Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 9-10 Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island

Day 9—Upper Peninsula (Michigan)

After a rainy, uneventful (except for the bear) “travel” day, we arose from our stay in Marquette to travel through the Upper Peninsula and see the sights. We stopped in Munising and took a short nature walk to see the falls. We then drove up to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We spent some time only on the western side where the rocks and cliffs were located (the sand dunes were in the eastern part of the park). We had a very nice time and enjoyed the scenery very much. From there we went to Tahquamenon Falls State Park where we visited the Upper Falls and the Lower Falls. While these falls weren’t as large or powerful as the one at the Grand Portage State Park (on the North Shore in Minnesota just before Canada), they were also very cool and impressive. Having sunny weather for our excursions was great. Having travelled through the Upper Peninsula, we headed south to Mackinaw.

Day 10—Mackinac Island

Just returned from a great day of relaxation on Mackinac Island. We took a ferry over from Mackinaw City and just enjoyed a beautiful, clear day on a historic island. We didn’t investigate the island; we just walked a little around town and sat a lot on the lawn overlooking Lake Huron. I was thinking about parasailing, but I decided to wait until we get to Florida for that (since we’ll be in a bit warmer waters!). We’re staying a second night here in Mackinaw City and then heading down the western side of Michigan to the many wineries on the coast of Lake Michigan. We are looking forward to that!

There’s no telling when we will be in Florida, but we are finally beginning to head “south”.

Oh yeah, I had a fresh Pollock Fish-n-Chips last night and fresh Whitefish today—I’m finding good stuff out here on the Great Lakes!

Jj & cj

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 7 & 8 North Shore

Day 7—North Shore Minnesota

After having driven from Minneapolis through Duluth and into the northeastern forest lands of Minnesota as far as Ely (a beautiful little town which may be the canoe capital of North America as far as we could tell), we stayed the evening in a nice little hotel on Lake Superior. Our room had a balcony overlooking the lake and we enjoyed a nice, relaxing evening. In the morning we left to travel up the North Shore. We had to double back to the hotel after six miles to retrieve the map that fell off the roof because for some reason it didn’t manage to make it inside the Jeep when we left. Oh well, at least I didn’t have to jump into the dumpster to find something this time. It was laying on the drive heading out of the hotel when we got back; and it didn’t even have any tire tracks on it!

The drive up the North Shore was beautiful and very relaxing. We stopped a few times to enjoy some of God’s incredible creation before having lunch and spending some time in Grand Marais. This is a picturesque little harbor town that we enjoyed spending a few hours in. We had lunch at the Angry Trout CafĂ© right on Lake Superior. We both had…drum roll please…you guessed it—fish and chips! And the Cod Father says…amen!  That was some good stuff! And fresh. They have a little shack next to the restaurant that you can watch them filet all the fish before sending a batch into the restaurant to cook. They had all kinds of fish, but the fish for the fish and chips was Lake Superior Whitefish. This place, while still not God’s fish and chips (that’s still reserved for the Skagway Fish House where they serve fresh Halibut), is definitely a “keeper” in my book.

From Grand Marais we headed farther north to the Grand Portage State Park just south of the Canadian border (about 100 ft. away). We decided to not go into Canada and just hike out to the highest waterfall in Minnesota. Actually, half of the waterfall is in Canada because the border splits the river in half. We saw some wildlife across the river, too (see last photo). We saw four real-life Canadian Mammals on a platform across the way. Two of them were large and two of them were much smaller. The larger ones looked like they were just enjoying the sight of the waterfall while the two smaller ones were running around. They managed to stay there long enough for me to take their picture! I hardly ever get the chance to photograph real, live wildlife in their natural habitat!

After viewing the waterfall and enjoying more of God’s incredible creation, a creation that He wants us to enjoy…and care for (yes, I’m getting a little “greener” every year), we headed back to the Duluth area where we stayed for the night before heading east again through northern Wisconsin and Michigan.
Until next time…

Jj & cj


Day 8

Left Duluth (goodbye & good riddance) for Michigan through Wisconsin. It was raining all day (1st time on our trip), so we only got out a few times. We enjoyed the scenery while listening to many sermons on the iPod (and I read some to Cindy as well); nice change of pace. But somewhere in Wisconsin we did see a bear cross the road only about 15 feet in front of us. I didn’t have the camera on my lap or I would have had a great shot of a real life, up close and personal, bear. It was awesome!

