Critters to the Left and Critters to the Right of Us!!

Watch Where You Step!

Shot by a resident of TGO.

We live in a nature preserve.  That means that a lot of things are preserved here that you would not find in an urban neighborhood.  I thought some of you might like to see a few of the critters who invade TGO and the area nearby.

We have two alligators who live in the pond behind us.  One is about 12 feet long and the other is half the size.  They really don’t bother us! Day and night we have mammoth birds sitting on the banks or launching from our roof.  Sometimes when we walk  from the hut to the RV there will be two large white birds enjoying the day on our driveway!

TGO Heroes

I wanted to upload only photos for you but WordPress is protesting.  We will see what we can do.

Shot by James Dick. He is in a little river that runs through TGO. And those are the colors!

Giant Cranes. Sometimes they walk with me. Shot by a resident of TGO!

The cranes are at least four feet tall.

Several of these rattlesnakes have been found on the Nature trail! The two photos of rattlers were shot by someone at the Nature Center.

Here is a guy to walk with!

Brevard Zoo

Yesterday we visited the Brevard Zoo.  Even with discounts, it cost over $40 for the two of us, but it was worth the price we paid.  There are a lot of exhibits where visitors can interact with the animals and birds.

For a fee visitors can feed the Giraffe!!!!  I have never been so close to one of these tall critters.

I think some of these live out in our yard???

You could walk a path right through the middle of Kangaroo land.  So close, but yet so far!

This one was protected from the fires in Australia.

The Aviary was Supreme!

We are not birders.  I know that they have feathers and feet and that is about it.  We have met hundreds of people who follow birds to the ends of the earth.  After visiting the Aviary at Brevard Zoo, I understand!

It is hard to believe that this bird was so red!

These seemed like love birds to me!

All of these photos are real.  Amazing! One of these guys has a striped vest.

So big and beautiful!

Blue Spring

A few days ago we heard that there were about 40 Manatees at Blue Spring State Park.  The park itself is stellar with crystal clear water.  Yes, crystal clear water is in Florida.  We did see Manatees but they were huddled together playing cards and we could not get good photos of them.  Yesterday, the Manatees at Haul Over Canal circled Tom and his six friends.  Dolphins jumped around the Manatees.  Kayaking here is more about discovering nature than paddling yourself to death!

Volunteering is a great sport in Florida.

 

These photos were taken from the net.

 

This is the closest we got to the Manatees at Blue Spring.  We brought home one of these toys!

Merritt Island National Refuge

While volunteering at the Refuge, we have almost 900 visitors on a single day.  It is the largest and most visited Refuge in the country.  Birders recently spotted a Great White Pelican from Africa recently.  I never knew that pelicans could be so graceful and beautiful.   Pelican Island National Refuge was created in 1903 located near Sebastian Inlet.  I think it was the first National Refuge!

This is a real photo.  Tom took it at the Refuge.

Naturalists love to leave their marks!

There are many other photos but I am afraid I am boring you!  Titusville is a surprise for us.  We made the right decision coming to this fabulous place.  Here is my last critter!

I wanted to do something special for the Brevard Museum.  So I designed and purchased stickers to be given to visitors. (The photo was purchased.)

Come visit!

Photo taken by a resident at TGO.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Space Coast Has Adopted Us!

Making the Most of our Florida Life….

I took a gray Buddha and made him handsome!

Who da’ thought that one year ago that we would be Florida residents today?  Our quest to find a place to vacation has changed our lives.

This is the front of the hut. New paint and a refinished driveway.

For about five months we have been renovating the “hut” that we purchased in Titusville.  It has about 800 square feet of inside living space, and an expansive 600 square feet screened in porch.  We knew the little place had problems, but we never guessed how filthy and dilapidated it was.

Our little hut on a pond!  They call it a lake!

The two couples who owned it did little if any maintenance in ten years.  It still had the original water heater, air conditioners, washer and dryer, and more, that was purchased over 20 years ago.  We even had to replace the refrigerator.  The guy who inspected it, found major water damage on the outside of the house, but did not see that the roof needed to be replaced.  The 20 watt light bulbs hindered him.  He refunded his fee to us.

Creating a Little Paradise

The Guitar Room with Tom!

So, what have we renovated?  The first thing we did was to throw everything away that was inside the house.  It is a tradition at The Great Outdoors, that when you sell a home, you sell everything that is in it, even the TP.  There were a few things that we thought we might be able to use but they were so encased with dirt, grease, and grime that we just gave up and awarded the contents of the house to the SPCA.  To be fair to us, there was so much junk on the walls and crowded into rooms that we really could not see all the challenges that lay ahead of us. The blue blinds in the front room hid many problems.

The office with a side view.

The other side of the room! Notice the banjolele.

We began by scrubbing every inch of the place.  Corners were blackened and windows (with encased bugs) in one room took eight hours to clean.  We painted every room and sealed the tile floors.  Tom tore down the old blinds and added crisp new white ones.  The tile in the shower in the bathroom was so disgusting (We would not touch it.) that we had it re-grouted and cleaned.  We caulked around all the sinks and Tom added a sink and storage unit to the laundry room.

They cooked in this room. Full of holes and grease on the walls.

We bought a new washer and dryer and a state-of-the-art-on-demand water heater.  The electrical had to be upgraded. Tom had a Mitsubishi heating and cooling system installed in every room.  One of the in-wall air conditioners had lost its cover (totally rusted) and it was just sitting there.  Before we arrived in November, he had the roof replaced.

I sealed the floor twice and we painted it.

The porch is painted and we are in the process of adding windows.  I was outside one day on a huge ladder trying to paint the trim on the house when Tom protested.  Seems that he was worried about me.  So, we popped for a painter to finish the job.  A couple of weeks ago we had a professional re-seal our driveway.  And, someone dumped a truck load of river rock in our driveway that had to be moved into place around the hut.  Tom also dug a French drain to keep water away from the laundry room.  Some day we will tell you that story.

The French Drain incident.

The “hut” has a small, functional kitchen that we do not use.  Extra libations, ice cream, and soda are stored in the fridge.  We cook and sleep in our Class A Motorhome and rarely dine in the hut.

