Kansas City Baseball

Continuing on our day in Kansas City we decided that since the Boston Red Sox were in town and we’re from Boston (though only one of us is a Sox fan…and it’s not me) that we would take in a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium. But as far as baseball goes, the Royals aren’t the only “game” in town. Before our evening at the ballpark we made a stop to learn about an oft-neglected history of the sport.

Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a showcase for the (mostly) unknown talents that passed through the Negro Leagues from the late 1800’s to the early 1960’s. It was founded in 1990, growing from a small, one room office to the 10,000 square foot space that it occupies now.

An important point about the museum’s purpose can be found on its website:

Often the museum is referred to as the “Negro Leagues Hall of Fame” or “Black Baseball Hall of Fame” and various names. It is important to the museum that we not be referred to as such. The NLBM was conceived as a museum to tell the complete story of Negro Leagues Baseball, from the average players to the superstars. We feel VERY strongly that the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, NY, is the proper place for recognition baseball’s greatest players. The Negro Leagues existed in the face of segregation. Baseball’s shrines should not be segregated today. Therefore, the NLBM does not hold any special induction ceremonies for honorees. As space allows, we include information on every player, executive, and important figure. However, we do give special recognition in our exhibit to those Negro Leaguers who have been honored in Cooperstown.

As was the case on a few other spots along the trip, the museum did not allow for photography, so the only picture I took was of the lobby as you enter.

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As I blog this nearly a year later (yes, I’m a slacker), I find it would be impossible for me to do this museum justice. On future road trips (we’ll have to do the southern states at some point), I’ll bring along a notebook to all of my stops to record my thoughts in the moment, but since I can’t go back in time to do that on this trip, I’m left with only vague memories when trying to write about places I couldn’t take pictures.

I recall really liking the setup of the museum. A movie, They Were All Stars, set in a bleachers area, tells the story of many of the players and is narrated by the incomparable James Earl Jones. The museum itself is laid out in time-line fashion chronicling nearly 100 years of African American and baseball history. It was a fascinating place to visit and a fabulous tribute to those who played the sport without the credit or fame of their white counterparts.

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the Field of Legends. 10 bronze statues of players who have been honored in Cooperstown are positioned on a baseball diamond. I found this picture of it online at Trip Advisor:

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The players on the field are Rube Foster, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Pop Lloyd, Judy Johnson, Ray Dandridge, James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell, Oscar Charleston, Leon Day, Martin Dihigo, and “Buck” O’Neil

The link to Buck O’Neil’s page on the Hall of Fame website leads to information about the Buck O’Neil lifetime achievement award:

The Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors not more than once every three years to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society, broadened the game’s appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O’Neil. The Award, named after the late Buck O’Neil, was first given in 2008, with O’Neil being the first recipient.

I went back to our visit at Cooperstown at the beginning of our road trip and found this photograph that I took of a bronze statue of O’Neil with an infographic about his eight decades long association with baseball.

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Those are some of the highlights of our visit to the NLBM. Feel free to read more about the current exhibits on the Museum’s Website.

Our afternoon of baseball learning morphed into an evening checking out Kauffman Stadium. We were able to walk right up to the ticket window and get pretty great seats right up over home plate. It was a chilly September night, as evidenced by this concession change:

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Note the carousel in the picture above. As is my ritual when entering any new ballpark (this was my tenth), we did a lap around the park to see what there was to see. The outfield had lots of activities for kids – batting cages, rides, a playground, even mini-golf. I’m not sure how I felt about the number of things kids and their families could be doing instead of watching the game. We kept on moving.

The park had the typical bronze statues denoting notable Royals and this great water feature in the outfield made for cool viewing from either side. Here’s a shot from center field as the sun went down.

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After our exploration, we grabbed some hotdogs and headed up to our seats. A pretty great view for last minute tickets.

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Here’s another view of that water feature from the seats.

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It was a fun outing, but since we wanted to avoid being stuck in the parking lot, and were more than a little chilly, we decided to take off early. Ultimately the Royals ended up winning 7 to 1. We made a pit stop before heading back to Sriram’s friend’s house, which you can read about it in the upcoming “Eats and Treats” installment. Until then, see you next time!

From August 12 – October 15, 2014 my husband and I traveled the northern United States in my Honda Civic. Cross Country Civic was started (and will eventually be completed) to document our cross country adventure. All comments and questions welcome.


Wisconsin: Eats and Treats

We weren’t in Wisconsin very long. Less than 48 hours, but we managed to get in a few note-worthy treats anyway.

Hotel Chequamegon – Molly Cooper’s Restaurant

We headed to the Hotel Chequamegon in Ashland for lunch on our one full day in Wisconsin. We had read about it in our faithful travel companion, Road Trip, USA and decided to give it a whirl. Patio seating was a must, as the view was too beautiful to pass on.

Before we could order, the dark clouds on the horizon began to get darker and we decided that it was possible we wouldn’t make it through the meal without being rained on, so we moved inside. After a review of the menu we ordered up some deep fried cheese curds. A local specialty always requires a try.

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I wasn’t very impressed. It was mostly just batter with just a touch of the curd inside. The batter was good, but with how these things are raved about (even our waitress went on and on about them), I expected more.