We’re on our way to the Sand Dunes tomorrow and then we’ll spend a couple of days around the Mackinac Island before heading south down the west coast of Michigan.

Canadian Wildlife. If you look close you'll see them. I wonder if we have these kinds of animals in America?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Minneapolis: July 23-24

Day 6 (Monday)

Well, we’ve landed in Silver Bay Minnesota after a long, circular drive north of Duluth. We are on our balcony looking out at Lake Superior—magnificent! If I didn’t know better I would think we were overlooking the ocean. We just had some fish and chips down the street; and no Ken, they were not up to our high standards. We will enjoy a nice relaxing evening here tonight and head up the coastline toward Canada where I plan to sample some more for lunch and dinner!

We stayed in Minneapolis Saturday and Sunday to unwind a bit and enjoy the sights of what we’ve discovered to be a truly beautiful (and big!) city. We arrived in St. Paul early Saturday afternoon and spent a lot of time driving around. My brother once told me that his Garmin was the best thing that he has ever bought—and we can say the same thing! Without our Garmin, we would have been lost numerous times. We drove around (and around and around and…) downtown and then stopped for dinner at, you guessed it…a Cuban restaurant. Really. A Cuban restaurant. And it was awesome! I couldn’t tell you what I had (I couldn’t pronounce anything on the menu), but it was absolutely delicious. So far, it was the best meal I’ve had on our trip.

On Sunday morning we woke up and attended Woodland Hills Church for the 9:00 am worship service before heading out to enjoy some of Minneapolis’ fine lakes and Riverfront. We had planned on trying to see a Minnesota Twins baseball game, but having only “standing room only” tickets available (for $25 each), we decided to skip the game and spend more time just messing around the city. We couldn’t believe all the activity around the lakes (people sunbathing, picnicking, roller-blading, biking, reading, walking and runners) and on the lakes (sail-boards, canoes, sail-boats, swimmers, etc.). We drove around quite a few lakes before we found a place to park and sit. I guess after a long winter people are eager to enjoy the outdoors again! The Riverfront was also awesome. We drove along the river and stopped often to take in the views. The riverfront drive through the downtown area was especially impressive.

This morning we left Minneapolis and headed toward Duluth where we drove a supposed scenic route through Superior Nat’l Forest. The four to 4 ½ hour drive was about as unscenic as we’ve seen so far! Thankfully we ended up here (very picturesque) and will start our journey up Lake Superior (maybe into Canada) and then back down and through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and down the coast of Lake Michigan…at least that’s what we’re thinking right now. That may change in the afternoon! We may decide to drive through Canada from Thunder Bay around the north end of Lake Superior through Sault St. Marie and down into Michigan. Whew! Traveling cross-country without a clear-cut plan can be exhausting! But we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves…so far!

Well, it’s time to “hit the sack”. Pictures will be coming soon.

God Bless,

Jj & cj

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Some Pictures

Here is a very small taste of our trip. Enjoy!

July 20-22

Hello All,

It’s been a few days, so we wanted to keep you all up-to-speed on our progress. Pictures will be included! Without processing the photos on my iMac, however, you won’t be able to appreciate the scenery as we have.

July 20—Wednesday

Having headed out of Denver at around 1:00 pm on Wednesday (20th), we traveled through some National Grasslands (nothing to see but…grass) and ended up staying at the Hilltop Motel in Newcastle Wyoming (just outside of the Black Hills). This place wasn’t really on top of a hill, but it did look out on the train tracks. Other than the mice that most certainly shared our room and the bathroom sink that was about to fall off the wall and the carpet that may or may not have been vacuumed in months and the shower that was seemingly made for the Oompah Loompahs (or their cousins the Munchins), the room wasn’t a complete disaster—it had free Internet! :-) And even though we half expected some crazed in-bred hillbilly clan to kick in the door and start chopping us up to make us into homemade beef jerky (yes, we’ve seen some great movies in the past!), we slept okay. Having already paid the nice lady running this luxurious establishment we headed up to Devil’s Tower early the next morning.