It is so clean and bright now!

The hut is extra space for us to live (no bedroom).  Tom has a guitar room.  There is a huge bathroom.  The front room is a dedicated office space with a TV.  And the laundry room houses the dogs (sometimes) with storage space.  We had to measure every inch of the tiny place to find furniture to fit.  Our last big project will be to replace the old vinyl siding next year.

Life is Exciting and New

TCH Animal health is alive and well as Tom helps clients part time.  His other pursuits include playing in a band on Monday afternoons (sometimes I sing with them), aerobics three times a week, and organizing kayaking and biking for residents at TGO.  The guitars are actively played every day. Tom began driving the tour bus for the Merritt Island National Refuge as a volunteer today.

Tom drives and a Naturalist comments. They saw a great white Pelican from Africa today!

This a pic from Biolab road at the Refuge. WOW!

I am not so integrated into TGO.  Because this place is so large and beautiful, it makes my daily 90-minute walks more refreshing.  I have been busy painting and decorating and spending money to make the hut our own!

I knew that I would go outside TGO to find people and things to do.  I applied to be a volunteer at the Canaveral National Seashore (National Park Service) but decided I did not want to drive the hour to Apollo beach.  So,  I threw out a line to both Merritt Island National Refuge and the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science. They welcomed me!

This is an amazing exhibit of people who lived 8,000 years ago in Florida.

On Wednesdays I staff the Visitor’s desk helping people to explore the gorgeous Refuge just outside of the Kennedy Space Center that houses thousands of birds and critters.  I am learning so much and meeting people from all over the planet!  Sometimes engineers who work on the rockets stop by.  Last week we had several French people visit after they watched their rocket take off.  The museum has been training me for about a month to be a docent for the Windover Archaeological exhibit and the history of Florida.  It is so much fun!!!  (Warning, I may write about these adventures later!)

Both Tom and I took a training course in Defensive Driving (passing the tests) so that we could drive the tour bus.  I think I will just be a fill-in for people who can’t make the regular schedule.

And, oh!  I just purchased a banjolele that I am going to learn how to play! The band leader was playing one about a month ago and I fell in love with the instrument.

Come visit us!  We really don’t have any room for visitors, but we will find a place for you to stay! Because of the Space Center there are many, many hotels nearby.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

 

 

 

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In the Shadow of Kennedy Space Center


Was this what I was watching as a child?

Living the Myth at Cape Canaveral

As a child, I would lay in the grass watching for Sputnik to cross the horizon. I wanted to know who was in that shiny little dot in the sky.  I also remember watching astronauts walk on the moon, and then, trying to explain it to an African in Sierra Leone.  They did not believe me!

 

Here is Benjamin Sisko who starred in “Deep Space Nine.”  Borrowed from the net.

I admit it.  I am a recovering Trekkie!  Glued to the TV, I watched many of the Star Trek franchises and read extensively in Science Fiction when I was younger.  Do you remember:  James T. Kirk (a role model), Jean-Luc Picard, Kathryn Janeway, and one of my favorites, Benjamin Sisko? Now we are living that space and star dream in Florida in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center!

We are not alone!  The myth of space penetrates businesses everywhere along the Space Coast.  Here is a short list of some of the astral names people use:

Costal Dental, Astrotech Space, Rocket City Real Estate, Space Shirts, Space Museum, Solar Lube, Rocket Car Wash, Space Coast Credit Union, Space Coast Pawn, Warbird Museum, Space Coast Ice Cream— and so many more!

Titusville (Our Town)

This is it!!! Kennedy Space Center.  Borrowed from the Net.

Titusville even offers a map showing approved designated viewing areas of launches.

Last spring, we were standing in our neighbor’s driveway (at night) when we heard this tremendous sound and then shaking below us.  We looked East and saw a ball of fire take off from Canaveral.  It seemed as if it was a scene from “Dr. Strangelove,” and the atom bomb had just exploded.  We had no idea that launches could be so powerful and visually compelling.

Our friends, Igor and the Red Elvises, perform regularly in clubs around the Space Center.  The fans love his rocket tunes.  Here is one for you!  “I am a Rocket Man.” Just click here:  HERE

Tom wanted to see a SpaceX launch — up close.

The first launch was during the day.

The first day of the planned launch was cancelled at the last minute.  On December 5 it was rescheduled again for around 12:30 P.M.  Crowds were gathering at the water’s edge.  People were parked on the grass with lawn chairs by their sides.  There was an air of excitement.  We were all smiling!

Borrowed from the Net.

As we anticipated the launch, I was struck by how orderly, polite, and diverse the crowd was.  Finally, we saw a flash of light as SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket headed for the Space Station.  The rocket seemed so small compared with others we have seen while staying in Melbourne years ago.  As it reached toward the Space Station the sound was deafening.  Billowing dark clouds of exhaust from the rocket at Cape Canaveral revealed millions of flying birds who had been shocked or displaced by the rocket launch.  What a sight!

My favorite photo so far! A second launch of a SpaceX rocket!

All of us were looking up.  No one moved.  Within a couple of minutes, we lost sight of the rocket.  But people were still looking up. 

I think we wanted another rocket to launch or maybe we were just worshipping the technology that sent that piece of steel into space. 

Maybe we wanted to be in that rocket?  Some left right after the launch, but others stayed and kept staring at the sky as we departed for lunch at Dogs R Us. 

It was a sacred moment.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

Several photos were taken from the Net.

 

 

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Space Coast Xmas underneath the Palm Trees

Rockets launch while TGO Residents do the XMAS Boogie!

SpaceX working for the world!

Usually Tom and I try to escape Xmas by leaving the country. The shopping and frantic rush to make purchases that leads to gridlock in the stores and on the highways is too much for us. One year, to our dismay when visiting India, we were greeted with Xmas music and large decorated Xmas trees at our first hotel. Morocco is a better place to escape.

TGO has changed my mind.

This one is modestly decorated!

It is like they have Christmas fever.  Wreaths are attached to the back of their golf carts.  Christmas lights blink and Xmas music can be heard for blocks. Even the trucks who service TGO residents are decorated.