For lunch, I ordered the soup and salad combo – tomato soup with grilled ham and cheese. Sriram had the Northern Chowder – essentially clam chowder with rice. Both of our meals were good, but nothing fantastic. I’d rate it probably not worth the stop.

Benoit Cheese

The best thing to happen at the Hotel Chequamegon was that as we were leaving a brochure for a cheese store happened to catch my eye. Since it was (sort of) on our way to our next location, we decided to make the detour. From the outside, the Benoit Cheese Shop doesn’t look like much. From the direction we came in, it didn’t seem to be near much else either. It was definitely an out of the way place that we never would have happened upon if not for the brochure.

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It was busy inside. There were 5 others in the small shop when we arrived. A couple was at the counter having a tasting and another group was waiting to make a purchase or two. Since we’d be waiting a bit, we decided to check out all the cheeses in the various cases. They had a very impressive collection of cheeses, as well as some other local products (honeys, candles, brick-a-brack, etc.). I loved this particular collection.

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We patiently waited and let a few people who had come in after us jump ahead of us since we’d be lingering and not just purchasing. It was worth the wait. When we finally had the chance to sample some of the cheeses, we were very impressed. Pam, who was super sweet and friendly, helped us out with the tasting. Not only did she offer some favorites, but asked about all of our preferences (another group did the tasting with us) in order to pull out other cheeses we might like.

There was really good variety. We started with a series of Goudas. As cheeses go, Gouda doesn’t necessarily top my list – still, they were quite tasty. We tried a few spicy varieties that were quite good. Sriram even tried the Ghost cheese. When I looked to him to see if I should give it a whirl, he merely shook his head. I passed. Our favorite ended up being a BellaVitano Raspberry. It was so delicious we purchased some before leaving. We also picked up some of their cheddar. It will definitely make for very nice snack over the next week. What a wonderful stop. And the best part? They have an online shop so I can order from home.

The Pickled Herring

Our final Wisconsin meal was at the Pickled Herring after our Apostle Islands Cruise. It was chosen predominantly because it was open and nearby when we docked. We were both rather hungry by then. We shared the “Appetizer Special” (Jalapeno Potato Bites served with Buffalo Cheese Sauce), which was quite tasty.

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Then I actually decided to go for it and get some fish – sort of. I ordered the Buffalo Fish Wrap (Fresh Bayfield Fish topped with Romaine Lettuce, Tomato and our Buffalo Relish – Crumbled Blue Cheese, Chopped Red Onion, Celery and Bacon) Wrapped in a Flour Tortilla with Buffalo Hot Sauce). I figured with all of that stuff in there, I’d barely be able to tell it was fish. That pretty much turned out to be true. It was quite good, with the “relish” bordering on outstanding.

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Sriram also ordered fish, and found his a little too fishy, but that’s apparently true of trout. So, not really the fault of the restaurant. Overall, it was a very good meal and the service was good. I’d definitely recommend a stop in.

Feel free to ask questions. And tell us about your great meals on the road.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Welcome to our one and only adventure in Wisconsin (although – definitely see the upcoming “Eats and Treats” for the info on our trip to the Benoit Cheese Company, which was a mini-adventure).

The draw in Wisconsin was definitely the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Lake Superior (it’s starting to seem like we have moved to the Lake). The Apostle Islands archipelago is made up of 21 islands, the first twenty having been declared a National Lakeshore by Congress in 1970 (the other would come in the 80’s). The varying islands played a big part in the early fur trade and through the years have had fishing, logging, and rock quarrying ventures.

We arrived in Bayfield, home to the Apostle Islands Visitor’s Center for information and to get our National Parks stamp and view the exhibits.

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You can visit many of the islands to hike or picnic, but one of the best ways to see the park is by boat. I wasn’t up for more kayaking, so we booked a Sunset Grand Tour with Apostle Island Cruises. With almost an hour before our boat tour, we walked around the small waterfront and happened upon the Bayfield Maritime Museum. The museum chronicled the evolution of boats and ships in the area, starting with the birch canoes used by the Indians to sail powered commercial fishing crafts and more.

As I’ve found with any historical look at the Great Lakes, it would not be complete without information about shipwrecks. The Bayfield Maritime Museum was no exception. As you can see, there were quite a few.

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At 5:15, we boarded the Superior Princess. The boat was not very crowded, so everyone had the option to be inside or out (and I think nearly everyone started outside and ended up inside, including us). The winds and the cool evening temperature quickly had us retreating inside, but the windows opened, so it was still good for photography.

As the tour made its way around the Islands, Captain Pat acted as both Captain and story-teller. The majority of the islands are seen from a distance. Trees and shoreline – very pretty, but after some of our previous adventures, not as overwhelming a view. For a while I was thinking that perhaps this would be the big dud of our trip. Still, some of the islands had interesting stories.

Manitou Island has been restored to a 1930’s fishing camp that used to operate there.

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Captain Pat told a story about a ranger who spent a full season on the island. No cable, no internet, just isolation and nature (I found myself singing, “No phones, no lights, no motor cars…” in my head). Another had once been trapped in the outhouse by a bear. She’d luckily had her radio with her, and had radioed another ranger who’d come over to the island and managed to scare the bear off. When the other ranger asked if there was anything else he could help with, she said, “Wait right there,” fetched her things, and left with him never to return. I can’t say that I blame her.

