park ranger we learned how to handle the lever which, when moved forward or backward, controlled the pitch of the plane. John and I never were successful in keeping our planes up the three minutes allowed for one flight on the simulator. At Carillon Center (more on that museum in my next posting) we saw the reconstructed first practical plane made by the brothers. After trying that simulated flight in the center, the mechanics of that first plane did make some sense to me. I could understand the principle of how, by lying in a snugly hip-fitting cradle and shifting side to side, the pilot operated the wing warping mechanism. And there are two  levers to control a front elevator and rear rudders, for pitch and yaw respectively.  A small motor to power the plane is on the pilot's right side. Orville, in 1947, was able to retrieve some of the 1905 Wright Flyer 111 parts and supervise its reconstruction.
Wilber Wright died in 1912, after the brothers had demonstrated successful flights in America and Europe. Orville died in 1948. It must have been amazing for him to see over the ensuing years what he and his brother had started in the field of aviation. By World War ll airplane technology had advanced a great distance from those first experiments in Huffman field!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yellow Springs, Glen Helen, Clifton Gorge

The village of Yellow Springs has been called one of "America's Coolest Small Towns".  It has an eclectic array of shops, restaurants and galleries. The town itself has an artsy feel to it with its many decorated light posts and trees, which you may notice in the picture below.
Discovered around 1800, the area was popular for those seeking the curative waters of Yellow Springs, which we found yesterday while hiking in the Glen Helen Nature Preserve. The wooded glen was donated to Antioch college by Hugh Birch in memory of his daughter Helen.
Glen Helen can be found along the scenic Little Miami River Valley Trail. One can choose to even take a short trail in this preserve and still find 400-year old trees, limestone cliffs and overhangs. There is also a Hopewell Indian Mound built BC100 and AD400, which we saw while hiking the preserve.
Clifton Gorge on the Little Miami River is a post glacial canyon which has carved out scenic waterfalls and and rapids. The town of Clifton was once a hub of Ohio industry and travel. The natural geography of the area provided ideal conditions for the establishment of a variety of mills. A woolen mill furnished material for the army during the War of 1812. It was also on the banks of this gorge that Daniel Boone pulled off a dramatic escape from the Native Indians. We enjoyed our hike above the gorge, it is always very thrilling for us to discover such places of natural beauty among the flat lands of the midwest!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wright Patterson Air Force Base

Our home is now located on this base, where our niece Laura's husband Mike works. Security clearance is needed to reside here and consequently passes are needed every time we leave and later need to get back in. Reveille is played every morning Monday through Friday at 7:30 am. I keep thinking of that phrase: "you are in the army now".  There is a certain military mentality which comes with living on such a large base, and it is an ever present feeling even when one is off the base. Yesterday, at Peace Lutheran church, the pastor slipped up and said "Pentagon" instead of, what I am sure he meant, Pentecost. Anyway, it  seemed natural then that the first place to visit while in the Dayton area would be a museum of airplanes.
 This is the oldest and largest military aviation museum in the world, and features more than 300 aircraft and missiles in 17 acres of indoor exhibit space. It took John two days to see most of it, I chose to see it in one day. It was not as boring as I imagined because I discovered that in its presentation of the development of aviation, the museum is also covering a rather comprehensive military history of the United States. We started our tour in the Presidential Aircraft Gallery. The aircraft of Presidents Franklin D.Roosevelt (his was named the Sacred Cow), Harry Truman (The Independence), Dwight D. Eisenhower( Columbine), John Kennedy and Johnson are housed there. It was during Kennedy's term that the presidential aircraft started receiving the name Air Force One. Below is a picture of Kennedy's aircraft, it had the sad task of carrying Kennedy's body back to Washington after his assassination. It saw a total of 30 years of service serving 8 presidents, the last one being President Clinton.  Notice the presidential seal in the front side of the plane.
The museum also displays the unmanned aerial vehicle or "drone".This became important for strategic reconnaissance and was first designed in the 1960s.
 There is also a section of the museum devoted to the aircraft and tools of the 21st century. Below is a picture of a rescue all-terrain vehicle.
 Seeing that vehicle and also viewing a short film recounting the events in Afghanistan in 2002 at the battle of Takur Ghar(our first major battle there) made it all too real to me what our servicemen and women are enduring in many war zones of the world today.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Turkey Run State Park

On our trip both to and from this park we followed again some of the markers to the covered bridges of Parke County. We can now say that we have seen at least half of the 31 bridges. Below is a picture of the West Union Bridge, longest of the double-span bridges. It was built in 1876.
On our way to Turkey Run Park we drove by many Amish farms. At one of their farms we were intrigued by the laundry hanging high from a barn. We figured that pulleys were used to get the clothes to that height.
Many years ago John and I camped with our children at Turkey Run Park. All we remembered were the awesome rugged hiking trails through deep canyons and along Sugar Creek. Yesterday we again headed out over those trails. It was quite warm, but we figured that the majestic old-growth trees and deep canyon walls would keep us cool and protected from the sun. However, we did not figure on it being so muggy! And somehow we, as usual, ignored the park service warnings that one particular trail was "very rugged". We had to do some rock scrambling on that trail and, once we were at the top of a ridge, was surprised to see where the next part of that trail took us. I was at first hesitant to go down those ladders, but they turned out not to be as treacherous as they looked. That area is called "Bear Hollow" You may notice water on the floor of the canyon. While hiking we did have to slough through some very muddy areas!
 During our hike we noticed that some trees had large holes pecked out of them, and those holes were located at the lower end of the trees. At the nature center later we learned that many different woodpeckers can be found in the area (at the bird feeding area of the center we saw a red-headed and a hairy woodpecker). Pileated woodpeckers are also in the park and are reputed to excavate long rectangular as well as oval holes in trees. Maybe that explains the large holes we saw.  We were exhausted, sweaty and hot at the end of our hiking, but it felt good to know that we still are in shape to tackle the most difficult of trails! Turkey Run is a beautiful park and it was worth the effort to see as much as we could of its many natural wonders. By the way, Turkey Run was so named because many turkeys use to gather in the canyon bottoms or "runs" to keep warm. We never saw one wild turkey while in the area. Maybe it is not the right season.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Terre Haute, Indiana