This is my favorite pic. Teddy bears in a very dated Class A.

At least two streets have Xmas displays that light up the skies at night.  During the day, you can tour the street with blow-up Xmas figures. I especially like the one where Santa is piloting a rocket. And on the main drag, called Plantation, there are pink Flamingo’s pulling Santa’s sleigh!  WOW

Apollo Beach (What a name!)

On one afternoon we visited Apollo Beach on Canaveral National Sea Shore.  Right in front of the visitor’s center was a rocket-ship sleigh waiting for Santa to Arrive.

This sleigh was the most unusual that I have ever seen in my life!

Every yard, the whole street, is lit up at night! Wonder if aliens can see it?

They serve free cookies and drinks at the local church, and have created an evening where decorated houses are open to the public.  On one Friday, scores of decorated golf carts paraded through the compound.  Early  in the fall, the Nature Center had a sale of Xmas items.  Little did we know that these items would be on display just about everywhere. Here are a few of the snazzy golf carts:

Volkswagen Christmas Wagon. They were late arrivals because the sides fell off when they surged toward the street. Quick thinking got it back together.

They were all “hamming it up!” I did not ask them to do this!

This was on the back of a golf cart. Where are the golf clubs?

Don’t you think this one is over the top.

Tom joined the parade. Notice the lights on his handle bars. He was the only one peddling!

Every condo-area throughout the park has its own decorated Xmas sign–with lights.  You can’t miss them!

Underneath TGO Xmas trees are all sorts of creatures including alligators and armadillos. This morning I was over run by guys in their 80’s circling streets in their very red and very expensive motorcycles. On the way home other guys in their 80’s were also driving decorated BMW and Audi convertibles.  Huh!

Shopping at Be(a)lls (my favorite department store) the other day, we spotted a palm tree with Xmas lights that was half price.  But, it was still too pricey for us.  After Xmas, I am going back to see if it is still for sale.  Who me?  Yes you!

This blog won’t describe our experience watching a rocket launch, (that will come later) but I did want to draw attention to the fact that SpaceX is sending objects out into space about the same time that Santa should be arriving.  Watch out Santa!

Santa sitting in the back of a golf cart. He will be coming to your town soon!

As always, this blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

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Cardboard Heaven and the Games Bugs Play!

OZ and the Lay of the Land!  TGO RV Resort Park 

Oz and all its glory. (Taken from the net,)

(Click on the title above)

Everyone keeps telling us that we are, “Living the Dream!”  We don’t remember dreaming about living in Florida.  It was just this thing that happened to us.  We only wanted to spend a couple of weeks every winter where it was warm.  We came, we left, and then we had to return!  We missed the sun, the warmth, and the friendly people.

Bugs, Bugs, and more Bugs!  Every day is a biting adventure.

Stay away from fire ants.  Why?  Well, Tom was trimming our beautiful Palm trees when he was attacked by fire ants.  They bit him up and down his legs.  I was sitting at least ten feet away and they came after me and devoured my legs.  How did they find me?

We followed the yellow brick road to here!

While visiting Sierra Leone, W. Africa, I learned about Army Ants.  If you step on their line, they will swarm all over you and devour what they can.  Fire ants aren’t as lethal, but they sure can bite and the bite itches for weeks.

More Ants and No-See-Ums

We have sprayed for snakes, fire ants, red ants, Palmetto bugs, and more.  At the end of the day, they love the spray.  After spraying your legs with Deet, they head right for you.  We get bit everywhere we go.  On our lovely screened in porch overlooking a pond, we keep feeling something biting but can’t see a critter.  They are No-See-Ums!  Tomorrow I am going to bomb the porch to see if we can keep some of those biters at bay. Oh and by the way, chiggers can rain down on you under Spanish Moss.  And Spanish moss grows everywhere, even on power lines.  Be careful!

Nature Is Beyond Wonderful!

Here’s that creek in the morning sunshine!

Every day I walk by a creek next to our Nature Center.  There are all sorts of stunning white birds enjoying breakfast in the water.  Some of the Cranes appear to be over five feet tall.  The past two mornings sitting on the bank was a Crane and about two feet away was a three-foot alligator.  This morning they were sitting together about four inches apart.  Seems like a strange relationship to me! And……. every once in a while we get a glimpse of an alligator right outside our windows!  Even huge birds spend the night with us!

Renovating the Hut

This is an old pic. The hut is behind the RV.

Cousin Charles and lovely Cassie!

My cousin Charles and his grandchild Cassie dropped by for a visit the other day.  We showed them around the hut and he asked, “Where is the bedroom?”  Well, we sleep and cook in our motorhome and the hut is extra space for music, for writing blogs, for paying bills, for TV watching, for entertaining guests, for eating desserts, for a huge shower, and for doing laundry.  I think it was difficult for them to imagine camping full-time!

 

I never realized how wonderful it would be to visit Lowe’s in the winter in Florida. Just look at those flowers!

We have fixed a lot of things on the hut!  There is a new roof, new washer and dryer, new water heater, new up-graded electrical, new heating and cooling system and more.  Plus, almost every stitch of furniture and shelving is new.  That means that Tom was constantly opening boxes and filling the space in the hut.  Every inch is precious!

Filling the Landfill

TGO is ahead of its time in recycling.  They have an area where old used goods can be taken, stuff can be recycled, and there is a bin for large bags of garbage.  TGO picks up our garbage at the hut every day. We hauled huge cardboard boxes to the area every day for three weeks.

Last March we painted about 75% of the hut  but workers took out air conditioners and filled holes and did not paint or clean up after themselves.  They also left their dirty hand marks around the place.  So Tom spent several days re-painting and touching up areas.  Today I am painting the trim on the porch.  It will take me 2-3 more days to finish.  In my next blog, I will send pictures of the upgraded hut.

When we arrived in November, mildew had encompassed the hut.  Tom and I washed down every inch of our 600 square foot porch and then Tom scrubbed the outside of the hut by himself.  As you can surmise, we have been busy!

Exploring OZ!