Another story was told about Skar the bear (though I don’t know if it’s simply a fanciful story to make a point). After tourists had taken it upon themselves to feed the bears, Skar began to get aggressive and was raiding camps. Many things were tried to correct the problem before he simply had to be removed from the island. He was brought to North Dakota and put into the wild there. When the rangers went back to the island the following season, Skar greeted them on the dock. Skar (now stuffed) still greets visitors at the island’s visitor center to serve as a reminder that feeding wildlife will often lead to the animal’s death.

Moving on to more islands, a watchful eye on the highest treetops revealed eagles on watch, which always leaves me wishing for a lens even bigger than the 200mm lens I borrowed from my sister for the trip.

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Things had gotten more interesting, but it was still not as impressive as some of our previous adventures. But then, they’d saved the best for last. It’s Devil’s Island where you finally get to see what all of the fuss is about. The shoreline is a wonderful burst of color and jagged rock. The natural sea caves are both beautiful and fascinating. It makes for dramatic scenery around the lighthouse.

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The trip back was uneventful and once back in town we grabbed a bite to eat before settling in for the night. A new state tomorrow. Wisconsin – we hardly knew ya. Perhaps someday we’ll get back and explore more of what the Apostle Islands have to offer.

Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions. We love getting feedback on the trip.

Fear Factor

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Wise words from America’s former First Lady. And yet, I have much trouble with this advice. For starters, at my age, I feel I’m allowed the ability to simply say that I don’t want to do something (for any reason, including fear) and be ok with that. But, I do like to try new things – within reason. I’ll experiment with foods, and have gone to many new and different places in recent years. I don’t love flying, but recognize it as a necessary fear to conquer for the privilege of exploration. Yet…

To wise Mrs. Roosevelt’s point, this whole trip is a little bit of a “do something that scares you” kind of proposition for me. I’m very much a homebody, and the thought of this many weeks on the road is a bit terrifying to me. I like being close to my friends and family, and I like the comfort of home. Not my things, per se, but my space – that psychological cushion that comes with familiarity. Additionally, I’ve never been big on camping (and rumor has it we’ll be doing a lot of that), so when you add that in, the potential for anxiety was that much higher. But even accepting that, and choosing to do this thing anyway, I recognized that within the confines of the trip, there would be things that would scare me.

I faced one of them today – with mixed result. I kayaked on Lake Superior.

I had kayaked before. Once. You could call it “trip training.” Back in July, I went with my friend Courtney, in anticipation of this trip. Sriram likes to kayak, and has often mentioned wanting to go together. I found the whole prospect terrifying. I’m not a confident swimmer, and even though I’d be wearing a life jacket, my one experience with being dumped out of a raft while white water rafting left me pretty sure that panic would ensue if I got dumped again. He would never force me to go, or pressure me into it, but I wanted to be open to the experience, so on a random Saturday afternoon, Courtney and I went kayaking on the Sudbury River. It was nice. A little daunting at the start, but overall it was relaxing and fun. I was pleasantly surprised.

But kayaking a small river in Boston just isn’t the same as kayaking Superior. Lake Superior might as well be an ocean. It’s so big it has tidal variations. The waves can get pretty high and because there are so many tourist boats heading to Pictured Rocks (where we’d be heading, too) a significant wake was pretty much guaranteed. Still, I was willing to stop into a kayaking rental place and get some information before making any kind of decision.

So, we stopped into Uncle Ducky’s Outdoor Adventures

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Uncle Ducky’s is a family owned business that’s been operating guided adventure tours since 1988. We spoke to a really nice gentleman who gave us information about the tours offered. The tours are of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and vary anywhere from 2.5 hours to 8 hours on the water. I instantly ruled out everything but the 2.5 hour tour. If I was going to give this a shot, it was going to have to be a short trip. After further discussion I realized the 2.5 hour tour included getting to the beach, getting geared up, the safety speech, etc. The time on the water was closer to 1 hour, 40 minutes (which was about how long I’d gone with Court). Even more doable.

I explained about my severe hesitation and asked about the water conditions. I was told that the kayaks were very stable, that the tour won’t go out if the conditions were unsafe, and that the lake in the last few days was only at 1-3 foot waves in that area. That 3 was still pretty daunting to me. He also mentioned that all season only one girl had ever tipped, and that was because she had reached for something outside of the kayak. He was honest about the possible conditions though, which I appreciated. He also provided information about the training and experience level of the guides (all trained and have Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder Certifications). We thanked him for the info, took a brochure and told him we’d stop back if we wanted to go.

I was still very much on the fence. Strangely enough, one of the things that kept the door open just a bit more was the fun array of stickers they had available. As mentioned before, we’re collecting stickers along the road to decorate our Thule roof box with. They had some good ones, and a part of me really wanted to face this fear and earn one.

So the next day we went back to Uncle Ducky’s and asked about the conditions again. We spoke with the same great guy (I really wish I could remember his name), and he said that every trip out that day had been a great one, and that the lake was really calm. I decided to go for it, knowing that I could back out right up until the last second (and could even turn back if absolutely necessary).