We had a major thunderstorm Saturday night,  it rained in copious amounts. When we got out of church Sunday morning it was still raining. We certainly could not do any outside touring so it seemed that our destination was to be the art museum in Terre Haute. Most fortunately for us the museum was closed because we discovered another wonderful museum,  the Vigo County Historical Museum. It is located in an old Victorian Home built in 1868 and  first owned by a local baker and confectioner.
When we arrived we were the only visitors so the docent gave us a personal tour of the museum. The house contains 12 rooms- among them restored Victorian rooms, a drugstore collection, toy shop and a dressmaker's shop. We learned a great deal about the local history. The city was once the home of the Root Bottling Company. In 1915 they designed the winning glass bottle for Coca-Cola, it was created in the shape of a cocoa bean. Terre Haute is also the home of Clabber Girl,  makers of baking powder and roasted coffee. The original building still stands in the downtown area of Terre Haute. And did you ever drink Champagne Velvet beer?  Terre Haute  has a brewery which is famous for producing that beer. The secret ingredient is cornflakes, or so we were informed by our museum guide. One additional interesting fact which we discovered in the museum is that the city was the home of the poet and philosopher Max Ehrlmann. He is mostly remembered for writing "Desiderata". 
John and I drove from the museum to 7th and Wabash streets to view the above sculpture of Ehrmann. It was in this vicinity that he was often seen writing. In 1926 this corner was designated as the "Crossroads of America". It is where U.S. highways 40 and 41 intersect (highway 40 opened the west, highway 41 was a north-south route).
 On the bricks around Ehrmann's statue are quotations from "Desiderata".  We enjoyed our time in Terre Haute very much and wondered why we never made it a week-end destination during all the years we lived in St.Louis. Our last stop for the day was in Brazil, where we enjoyed an outdoor concert by the Brazil Concert Band. The band has been playing for 150 years, and played for the occasion of the Lincoln-Douglas debate.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Billie Creek Village

It is fascinating to me how nicknames get started and soon no one knows what the real name is. That happened with Billie Creek, once known as William Creek. Billie Creek Village is a recreated, authentic turn-of-the-century village and home to three of Parke County's famous bridges. Two old churches, a school and even Indiana's tenth governor's home has been moved to this village. It is very much a living history museum. I especially like the old livery stable which is located in this village. It was built in 1870 and the signage on it noted that it was a "stable environment" where one could rent or keep horses. The Village's original architect considered the barn "one of the finest specimens of hand workmanship in the area".  The up-right studs are all hand-hewn and are held together by wooden dowels.  Below is a picture of the old livery stable.
Western Indiana has not been spared from all the recent flooding. For lunch we stopped at a park in Montezuma as John wanted to see the Wabash Erie Canal Turnaround. We soon discovered that it no longer exists, but is rather now a ditch with a trickle of water in it. We ate lunch in a city park by the Wabash, as you can see by the picture, the river has overflowed its banks.
It was a very warm day and got even hotter when the sun came out. We stopped at Mansfield, Indiana to check out the Mansfield Roller Mill State Historic Site. However,the mill was too warm for me so I walked down to the covered bridge, located near the mill, to sit by the creek and dip my feet in the cool water.
I mentioned earlier about nicknames and how they sometimes take on their own interesting history. The same can be said of certain common phrases. Ever hear of the expression "rule of thumb"? I learned at the mill that a miller could tell whether his machinery was working properly by the feel of the flour between his thumb and fingers. It was not very scientific, but it was the Rule of Thumb.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Covered Bridges of Parke County Indiana

Our campground is in a heavily wooded area, and there are plenty of birds around.  To my listening pleasure early this morning I heard the unique song of a whip-poor-will. I had not heard the song of that nightjar since about ten years ago. Such are the unexpected pleasures in our nomadic life style! Parke County is the "covered bridge capitol" of our nation. Yesterday we saw three of the thirty-one covered bridges in Parke County. To see those three we covered sixty miles over winding narrow country roads. The first one we saw was the largest and most scenic. Bridgeton Covered Bridge lies across Racoon Creek and has a waterfall nine feet in height.  It also has an operating grist mill. The bridge was built in 1823, and rebuilt in 1870. In 2006 an arsonist burned it down, but it has subsequently been rebuilt. Last week a tornado did some major damage to the bridge and roof of the mill. Hopefully insurance will pay for the damage.
When we entered the mill we met up with Mike Roe, the owner and operator of the mill. He was busy doing some repairs to the mill, but still was eager to talk with us about the history of the building. He informed us that not only has he had to contend with arsonists, but also with people who have the proclivity to shoot out the windows of his mill!  Our next stop, after a lunch break, was the covered bridge at Rosedale. Built in 1910, it still is the original bridge. Rosedale is the second oldest town in Indiana.
 After driving to the Harry Evans Bridge, we headed to the strawberry festival in Brazil. The festival was held on the grounds of the Clay County Courthouse. After finishing our strawberry shortcakes we wandered into the courthouse ( surprise, the doors were wide open with no security measures in place). The interior of the courthouse is quite beautiful with pillars of granite and a dome of decorative stain glass. I stood in the rotunda and pointed my camera upward to get the picture shown below. As I wrote earlier, it is always the unexpected  that keep our travels interesting!