Of course, the most important outings are to new restaurants.  One by one we are checking them off the list.  One of the most unusual was “Loyd Have Mercy.”  It boasts good southern cooking and a down to earth clean interior.

Here is the interior of Loyd’s!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playalinda beach just north of Cape Canaveral is one of our favorite spots.  How cool is it to walk on a beach where you don’t see anyone? It is more than restorative!

Playalinda. Ahhhhhhhhh!

Greg launching his kayak at the Marine Park in downtown Titusville.

So far, we feel at home in Titusville and Orlando and have made a few friends.  Orlando is more than twice as big as the Kansas City area.  Titusville is relaxed and Orlando is fast-paced and electric! TGO is a nature preserve through and through!  Come visit!  There is no room in the hut but there are about four hotels about a mile away where you could stay.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and the Canines

TGO is getting ready for Santa!

 

 

 

 

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Dancing down the Yellow Brick Road to Florida

We are not in Kansas (or Missouri) any longer! 

I took this photo which was on the side of one of his 18 wheeler trucks.

About eight days ago the journey to Oz began.  But, before our motorhome was launched Tom had to attend a concert by Joe Bonamassa at the Midland Theatre.  Bonamassa is one of the best Blues guitarists in the world. The Midland Theatre is tired but reminded us of so many tourist sites that we had visited in Europe.

The stage turned different colors with lots of mirrors.

Bonamassa burned up several guitars while the rest of the band followed his lead.  I especially liked the section where there were dueling guitars.  Concerts these days are more than music.  In order to keep you interested they continuously spike the stage lights and shoot spotlights at you.  As soon as they opened the cannons of smog, my eyes began to weep.  The ear plugs could not blunt the amount of sound that was coming from the stage.  Gum inside a package in my pocketbook vibrated violently. It was like a jet taking off!

Sunset at Lake Dardanellle is beyond words!

On the way to Oz (TGO RV Resort and our new hut) nights were spent in various campgrounds.  Hands down, Lake Dardanelle  State Park is a fine place to stay for a few days.  Many of the RV sites are on the Lake with full-hook ups.  Pull-throughs are hard to find.  If you like to walk, this is the place to stop.  You can engage in water sports, fishing, as well as, swimming.  Lake Dardanelle has great staff and a modern visitor center. Our site was right on the lake.  Steps led down to a table and a lower patio.  What a stellar place to vacation.  Below are a couple of photos of our site right on the water.

What a spot to dream!

Just outside Tupelo, Mississippi is Trace State Park.  It had been recommended by Newmar Motorhome enthusiasts. Trace’s brochure boasted a beautiful lake, woods, cement pads, and a wonderful life.   When we arrived, we could barely get through the dilapidated gate.  About five years ago the lake went dry.  No one has been able to fix it.  Instead of gazing out over a soothing water view, we  meditated on dried weeds.  The park itself is crumbling.  The 50 amp service was not working at our site and when we reported it, the three people sitting at the kiosk were unconcerned.  I wonder what those Newmar owners were smoking?

This is not a view of water. It is fog hanging on the weeds. Yuk!

Permanent residents haunt RV campgrounds, parks, and resorts.  A lot of people must live on Social Security or disability or ….  If that is their only means of income, then how do they live?  If you can find an old camper and get it hauled to a RV park.  You can have all of your utilities included in your rent.  We found spots in Texas for $500 a month (Some required additional payments for electricity.)  Recently, we overnighted outside Montgomery, Alabama.  Right in front of us was an old van where someone lived.  Next to it was an ice cream truck, and another old van where two or more people lived.

Tom pointed out the vans to me.  I always want to write a story (in my mind) about the people who are living in these makeshift abodes.  So, I began thinking about an older person, or a person who just got out of jail, or a disabled person, or a recently divorced person.  Soon the person living in this tiny van with flat tires emerged.  She was young, in her 40’s, and was dressed very well.  She went off for a while and brought back her laundry which was hung on her make-shift deck.  I couldn’t write her story!

This happened in Montana also.  We were walking by a dilapidated, grungy, trailer that had been hauled into the campground. It was sitting on top of another flatbed trailer.  We wondered!  A finely dressed, coiffed, and maintained female emerged.  I could not write her story either.  Maybe you can?

Could you live here?

After a horrid night in Lake City, Florida at a dusty, congested, and noisy campground, we decided to leave at 4:00 a.m.  We had to get out of Dodge.  Arriving early at OZ, the transporter of my Beetle also arrived about the same time.  The yellow brick road ended right at our doorstep where we found a rainbow.

Lots of elbow grease awaits us as we complete renovation on our hut.  The sun is shining on November 11 and it is 84 degrees.  You can’t beat it!!

This isn’t our hut. It is a dead gas station!

As we traveled across Alabama we came across many abandoned gas stations like the one above.  We wondered if the trend toward electric cars was already hurting the gas station owners?

Yesterday was the day we made it official! Residents of OZ!

I will be back in touch with you when the renovations are complete and the furniture has arrived.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge and her canines Twinkers and Hillary.

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Belle Isle, Detroit, Motown, RV Hall of Fame, and Cahokia Mounds

Visit Michigan and All its Lakes!

I grew up near Lake St. Clair.  Besides the Great Lakes there are hundreds of lakes in Michigan.  We caught up with friends one weekend at Indiana Dunes National Park on Lake Michigan.

Picture yourself Here!

Gorgeous paintings of animals outside the Visitor’s Center@

The Visitor’s Center is state of the art with helpful rangers!  Capturing the stunning beauty of the sand dunes as they kiss the lake is impossible. Your eyes can’t believe that anything can be so sparklingly beautiful.  Part of the excitement for the day was visiting the Bailly Homestead and Chelberg farm with lots of  farm animals. We also trekked into a dark forest of ancient trees to an unusual 200-year-old grave site.

Motown Record Company. Hitsville USA

How exciting!

Visiting Motown Museum in downtown Detroit was a superb highlight in Michigan.  My brother told us to take a gun.  Not so!  Hundreds of people were flocking to the two stitched-together houses on Grand River. Tom and I have watched videos about the music and musicians at Motown but had never considered how the record company functioned.  Nor, had we considered the millions of records it produced.  It finally sold for $61 million dollars.