July 21—Thursday

Devil’s Tower, as many of you know, was the supposed location of Steven Spielberg’s film, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. The movie was great and viewing the landmark as we drove towards it was pretty cool. Devil’s Tower was “The first declared United States National Monument, established on September 24, 1906 by President Roosevelt.” (I packed our brochures so I just “googled” this information while Cindy is driving us through the beautiful farm lands of Minnesota on the way to St. Paul) We actually thought the monument would be larger; though it was very large and impressive. I suppose thinking back on the movie it just seemed to be more massive than it really is. As you can see, we took some photos at different points on the way.

From here we began traveling through the Black Hills and ended up at Deadwood. This was the old western town that Wild Bill Hickok made famous by being killed in the saloon while playing poker. I think they made a movie out of this. This town is supposedly a “…careful, accurate restoration of a historically significant city.” Yes, “google” again! What it looked like to us was a more western looking Blackhawk/Central City. It seemed like practically every building was a Casino. I know they liked their gambling back in the “Old West”, but come on! Of course, now it is slot machines more than poker. Anyway, it was pretty cool to walk into the saloon that Wild Bill was gunned down in (they have the actual chair he was sitting in encased in glass up on the wall). They even had a Wild Bill look-a-like we could have our picture taken with…but Cindy was too chicken. Oh well, we had lunch there and enjoyed ourselves.

Next we were headed to see Crazy Horse! Yeah!!

The Crazy Horse Memorial was awesome! My photos obviously don’t do justice to the real thing. If this is completed in my lifetime, I will definitely go visit it again. Since the project is entirely funded by donations (keeping the gov’t out of the way; do you blame them?), the chances of it being finished any time soon are slim, but one never knows. We enjoyed this place very much and bought a couple of books. And no, I haven’t read them yet…but of course I’ve started them! :-)

Next up was Mount Rushmore via the Needles Highway (in Custer State Park). This was a beautiful drive (as was everywhere in Black Hills National Forest) that took us through “tunnels” that only one car could fit through at a time (hence “Needles”). This isn’t the only way to get to Mount Rushmore, but a couple of the six tunnels were blown through specifically to capture the view of Mount Rushmore. It was interesting to come around a curve and head into the tunnel with the President’s faces looking at us! Obviously I joined many fellow travelers who jumped out of our vehicles to take some snapshots. We didn’t go into the Mount Rushmore Park; the sight while driving closer and closer to it was spectacular enough. I really didn’t think I would have been so impressed with this Memorial since I had seen it on TV so many times, but actually having it jump out at you while driving gave it a perspective that I wasn’t anticipating. Quite a sight indeed!

After Mount Rushmore we decided to call it a day and headed up the road to Rapid City for the evening. No Hilltop Motel here, thankfully! We stayed at a very nice Holiday Inn-Express…and now we’re spoiled. On to The Badlands in the morning!

July 22—Friday

After a very relaxing dinner the night before and a very good night’s sleep, we headed off to The Badlands first thing in the morning. Wow! What an incredible place. I kept imagining the “Wild West” as we drove through. Again, the photos don’t do this place justice. We kind of wish we were here in the evening as opposed to the morning so that we would have seen the sunset out here. Many of the more spectacular professional photographs of The Badlands seem to capture the sun setting on the geological marvels throughout the Park. Oh well, it was still an incredible sight in the morning time. To see the prairie plains juxtaposed to the huge, cavernous rock formation (small canyon’s?) was truly an experience. I kept thinking about old Clint Eastwood westerns (John Wayne was before my time people! ) as we looked out over terrain. If we get back here sometime I will want to spend a few days camping and exploring.