We set out in a caravan down to the beach with the other kayakers and guides. There would be two groups for the 2.5 hour tour, and another group heading out for 4 hours. We were paired with 4 other sets of kayakers and a guide named Chris.

Into the kayak we went, and before long someone was pushing us off the beach out into the lake. We were one of the first kayaks out, which made things a little tricky right off the bat. We ended up a little further down than the rest of the group, which made it harder to stay with the guide, which was my ultimate goal. We managed to linger until the group caught up and then started the wonderfully picturesque ride.

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I was having a really good time. The ride was mostly peaceful, and the scenery was fantastic. We passed the lakeshore’s smallest waterfall (at a mere 4 feet), and some amazing cliffs. I snapped a bunch of photos of our travel companions and the beautiful scenery. We drifted in and out of some caves and got rained on a bit.

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Blur is due to water on the lens

Then two tour boats passed in quick succession on their way down the coast, and the “seas” swelled. When we got caught in the wake it felt so big (huge to my scared mind), that I ended up having a full blown panic attack. The fear was overwhelming and I found myself caught between my inability to effectively paddle, and my inability to not paddle at all. Paddling felt like control, even though I wasn’t doing it in any helpful or productive way. Deep breathing helped to calm me down. The wake passed within minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Once it passed, the fear passed, but the tension in my body lingered for the rest of the journey.

Still, I powered on and managed to enjoy the rest of the paddle. We played in some more caves, and even paddled under an arch.

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And, we even finally thought to hand our camera off to Chris for a while so he could get a few pictures of us.

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He also couldn’t resist a selfie.

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By the time we made it back to the beach I was definitely ready to be done, even though it was a mostly positive experience. I won’t say that I’ve conquered the fear. I won’t be hopping in a sea kayak anytime soon (read: ever). But I faced the fear, worked through it, and have a (mostly) great memory and some beautiful pictures.

And I got my Paddling Michigan bumper sticker. Because I truly felt like I earned it.

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Thanks Uncle Ducky’s for helping me face my fear!

Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions. We love getting feedback on the trip.

Christmas Camping

We might have finally mastered this camping thing.  After a few hurried and not so great camping experiences we decided to make a real effort to not arrive at camp really late and really hungry.  Turns out that’s a good strategy. We headed out of St. Ignace after a few days and headed toward Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (America’s first NLS).  The National Park campsites were full, but that was not unexpected.  We got a few recommendations, and off we went, down the road to Christmas.

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Christmas is a small town in Michigan, with a population of about 400. We saw a number of “jolly” sites.

1) Christmas themed street names like this intersection (other intersections included Christmas Ave and St. Nicholas Ave; or Mrs. Claus Lane);

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2. This fun shop, which we stopped into for souvenirs and postcards (they can even cancel your stamps for you with the Christmas postage cancellation);

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3. This inexplicable Hulk reference (ok – that has nothing to do with Christmas, but it’s hilarious, no?).

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After getting the lay of the land in town, we headed down to the Hiawatha National Forest camp ground.

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It was a “first-come-first-serve” place. Spots were marked with their availability. If you liked the spot, you put up your stuff and laid claim. Then you filled out an envelope with how long you were staying, dropped the money envelope into the lock box, and done. After choosing our spot (the waterfront spots were all taken), we went about setting up camp. We had traded out our tent stakes for a second time. The first exchange was wooden stakes for metal. On our last shopping trip we picked up heavy duty plastic. It was a great upgrade and really held the tent taut. We also set up our camp kitchen and our fireside chairs.

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It was a stress free set-up, and with plenty of daylight left we walked through the campground to Lake Superior. It was too cold for swimming, but we collected some rocks. We thought it appropriate that we selected some Christmas colored rocks.

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We also dipped our feet in the cold water, and simply enjoyed the view.

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In the evening we returned to camp, cooked up some dinner, had some wine and cheese for dessert, and then sat by the fire for a while before retiring after a successful camp day.

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So, tell me – what makes for a stress-free camping experience for you?

Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions. We love getting feedback on the trip.

The Mighty Mac and Beyond: Three Days in St. Ignace, MI

The Mighty Mac

That’s what they call Michigan’s famed Mackinac Bridge, which meets at the junction of Lakes Michigan and Huron and connects Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas – two separate states of mind, and the divide between the “Yoopers” (those in the Upper Penisula) and the Trolls (those who live under the bridge). The bridge opened to traffic in 1957, and is considered an engineering marvel (due to the extreme cold and wind conditions it must withstand in winter) and is even featured in a PBS documentary called Building the Mighty Mac.

According to it’s website, at 26,372 total feet, and 8,614 feet of suspension bridge, the Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere, and 5th longest in the World. It is only 54 feet wide, and at its tallest point the road stands 200 feet above the water. In the highest wind conditions, the bridge is capable of moving a full 35 feet east or west. The two inside lanes are open grates (the outer lanes are concrete), to reduce wind resistance. The bridge is so daunting to some that the Bridge Authority offers a “driver’s assistance program” to drive cars across for those too uncomfortable to drive themselves.

Here’s a picture of the Mac from the Mackinaw City side.

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We conquered the Mac early in our visit, driving over on our way from St. Ignace to Colonial Michlimackinac (try saying that three times fast) in Mackinaw City. The weather was perfect, and the wind low. We found our drive over the Mighty Mac to be without incident. A bit of a letdown really. Sriram was driving and said it wasn’t much different than driving over any other big bridge. The open grate made the car shimmy a bit, which felt awkward, but not unsafe. Our return trip was much the same.