Motown was more than sophisticated.  It had the music, but it also had the style.  There were people who recruited singers, taught them how to walk, talk, and to wear makeup.  They were taught manners, stage presence, and a fashion flare that made Motown one of the wealthiest record companies in the world.

We were there in that very recording studio!

Until I began studying music, I had never heard of “race music.”  Supposedly in the early 1950’s and 1960’s people did not want to hear music sung by African Americans.  Motown groups were so great that I never ever thought of race.  They were just talented people that sang tunes. We sang along to the music and danced to their beats.  We were not racists!  And my parents loved Elvis, who supposedly sang “race music!” Here is a video about the music!  Click here!

I lived only about 12 miles away from Motown headquarters and its music is still with me every day of my life.  There was the Jackson Five, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Lionel Ritchie, The Temptations, The Supremes, and more.  And, we looked forward to hearing and seeing them dance on The Dick Clark Show.  Even this morning, every time I heard a Motown tune on my MP3 player, I walked a little  faster with a smile on my face!  Thank you Motown!!!!

Belle Isle and the New Detroit

Historic post card of Belle Isle!

Detroit was a safe and easy-going city when I was a kid.  We would take the bus downtown to department stores and shop for the day. Sometimes we would stop for a Cherry Coke and French fries before heading home.  When I was in seventh grade, I rode a bus by myself to the Wayne State University Library to work on a paper about the history of Egypt.  Those days seem like a myth now!

Another post card of Belle Isle.

After visiting Motown, I had to circle Detroit.  The Detroit I knew is mostly gone.

1950’s in Detroit. What a magnificent place to live!

We got a glimpse of Cobo Hall sitting on the Detroit River.  It has had a make-over.  Next it was a jaunt to Belle Isle.  Belle Isle was “the” place to go when I was young.  There was a zoo.  There was an amusement park.  There were flowers and cascading waterfalls.  There was a beach.  There was an arboretum.  It had an aquarium.  It reminded you of the gardens at the Palace of Versailles.  Today, there is nothing left of that beauty.  It has all been torn down, and in its place, there is a wasteland.  How sad! My brother told me that while we were there a man was murdered on the bridge going across to the island. Ouch!

Detroit today! No Federal’s Department Store, No Hudson’s, No Crowley’s!

RV Hall of Fame in Elkart, Indiana

Here is a home town video of the RV Museum.  Click here.

Mae West’s 1931 Chevy RV.

Fantastic! Mind-blowing! Beyond Belief!  This museum houses RV’s that go back to the first cars that were manufactured.  I took a hundred photos. It is a huge place but it should be three times larger.

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site  (Click here to go to the website.)

Artist’s conception of Cahokia. The mounds are huge!

Cahokia was a welcomed stop just across the river from Saint Louis.  We were stunned by the size of the mounds that had been built so long ago. Cahokia museum is free but leave a donation if you decide to visit.  Here is a video for you:  Video

Imagining the people who lived at Cahokia. Why are Native Americans always shown with so little clothing? It gets cold in St. Louis today!

The museum is state of the art with an interesting video.  The archaeologists and anthropologists attempt to reconstruct the Mississippian culture.  (This takes a lot of guess-work!) If you have read a history of Missouri, you know that there was a huge mound exactly where St. Louis sits today.

Their website reads:  “The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia.”  This is worth a visit!

Home at last!

Tom and I will be heading to Florida to take up residency soon!  We will split our time between Florida and Missouri, with, of course, a trip north during the heat of the summer!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

 

Posted in Belle Isle in Michigan, Cahokia Mounds, Detroit, Michigan, Motown, RV Hall of Fame, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In What Country are We? Do I need my Passport?

“You aren’t from around here, are you?”

We had entered a time machine!

Late at night we could hear the constant sound of trains, eighteen-wheelers gunning their engines, motorcycle enthusiasts, and the clickety clack of horses and carriages going by our door.  We were at the world famous Newmar Service Center in Napannee, Indiana.  Our motorhome had issues that only Newmar could fix.  These problems had to be fixed before our warranty ended.  We were stuck in Anabaptist territory for a week.

Inside their spotless service center. Our motorhome seemed to like it.

The ultra-modern new Newmar Service Center!

At the check-out stand at the local grocery a woman said, “You aren’t from around here, are you?”  The next morning at an Amish Dutch restaurant, the server asked the same question. Maybe it was the fact that I was not wearing an ankle length skirt and a bun on my head that tipped them off. Maybe it was the fact that I was the only woman dining at the restaurant.  The server explained that Nappanee is only a town of 7,000 and a lot of people know everyone in town.  Huh?

The waiting area for clients is stellar but it was still our prison for a week!

Look closely at this photo!

Forced to stay in Amish country for a week yielded great adventures. It seemed as if there were as many people in horse-drawn carriages as people in cars.  The carriages pull everything from other horses, equipment, or materials.  It was almost a shock to see female Mennonites with their long skirts and hat-covered buns peddling down the streets holding cups of Starbucks.  Men with two-foot long beards (no moustaches) wear straw hats or knitted caps. The beards flow in the wind.  Their bicycles pull carts, carry their pets, and usually have saddlebags on both sides.

The Amish are partying at the Dairy Queen!

Sometimes they peddle tricycles with a cart behind, especially to the grocery store.  On a Wednesday night, at the Dairy Queen we encountered a dozen Amish folk who were meticulously dressed in line ahead of us.  I figured that they had just had a meeting.  They all sat together and did not interact with anyone else in the restaurant.  I said hello to one young man and his eyes beamed with joy.  Throughout our stay we waived to many Amish and Mennonites. And they waived back!

Shopping at a local grocery store and leaving poop behind! Yuk!

Little did we know the beauty of Amish homes and farms.  Everything is perfect!  Grass is mowed, paint is new, horses are in the fields.  Gorgeous!  They live on two lane roads and have businesses far away from town.  In between farms, you will find wood-working, or canning, or quilting, or furniture-making shops, or a restaurant or creamery.  They build their own carriages, buckboards, and wagons.  One store sold ready-made carriages.  He displayed them on his front lawn. We felt as if we had left the United States or at least gone back in time.