That was about it for Friday. We enjoyed The Badlands and then drove through South Dakota on our way to Minnesota (where we are even now driving as I type this). We stopped for the evening on Friday outside of Sioux Falls and are currently headed to Minneapolis. At this point Cindy asks me to make a special prayer request for her. At this moment we are only on day four of our trip and Cindy has already had to correct me numerous times as to what day it is and how long we have been on the road. I don’t know how much of this (meaning me) she can take, so she asks you all to prayer for her patience as I succumb to “retiree syndrome” and lose track of what day of the week it is (and what we did on a particular day). Hopefully I won’t have to ask her what state we are in or she may leave me at rest area! :-)

We will be staying in Minneapolis for two days. We will be going to church in the morning and taking care of some things before heading up to the Upper Great Lakes for some more enjoyment of God’s beautiful creation…and each other!

We love you all!

Jj & cj

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Disaster Averted...Barely: Dumpster Diving in a Downpour!


This is our initial post as we leave Denver for a long drive cross-country to Florida as we embark on an extended vacation while seeking the Lord's direction for our future. I will try to keep this updated as often as possible with pictures and commentary. No pictures on this post, however, as we have already spent a day on the road.

This is how our vacation began...

July 19th

Disaster Averted…Barely: Dumpster Diving in the Rain!

Well, after finishing the packing and storing (thanks again, Tim), and the cleaning and the taking out the trash (a few times…thanks to DSI for use of the dumpster), and after taking a few things, including Cindy’s Toyota, to the Bloom’s for safe keeping (thanks so much Greg, Christy, Johanna, Nicole, Jonathon and Gretchen!), we then began loading up the car with all of our essentials, which included, of course, two iPods, two smart phones, one Garmin, one laptop and one…iPad. Thankfully, being sweaty and exhausted after working all day, we were getting ready to vacate the house and head to a hotel room to relax for the big day tomorrow. Little did we know that our “adventure” would begin this evening!

Upon packing our suitcases (we decided to leave some “travel bags” at the house to pick up in the morning), Cindy asked for the iPad. Uh-oh! Where’s the iPad?! Neither of us has seen it since Sunday evening and it wasn’t with the laptop or any of our travel bags. We figured it must have been in a stack of catalogues that I took to the dumpster yesterday (Monday 18th). What were we going to do?! If that’s what happened, it is buried under who knows what and has been thoroughly soaked (it had been raining heavily for quite some time now and didn’t look like it would stop anytime soon). We were very upset as you can imagine. We decided to go to DSI’s dumpster and take a look.

And by “take a look” I mean Jason jumping in the filth and wading through it all in a thunderstorm. Sorry, no pictures (too upset to think about); but it was a sight to behold! I was already hot and filthy from a long day working and now I get to crawl inside a dumpster in a downpour. I did have an umbrella with me which probably made the scene even more comical—to anyone but us! I went through that dumpster from top to bottom, from one side to the next and from the front to the back—twice! Nothing! Oh, I did find everything that I threw away for the last two days…except, of course, the iPad! Talk about a great start to our loooong vacation! (Sorry for all the exclamation points, Abbey, but I want to make sure I’m making my point!) :-)

We thought about going to get another iPad (yikes!), but decided to take a chance and check a few boxes that Tim and I just put in storage that afternoon. It was a longshot, but we were already tired and wet and thought, “What the heck. What would it hurt.” So, it was back to the storage unit in the rain. After not seeing it in the first box we opened, things weren’t promising. But, after a quick silent prayer that it would miraculously appear in the next box, guess what we found? Yes, some quilting magazines…and the long-lost (well, not so long, I suppose) iPad! See that? Prayer really does work! :-) Well, maybe it was already in the box. Maybe, though highly unlikely, I had accidently scooped it up with a stack of magazines that I put in the box earlier. I think I’d rather believe the miracle scenario than the lack-of-paying-attention-to-what-I’m-doing scenario. This would make the Dumpster Diving in the Rain a bit more palatable to me.

Now other than the grime, the filth, and the smell, we have a great start to our vacation.

Tuesday’s another big day (in the morning) before we finally “hit the road”.

Until next time (from who-knows-where)…

jj & cj