Colonial Michilimackinac

We arrived at Colonial Michilimackinac with the intent of popping in for a quick visit. Colonial Michilimackinac is located at the Mackinaw Straits, which historically, was a meeting place for Native American tribes, followed by the fur traders and later by the French, English and American militaries. The Fort itself was built for trading purposes, and later became the scene of conflict during Pontiac’s Rebellion and later during the War of Independence.

We ended up finding it far more interesting than we imagined and stayed for a couple hours. The Fort had a lot of historical information about the fur trade, the various conflicts that took place there, and the area in general. Costumed staff provided further information in various areas of the Fort. The best comparison I could make for my Massachusetts readers was that it was like going to Old Sturbridge Village, but I found it more charming. They weren’t trying as hard. On my visits to Sturbridge, I’ve always felt very much like I was watching a performance, which is OK, as it essentially is. But at Michilimackinac, if you happened upon a “town’s-person,” they’d chat you up for a bit about what they were doing, as if you’d simply bumped into a neighbor.

We watched a cannon demonstration just outside the fort before entering the walled community. Inside the fort we explored the still active gardens (both floral and vegetable) and visited a home of a town’s woman who was making pie in a cast iron pot over the fire, using fresh ingredients grown at the Fort.

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We stopped in to discuss the fur trade with another town’s person and got the current exchange rates for furs. In case you’re curious, beaver still beats everything but bison.

Special exhibits, as well as audio-visual displays throughout tell the often tragic story of the Fort and the lives of those who lived there. While most of the buildings are recreations, there are some areas that are preserved from when the British burned down the fort as they abandoned it during the Revolutionary War. Part of the powder magazine survived the destruction of the fort, and is now on display. Additionally, some other underground areas have been excavated as well and can be seen through glass panels and display cases. It was a fascinating place. We very much enjoyed our visit there.

Mackinac Island

Soon after our visit to the Fort, we headed to the ferry dock and over to Mackinac Island (it’s pronounced Mackinaw, by the way). The Island has 8 miles of shoreline and less than 4 square miles in total land area and is a very popular tourist destination. Sensory overload greeted us upon our arrival. The dock was so crowded with passengers looking to get on the ferry for their trips off the island that we quickly vacated the area because it was too daunting to be in a crowd that big. The smell of horses and manure was also very prominent. Between the crowds and the odors, I did not consider it a pleasant welcoming.

Cars are not allowed on the island, so horse drawn carriages provide island tours as well as transport goods (in fact, UPS delivers in horse drawn carriages). I’m not a big fan of the carriages, so we moved on. Our stroll away from the crowds led us to some nice views of the bridge from the island and some beautiful homes. Once we were sure the chaos had passed, we headed back to the main road to take in the shops and atmosphere, with an ice cream cone in hand. When we were done with our snack we rented some bikes to explore a bit more of the Island. It was Sriram’s first experience on a one-speed bike. He’d never had to back peddle to stop before. My attempt at capturing his ride was not very good.

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We rode through town, enjoying the view, and then parked our bikes and climbed to the top of the Arch Rock – a natural limestone arch on the island. It was difficult to get a great shot of the full arch, and we forgot to ride down the road to try to get it from the bottom (in our haste to return our bikes on time), but you get the idea.

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With our bikes returned, we went in search of a Mackinac Island sticker for the roof box, and walked in and out of 90% of all the shops on Main Street before finally choosing one. Too soon it was back onto to the ferry for a beautiful sunset ride back.

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Life on the Road

Our second day in St. Ignace was spent dealing with some of the less glamorous aspects of our trip. Laundry, shopping for supplies, packing up and sending home some things we’ve realized we didn’t need, and organizing our little traveling circus just a bit more. A more routine day, full of common chores. But necessary to keep things running smoothly. But we also found time to take a walk around town, which we hadn’t done before.

St. Ignace is the last city in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, just before the bridge. It’s a small community on Lake Huron with a small downtown area and a few shops and restaurants. Though we took the ferry from the Mackinaw City side, St. Ignace also provides transport to Mackinac Island. The major point of interest in town are the Father Jacques Marquette Mission and the Museum of Ojibwa Culture, which we visited on our final morning. For the day we merely strolled along the waterfront, enjoying the beautiful, sunny day.

Moving on

Our final morning in St. Ignace we awoke to a beautiful sunrise just outside our room.

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After getting a bit more sleep we packed up our things and headed back into town. On our way out of town we stopped into the Museum of Ojibwa Culture to explore the exhibits. A very interesting place, that tells the story of Michigan’s Ojibwa (Chippewa) Tribe.

Next stop … Christmas?

Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions. We love getting feedback on the trip.

Greetings from Tobermory!

Tobermory is a small town situated at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, which separates the Georgian Bay from Lake Huron, and is considered the fresh water diving capital of the World. The harbor boasts over 25 shipwrecks that divers and snorkelers can explore, as well as a few wrecks that tour boats can take visitors to. Tours also include a visit to nearby Flower Pot Island.