We went back twice for the great food, and it was 30 miles away.

If we look like we have gained 100 pounds, it is because of the fantastic Amish pastries, pies, cheeses, and home-made chocolates.  While the main menus in the restaurants were normal country food, the desserts sent you flying.  We even ate a couple of meals at a local grocery store, Martins.  Their food was better than most of the restaurants where we dined, and the pies were only $3.99–FRESH!  Visit Shipshewana someday, you will want to stay just because of the food.

The Amish guys at the Newmar plant peddle to work.

Amish pay taxes, but do not collect Social Security.  They can opt out of paying it when they sign up for a card.  Some vote!  Most have 8-10 children that only go to the sixth grade.  They do not have electronics in their homes.  (I bet they have cell phones?)  They do not drive cars and only use a small bit of electricity. (But, interestingly enough, while touring a Newmar motorhome plant, the guide told us that the Amish drive the trucks in the buildings.)

They can collect food stamps but decline.  They are among the wealthiest group of farmers in the United States.  On our tour of Newmar, only males worked in the factories.  Read about them on line!!!  Nappanee houses the second largest group of Amish in the country.

While this is Amish territory, it is also Anabaptist territory.  These hearty souls were known as twice-baptizers in the 16th century and broke with the Roman Catholic Church, not without much pain and torture. Originally within Mennonite groups, they are now separate.  There are many other Anabaptist groups such as the Bruderhof, Hutterites, and more.  Just around the corner from Nappanee is the Anabaptist Seminary and close by is the Mennonite Goshen College.

Founders Building but it is no longer.

While in Indiana we had the opportunity to visit Fort Wayne.  This is where I received my B.A. so long ago.  The college is defunct, but I thought the buildings would still be standing.  Wrong! Most of the college is gone.  I did find my old dorm.  I kept thinking about this private college sponsored by The Missionary Church.

I knew when I was a student that the college had warm relations with the Mennonites in the area.  Some said that it broke away from the Mennonites. (Who cares about these things when you are 17 years old?) While in college, I was assigned extra-curricular activities at Mennonite Churches.  After researching the history of The Missionary Church during our stay in Indiana, I found, “The Mennonite Brethren in Christ changed their name to the United Missionary Church in 1947.”  I was actually schooled by Mennonites! Who da’ thought!

When I learned this, there was an explosion in my mind.  My first major book was published by a Mennonite Press, how ironic, or did they know my past?  In Michigan, we knew nothing of Mennonites.  I lived in Catholic country.  When I was about seven years old, I picked the little 100-soul-Missionary Church as my church.  (My family was not religious.) It was my home away from home.

While the pastor was very right-wing and even preached against drinking, dancing, and playing cards,  I paid no attention to him.  He seemed a little weird to me.  They eventually convinced me to go to their denominational college and even sent me off with a few dollars.  Irony, Irony, Irony prevails!  Maybe they thought the college would convince me not to dance!

This is certainly a commentary on the Anabaptists in the area.

They have hitching posts like in the old west!  One of the women is pulling a trailer with her bike!

There are some negatives to being in Amish country.  Amish do not catch the droppings from their horses.  There is poop everywhere and it smells.  After a while you get used to the smell.  Local businesses have set up bars for the Amish to park their buggies or carriages and hook up the horses.  It’s like the wild west! They leave so much poop that workers have to scoop it up at the end of the day.  YUK!

Mennonite females work in a lot of stores and businesses, but I did not see any employed Amish women. We did see many Amish carts with several children hanging out the window, or a female clinging to two or three babies.  Old Amish females wear all black and a huge black bonnet.

There are a lot of different Mennonite groups in the area.  All the females wear long beautiful dresses.  Elbows are covered but the head gear and color of the dresses change so it is hard to know who is on which team.  In one store out in the country, I asked a female clerk if she was required to wear the dress?  She told me it was her dress and she made it herself!  It is funny to see a female with a floor-length dress operate a fork-lift!

If you have time visit Nappanee, Shipshewana, and Middlebury. We had a great time!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  The next blog will tackle our trip through Michigan and our tour of the Motown Studio.  I lived only ten minutes away and grew up with their music.

 

 

 

Posted in Amish, Anabaptist, Indiana, Nappanee, Newmar, Servicing a Motorhome, Shipshewana, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tootsie Rolls, Donuts, Dollarama, and Friendly People in Canada

Fear and Loathing on the Canadian Borders!!!!!!

(Kabow!@Bam!Yuk*#% Warning! This is not a pie in the sky piece. Tread lightly!)

Happily entering Canada at International Falls with our buddy, Smokey! Photo by Cindy.

I confess.  I idealized Canada!  We love Canada.  Vancouver is my favorite city.  If I had five million dollars, I would live there.  We have visited Vancouver many times.  Tom’s favorite is Halifax in Nova Scotia.  We circled the entire province in an RV.  Montreal is stunning and both Toronto and Ottawa boast diverse populations and lots of amenities.  We have camped along the spectacular route from Calgary to Jasper, through the Rockies, Banff, and the Ice Fields.  Then we headed East through the bad lands.  We expected our adventure around the north of Lake Superior on the Trans-Canada Highway to be just as adventurous and memorable.

 

Thunder Bay.  Can you hear it rumbling?

Thunder Bay is no longer Thundering.  I have dreamed of visiting Thunder Bay since our honeymoon 37 years ago.  Minnesota has been a destination several times, but there was never enough time to cross the border.  Who wouldn’t want to live in a city with that name?

I should have done my research before I began dreaming.  After checking into a very crowded, dusty, noisy, day care, and no WIFI KOA (Kampgrounds of America) we headed toward the dream.  (Campgrounds north of Lake Superior are lost in the 1950’s.) First off, Google GPS took us way past our target.  It happened to us again the next day, when we were directed to someone’s home. Google needs to talk to the Canadians.  I think I will find the number for them.