After much debate about how to spend the day we headed toward the Visitors Center for Bruce Peninsula National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park. Shortly after arriving at the center, the rain started up again. That would turn out to be the theme for the day. Rain, short break, rain … and so on. We contemplated skipping the day and simply moving on, but decided that, just like our first day at Niagara, the reality was – we were here, and this was the weather we had. So, we took a brief tour of the museum at the visitor’s center, watched the museum movie, and then geared up for a rainy day.

After the visitor’s center we headed downtown in search of a boat tour of the famed shipwrecks and Flower Pot Island. Stopping into the Blue Heron Co. revealed there were a few options to choose from. A quick 25 minute jet boat tour; a 2 hour round trip tour; and a 1 hour, 20 minute tour that dropped you off on Flower Pot Island for hiking, picnicking, etc. As tempting as that last option was, a look at the radar showed we could potentially be stranded on the island, in the rain, for two hours. A not-very-appealing prospect.

We opted for the two hour round trip tour on the glass bottomed boat, and with 45 minutes to kill, set out for a quick lunch. Most of the places we checked in on looked like they would definitely not get us to the boat in time, so instead we ducked into the local grocery store and picked up some salads and such at the deli counter. By the time we finished our purchase the sun was miraculously out again for one of its brief appearances. We spread the rain poncho I had packed on a bench and sat and ate before getting in line for the boat.

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As the weather had cleared up (for now), a lot of passengers headed topside for the open boat experience. We had debated our choice while in line and had decided the inside was better in case the rain came back. Plus, what was the point of being on a glass bottomed boat if we were upstairs and couldn’t benefit from the view? The decision was definitely the right one.

The first shipwreck came into view about 10 minutes after we left the dock. From the outside, looking down from the side of the boat, it was mostly just shadow. You could see that something was there, but that was it (the view is apparently better from the outside on nicer days). Looking through the glass bottomed section of the boat was very different. I was shocked at how closely we passed over the wreck – a mere 5 feet above. And the water was so clear you could see remarkable detail of the ship. Here is a collage of a few of the photos I took.

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It was fascinating looking at the remains of the ships and hearing the stories of survival and loss. One shipwreck of particular interest noted that while no one had died in the wreck itself, many people had died diving to the wreck. Diving in the area is only recommended for the highly skilled.

The boat tour continued on it’s way over to the famous Flower Pot Island. The island gets its name from rock formations along the shore that look like flower pots. Along the way we saw many kayakers and boaters; beautiful shorelines; and a variety of birds, including two immature bald eagles.

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As we finally approached the side of the island with the “flower pots,” the boat began to list to the side – everyone had moved to that side of the boat for the best view. I glanced back at the crew member manning the snack bar. If he wasn’t worried, neither was I. The “flower pots,” which are sea stacks formed over many, many years, were interesting. I didn’t think they looked much like flower pots, but they were certainly unique.

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One of the formations had a face in profile, reminding me of New Hampshire’s famed “Old Man of the Mountain,” which collapsed in 2003. For anyone who never had the pleasure of seeing it in person, you can find it memorialized on the back of the New Hampshire state quarter.

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After the boat tour, we took a drive around town and strolled out to the Tobermory Lighthouse over in Big Tub Harbor.

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We happened upon a group just finishing a shipwreck dive. We stopped to chat for a bit. One of the divers seemed really exhausted and frazzled. He mentioned that he’d been diving many times, but had never had such difficulty.

On the way back to the car we came across a couple who were also from the States. They had just come from the area we were heading next so offered some ideas of places to check out. They were really friendly and it was a great chat.

As the weather still wasn’t terrific, we later checked into a local motel for the night. The next morning we packed up (with the never ending tweaking of our systems included) and headed for the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry which would bring us to South Bay Town on the other side of Lake Huron. It was the first time I’d been on a car carrier ferry. It was fascinating.

The Chi-Cheemaun (which is Ojibwe for “big canoe”), holds 638 passengers and 250 cars, and can travel at 16.25 knots. The ship is 111 meters on length, and 19 meters across the beam. The bow of the boat opens up to allow cars to drive aboard.

As we waited in line to drive aboard we watched as small passenger cars drove into a long chute. The entire chute is then lifted to create a new row for larger vehicles beneath it. Our roof box put us onto the lower level, as the car became too tall to be in the chute. Just ahead of us in line were approximately 25 Mazda Miatas, with their owners all donning Mazda jackets. Clearly they were heading to or returning from some large Miata-family gathering.

The crossing was otherwise uneventful as there was no view to speak of due to the fog. Sriram actually remarked on the unusual fact that our ferry repeatedly used its horn while at open “sea” due to just how thick the fog was.

When we arrived on the other side we headed for the border via Sault St. Marie. We’d heard the American city of Sault St. Marie was more interesting than it’s more industrial Canadian counterpart. However, a quick drive through left us unimpressed. Despite being tired and hungry, we moved straight through Sault St. Marie on both sides of the border, and headed to our new destination of St. Ignace.

Hello Michigan!

Night at the Roxy’s Campground

Roxy’s Gas, Variety, Cabins & Tent Sites – scene of our second night of camping. May seem like an odd place to set up shop, but Roxy’s turned out to be a pretty great campground. We knew the campsites in the National Park in Tobermory were full for the night, but Roxy’s was only a short drive from our final destination, and they had tent spots available (their cabins were all sold out).

The owner Craig, and the store employee Alex, were super friendly and helpful. While Sriram picked out a site with Craig, Alex set me up with some firewood and kindling. Once the firewood was loaded in the car, I headed into the store for basic groceries and camping needs. I picked up a few supplies, and headed down to our spot.

Unlike our spot at Glimmerglass, Roxy’s wasn’t gravel, so that was certainly a plus for my feet. However, the sandy quality of the ground there made our tent not hold as taut, so that was a bit of a downside (the one problem with the style of our tent is the stakes aren’t just to keep the tent from blowing away, but are also key in the structural integrity). Still, we got the tent up, and then set out our camp chairs and began work on the fire.

One problem at Roxy’s (if you can consider natural things in nature a problem), while setting up I did notice an unusual number of spiders (well, daddy long legs, actually, which I realize aren’t technically spiders). Enough to be creepy. I found myself hearing Rupert Grint’s voice in my head as I worked. “Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be ‘follow the butterflies’?”

Once camp was set up we pulled out our camp stove to make dinner. Our dinner was pretty basic – a can of beans, a chopped onion, and a diced up potato, all made up in one pot. For seasoning we used Ms. Peppa’s Jerk Sauce, which is a crazy-authentic sauce that a friend of mine makes. She’s from Barbados. It’s legit. So, thank you Ms. Peppa for a great dinner.

Rather than dirtying up dishes just for dinner, we put the pot on a makeshift table between us in front of the fire and ate right out of the pot. Later, we sat by the “fire” for a while, but neither Sriram nor I have truly mastered the art of making a fire, so we eventually retreated out of the wind and into the tent. It was another chilly night under the stars, so we bundled up.

Our morning started rather abruptly the next day. We’d planned to reheat our leftovers from camp dinner as breakfast and spend some time reorganizing our camp stuff. Incoming thunderstorms put a quick stop to those plans and we broke camp as quickly as we could, finishing the last few items and packing up any way we could just before the rain set in.

Before heading out, we took advantage of the camp’s showers. I haven’t been to a ton of campgrounds, but enough to know that hot water is not usually an option. In my experience, it’s a good day when you have water bordering on luke warm. The showers at Roxy’s were hot, fairly clean, and had a really good set up (in fact, the National Park campgrounds don’t have showers, and send people down to Roxy’s – we only just beat the rush). The only downside was 2 minutes would cost you a Twooney. But, even though it was quick, it was a well spent $4.

If you’re ever in the area and need a place to stay, I’d definitely recommend Roxy’s.

New York: Eats and Treats

With our crossover into Ontario, we finally left New York behind. We’ve seen quite a bit already, and had some great food. I figured I’d post some highlights for those of you that might care about such things.

Depot Deli and Lakefront Restaurant
Cooperstown, New York

I previously mentioned the delicious sandwich I had at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival the first night. The next day in Cooperstown we started the day at the Depot Deli. We ordered bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches on Texas toast. They were a good start for the day – just a quick meal to get us going before our tour.

For lunch, at the suggestion of Jackie from the BHOF, we dined at the Lakefront Restaurant, at a table with a lovely view overlooking Otswego Lake. After looking over the menu, we decided we had to give their Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers a try. They are typically drizzled with a crab based sauce, but as I have a mild sensitivity, we got that on the side. Sriram said it was delicious. I enjoyed the peppers on their own.


After the appetizer, I had the Cranberry Waldorf Chicken Salad Croissant (chicken salad with apples, cranberries, and walnuts served with lettuce, tomato, a side of potato chips and a pickle), and Sriram had the Roasted Beet Salad (spinach and kale with apple, cranberries, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and a fresh orange vinaigrette). They were both delicious. If you’re in the area, I would definitely recommend stopping in.

Dinosaur BBQ

The highlight of the day was certainly dinner. Our stop in Syracuse (on our way to Buffalo) was specifically to go to Dinosaur BBQ. The wait for seating was more than an hour (the place was packed), but we were told there were tables around back in the “Boneyard” which was essentially an outdoor bar with some shared picnic tables. We lucked out in getting a shared high top table to ourselves and looked over the menu. We decided on a combo plate to share. While waiting for the food to arrive, I checked out the variety of sauces – knowing I’d likely try them all. The choices were Wango Tango, Devil’s Duel, Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce, and Sensuous Slathering.



When our order arrived it all looked fantastic. The combo consisted of pulled pork, smoked hot-link sausage, mac and cheese, black beans, and corn bread. We split the platter between us and each had a ridiculous amount of food.


Everything was absolutely delicious, and as predicted, I tried all four sauces. Wango Tango was good, while Devil’s Duel and Garlic Chipotle Pepper Sauce had the most heat. The Sensuous Slathering was OK – it was sweeter than the others. My favorite turned out to be the Devil’s Duel.

It was a great stop, and easily the best BBQ I’ve ever had.