After getting lost, we decided to visit the Mission Island Marsh.  There were supposed to be trails along the lake and panoramic views of the city. We passed over a bridge heading toward McKellan and Mission Islands.  On the right side, just before the bridge, we saw two Orthodox churches.  We had to return.

Driving through McKellen and then, Mission Islands, felt like something out of a Sci-Fi thriller. Rusting structures flanked us on both sides.  Grass was six feet high in many places.  Debris was everywhere.  We wondered if there had been a nuclear disaster and we were the only people left on the earth.  The bleakness was interrupted only by two men directing one lane of traffic across a crumbling and sinking bridge.  We were not alone.

Very interesting walk into the water.

After crossing the bridge, there were no signs pointing to the Mission Marsh.  It was eerie.  No one was around.  We turned around and went back to another road where we finally found it.  Mission Marsh was a great idea.  Walkways went into the lake and grasslands, but no one was taking care of it.  The grand water view was of a power plant.  The best thing about the place was the oversized, clean, porta potty.  (It looked brand new.) Soon the bridge will fall, and no one will visit.  It will turn into another graveyard of decaying structures.

The Harbors of Marathon and Thunder Bay.

All over Marathon these houses were standing. Very odd. I found out that they were built by the railroad in late 19th century to house workers.

The harbor of Thunder Bay, like that of Marathon, a town a couple of hundred miles to the East has been destroyed and polluted by Big Business.  Marathon’s harbor is being remediated to remove PCB’s and mercury (carcinogens). The view from the hill to the harbor in Marathon is glorious, with small islands dotting the bay.  I could build a house there.  We found only one fisherman at the harbor the day we visited. (I would not eat that fish!) And I wondered when we camped in Marathon about the water we were using.  Eventually, the water flow diminished in our RV, so Tom changed the filter.  It was brown!

In Thunder Bay, old abandoned Silver mine buildings and equipment, defunct paper mills and more, block the gorgeous views of Lake Superior and nearby islands.  The harbor is so polluted that they don’t know how to clean up debris that would fill 130 football stadiums.  Around 1958, in Michigan, I was playing with my Brownie Troup in Lake St. Claire.  The next day, all of the Great Lakes were closed to swimming forever!  The next day I became violently ill and was sick all summer from the poisoned water.  It eventually gave me mononucleosis.  Pollution is real and harmful. We were told not to eat any fish from the lakes for ten years.

Those Churches!

Lord Jesus Christ Ukrainian Catholic Church

It was a good thing that we noticed what we thought were orthodox churches.  It diverted our attention from the holocaust sites.  The area had been settled by Ukrainians and Slovakians.  Houses were built so close that they were leaning on each other.  We haunted and stared at St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, St. Peter’s Ukrainian Church, and the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ Ukrainian Church, all within a block of each other.

These people had fled violence in their countries around the beginning of the twentieth century. We searched their history and learned that thousands lived here and throughout Canada. It was a haven for them.

The Trans-Canada Highway and Tootsie Rolls.

The vistas from the Trans-Canada highway are incredible.  Every turn presents a fantastic view of Lake Superior, its bays, and hundreds of tiny islands.  But, creature comforts lack for tourists. I woke one morning having dreamed that First Nations peoples were smiling and offering us Tootsie Rolls and donuts all along our route.  The truth is that many people are not very welcoming.  We can only speculate as to why they look downward and won’t speak to you. It was particularly obvious in Kenora.

They threw away the food! How horrible!

Entrance to the Finnish Restaurant. It was an old Finnish temple. We ate in the basement.

Service is so bad in restaurants that we left before we ordered.  At a Finnish restaurant in Thunder Bay, a table of four people right behind us got up and left.  They complained loudly that the food was cold, came out at different times, and it ruined their lunch.  We waited, it seemed like an hour, for our Finnish pancakes.  (We thought dining on Finnish food would be a memorable experience–and it was but in a different way!)  And while, as mentioned above, most people do not look at you, we did find two very friendly Canadians who shared their stories with us.

Gracious Canadians who Welcomed us!

Such a wonderful man!

Along the way we met Arnold, a First Nations Canadian at Pukaskwa National Park, and an Austrian, Sophia at Batchawana Bay.  Arnold, whose middle name is Eagle, was so interesting.  He told us about how the national park came to be and how long he had worked there.  He wanted to know what we thought of Trump.  (That discussion has to be private.)  He made us feel so welcome that we would come back to the park again just to see him.

 

Inside the restaurant. I forgot to take a pic of Sophia after I got the bill.

Sophia owns a restaurant, Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort on Batchawana Bay, that was built by her father.  Getting to this Austrian restaurant proved to be a little fearful for us.  Tom brought the rig with car attached down a lonely gravel road.  The closer we got, the more we realized that the place would probably be closed.  Yes, it was only open for dinner.  When we arrived, Sophia ran out to greet us. “Would you like to come in and dine with us, we are hosting a group.”  She told us the story of her family and life, while at the same time, asking us where we had traveled.  It was an unexpected treasured moment for us.

Natural Sites Without Critters!

As the RV sped Eastward, we discovered lots of mines, amethyst mines, gold mines. They have saved a lot of towns from bankruptcy. Clear cut logging has killed a great percentage of the landscape. We did not see any animals or birds. We wonder if the land is toxic.  I can’t remember any road kill either.

This is so different from Alaska, the Canadian Rockies, or Nova Scotia, where every day we would see a wild creature.  Here the only wild creatures we encountered were stuffed or made out of copper. Moose signs warned us often.  The signs were the closest that we got to a Moose. The only evidence of people along this route from Thunder Bay to Wawa were small rocks piled on top of each other. First Nations people sometimes attach beads to a stop sign as a way of reminding you that you are in their territory. The land is so harsh that it would be difficult for anyone to live on it.

The Hype does not match reality!

Here is another goose at Wawa!

Wawa was an overnight stop for us.  We welcomed the little town because it has a few amenities like a donut shop and a general store,  but it is also in decay.  During a very rainy day we visited two waterfalls, Scenic High Falls and Silver Falls. Both were found at the end of muddy roads that eventually covered Tom’s car.  We had to wash it twice before we got most of the mud off of it.