Top of the Falls

Niagara Falls

As mentioned in the Niagara post we lunched at the Top of the Falls restaurant. We got off to a good start with the loaded fries appetizer. Alison and I were both intrigued by the Barreled Over Burger. The menu’s description read, “Be adventurous! Gorge yourself with our signature burger hand-stuffed with WNY favorites! Angus Beef, Yancey’s Fancy Buffalo Wing Cheddar Cheese, Candied Bacon, Sweet NY State Apples, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Brioche Roll.” Despite it’s description turned out to be a bit of a dud – it mostly tasted like a plain burger, the “stuffing” was so limited. And despite the claim that it came with a free souvenir photo, we were never offered one, and forgot about it until it was too late. Sriram had the Beef on Weck and said it was quite good. But, despite it not being the best meal, the view was wonderful, and as that was mostly the point of eating there, I’d still recommend it to a friend.

The Anchor Bar

For dinner we journeyed back to Buffalo and The Anchor Bar – home of the original Buffalo Wing. I wasn’t sure if I was amused or frightened by our “greeter.” Probably both.


As it was really crowded with an extended wait for tables, we opted to hang out in the bar with it’s fun and chaotic design and hoped for seats. We lucked out pretty quickly and settled in. We were intrigued enough by the Spicy Hot Chicken Wing Soup to each order a cup. It was really good, though more mild in flavor than the description implied. Still, it was hearty, and after a long, cold, damp day at the Falls it was a great way to warm up, so it definitely hit the spot.

After soup we shared a large order of wings (hot) and onion rings.


The rings were very good, a little thicker than I prefer, but crispy and tasty with a nice dipping sauce. The wings more than lived up to their reputation. The heat was just right and they had perfect crisp. We agreed that they were indeed the best buffalo wings we’ve ever had.

If you like wings, it is more than worth the stop.

Duff’s Famous Wings


The next day we were up for more wings at Duff’s simply because we were there. I got my wings boneless this time round, and based on this warning, I ordered the medium.


The sauce seemed a little tangier than the Anchor Bar, but it’s impossible for me to make a 1:1 comparison between Duff’s and the Anchor Bar because I got boneless wings at Duff’s, and it’s just not the same. Still, they were delicious, but despite the warning, I was very quickly asking for a side of the medium hot for more heat. But my tolerance is probably higher than most, so Duff’s probably has it right.

Sriram opted for the fried bologna sandwich and noted that it tasted like bologna, so I guess they got that right.

Other than some delicious Saranac Sodas (a creamsicle and a rootbeer) that we picked up at Dinosaur BBQ for the road, that was it for New York. Stay tuned for more sites and adventures and the next “Eats and Treats” installment.

Niagara on the Lake

While everyone has heard of Niagara Falls, just a ways down the road is the quaint town of Niagara on the Lake. We spent a morning strolling around the town and I positively loved it. The streets were lined with wonderful shops, galleries and restaurants. It was a bright and sunny day when we visited, so tourists were aplenty.

One of the things I loved about the town was how floral it was. I’d be surprised if there isn’t some type of city ordinance regarding landscaping. Everywhere you looked were beautiful flowers – park benches were surrounded by wonderful landscaping, the light poles had flower pots hanging from them, every restaurant and building contained a lovely burst of color and fragrance. Even the homes we passed seemed to be full of flowers.

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On our stroll, we came across a statue of George Bernard Shaw. Intrigued by the connection we did a little research and discovered that the Shaw Festival Theater, established in 1973, is located in Niagara on the Lake. It would have been nice if we were able to take in a show, but we were only passing through.

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Though we very much enjoyed our time there, the town wasn’t without flaws. We drifted into one shop called The Cheese Secret. Turned out the secret was terrible customer service. Beyond saying something along the lines of “nice weather,” the two employees simply stared at us the entire time we were in the store. They made no inquiry of our needs and offered no assistance, so we moved on without a purchase, despite the fact that we love trying new cheeses.

We had lunch on the water, across from Old Fort Niagara.


After lunch we decided to check out a local winery that had been recommended to us the night before at dinner.


Our visit to the Trius Winery at Hillenbrand was a lovely way to spend the afternoon – if you ignore that pesky wine tasting part. It was fun to see the vineyard and hear about the process for the various types of wine, including their ice wine (80% of all ice wines come from that region), which is made from frozen grapes harvested in January and contains no added sugar despite being the sweetest wine they sell.


There were fun facts mentioned on the tour including the fact that Trius produces much of the wine for the area vineyards, including the wine for the Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Collection (we’d seen some for $30 per glass the night before).

We also visited the winery’s cellar, which included a beautiful tasting room.


A very brief overview of the processes and equipment involved in making the wines was given before heading back out to the grounds and the garden for our official tasting. I went through all of the steps of the tasting – checking the wine’s appearance, smelling the wine, swirling the wine – I even tasted the wine, which only confirmed the notion that I don’t like wine.

We were offered three wines in all – a white, a red, and an ice wine. I tried both the white and the ice wines. The ice wine was slightly more palatable to me, but that’s not saying much. Sriram was impressed enough with the ice wine to purchase a bottle. As the teetotaler in the marriage I was happy to have simply enjoyed the stroll of the grounds and the information presented.

And I did learn a nice tip for my next party. Our guide recommended always following the 15 minute rule for wines. If you’re serving a white wine, take it out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to allow it to reach optimal temperature. If you’re serving a red wine, put it into the refrigerator for 15 minutes before serving for optimal temperature. Easy enough. I can definitely remember that.