All across Ontario we picked up slick brochures but when we visited the sites, the reality did not match the hype.  Sault Saint Marie has more of those comforts we need in a town of about 75K. We found a well-stocked grocery store, Dollar Tree, and Dollarama (My favorite Canadian store.) just outside the city.

Downtown Sault Saint Marie (Canada side) is a grizzly, empty, dirty place to visit.  This once-beautiful town is dead.  Wild flowers grow in the streets.  It reminded me of some of the towns we found on Hokkaido, Japan or in Eastern Europe.   Helena, Arkansas would make this list too!  I am not going to mention Detroit.  We thought we would walk the streets and find a restaurant.  None was found!  We ended up in the busiest place in town — Tim Horton’s donut extravaganza–for lunch!

Tom and I have speculated as to why most of the towns on our trip are so depressed.  It could be the results of hundreds of closed mines and mills. But we think it is partially due to the number of Provincial and National Parks.  There is barely any room for development along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Fear and Loathing as we pass through Customs

Bridge from Sault Saint Marie to USA.

Read the rules regarding what you can bring back into the USA.  I called Customs and asked which lane  we should choose for our RV when entering the United States.  The lanes are small and we could get into trouble. They reminded me that we could not bring in any fruit, vegetables, or meat.  We are in an RV and have to have food.  We chose not to throw everything out.  If they wanted to throw it out at the border, they could do the work.

Taking canines across the border is mind-boggling.  There are three Federal agencies that have rules.  I worried about all the documents we had to prepare for them.  A specially-trained Vet has to sign papers and you need to show that the dogs have had their shots for a number of years. My Vet had the classification but was very stressed when we went through all the paperwork.  Dr. Hecker is such a good vet!!!

Crossing the border into Canada at International Falls, the agent never even asked us if we had dogs. (They did not bark at all.  They were so good!) We wondered if they would stop us at the border when returning home because of our pets or the food we had on board.  Shaking like a leaf, we entered the truck lane to cross the border.  We had all of our documents ready.  The agent asked Tom a couple of questions about his passport (only) and then waived us on.  He did not even look at me.  Not one person looked at the canine documents that were painstakingly prepared.  We were angry and relieved at the same time.

Mackinac City, Michigan is such a lovely place. This is a pic of the bridge to Mackinac Island.

So happy to be on USA soil (In spite of the cruel politics in the news every day.)!

A Positive Note.  We are now in Michigan and the temperatures and humidity are high and can harm.  We were so happy to be in Canada for a month where the temperatures hovered around 65 degrees.  And, while the harbors are polluted, most of the lakes and streams were crystal clear. It was a shock to see the rivers in Michigan (once crystal clear when I was a kid) flowing brown and ugly.  And driving was a breeze in Canada compared to millions of cars on I75 near Flint, Michigan and around Detroit!

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  Soon, we will write something about our trek through Michigan, my home state.

Posted in Customs at the Border, Marathon, Pollution in Canada, Sault Saint Marie in Canada, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Circling Lake Superior #2–No Dementia Yet!

Canadian Natural Wonders and War History! 

Here is a giant sweep across the north of Lake Superior.

Our home for six weeks!

Typical Vistas of Lake Superior on the Trans-Canada Highway 11/16

Follow our Route! from Thunder Bay to Sault Saint Marie!

Follow the map from Thunder Bay east.

Thunder Bay

Beauty in Thunder Bay high above the city.

Kakabeka Falls about 20 minutes east of Thunder Bay. You can walk right over the falls! Awesome!

Persians are found everywhere in Thunder Bay! Tasty!

Just north of Thunder Bay is a great smoked fish and amethyst shop. We spent an afternoon digging for Amethysts at a mine!

The Town of Red Rock and Neys Provincial Park

On a day trip from Thunder Bay we discovered Red Rock.  It is named for the red cliffs around it, but the cliffs are now covered with trees.  At the interpretive center we learned about this mill town governed by a huge industrial whistle that told the people when to get up, when to eat lunch, and when to go to bed.

One of the best things about the Red Rock interpretive center was an underwater simulation of a trip around Lake Superior.  We saw fish, sunken ships, invasive species and more.  It was so real that it made you dizzy.

The interpretive center also described how German POW’s were housed at Red Rock during WWII.  They tried to escape through a tunnel and were later transferred to another site.  At Neys Provincial Park Germans were also imprisoned. After the Germans were moved, Japanese were forced into the prison. The Canadian Japanese had to sell everything they had.  We did not know that Canada had such harsh policies during WWII.  And we did not know that Canada was invaded by Germans who shot down 23 of their ships in the Saint Lawrence Seaway.  What a lesson in history!

We walked among the remains of the buildings. Metal and glass still sits on the ground from WWII.

This is a miniaturized site that imagines the WWII prison.

I have ordered two books about the evidence of how Germans invaded Canada and were off the Eastern shores of the United States.  I knew that they were in POW camps in Alaska!

Marathon

The best thing about Marathon was the hike that we took through the forest around the campground.  People had created little towns of trolls with houses, ladders, clotheslines, and more.  It was as if magic had happened and we were part of it.

Here is one little troll house! Keep looking and you will see more.

Pukaskwa National Park

I took this picture on a hike from hell above the bay at Pukaskwa.

Tom doing his thing in the Bay.

Wawa

One of the three gigantic birds at Wawa!

Magpie Falls on a rainy day in Wawa –down a muddy road.

Batchawana Bay down a long, lonely, wet, muddy road!

We met Sylvia who fed us lunch even though her restaurant was closed.

Sault Saint Marie, Canada

Sault Saint Marie’s locks are for “show” and don’t really work any longer!

This is a new way to camp. They said that they did not have guns, only children inside.

The Mackinaw Bridge. We were so happy to be heading back to the states!

This blog is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge.  One more blog will consider the economy and environmental devastation of this region! BAM, you might not want to read it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Lake Superior, Provincial Parks in Canad, Sault Saint Marie, Thunder Bay, Wawa, World War II POW's in Red Rock | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment