Thursday, May 31, 2007

May 31 -- Sandusky to Home

We couldn't be so close to Lake Erie without seeing it, so we started the day on Jackson Pier in Sandusky. The first picture is of the story of the Underground Railroad. Apparently, Sandusky residents played a big role in the run away slaves escape to Canada. The second picture is of Cedar Point from Sandusky. If you look real hard you can see the roller coasters through the fog.

We left Sandusky and decided to stop at Joann's niece Tammy and nephew-in-law Guy's restaurant in Monaca, PA, just north of Pittsburgh. We had seen the restaurant when they first bought it and had started renovations. It has turned into a real work of art. Fortunately for us, both Guy and Tammy were at the restaurant and hard at work. It is named Pacentros after Guy's birthplace in Italy and the place his Mother and several relatives still live. On the inside he had a mural of Pacentro painted on one of the walls. The walls are primarily painted a warm Tuscan yellow, except in the entry and restrooms where Tammy added a deep red. It really works well together. The special today was a "small" Calzone with one topping and drink. "Small" was definitely a misnomer, although Tammy said you have to see Guy's regular sized Calzone to realize the one we had was small. Joann and Jack shared one and they still took 1/4th home. It was outstanding! Of course, they had to try an Italian dessert, so they went with the Tiramisu. Great presentation! and great taste! After eating the delicious food it was no surprise to see the restaurant fill for lunch. They definitely have a well deserved hit on their hands. Congratulations!! Tammy and Guy. We are proud of you both! And Joann has another menu--autographed by the owners--to add to her collection.

We are home now. The laundry is started. The lawn and gardens look like they need a little loving care, which they will get tomorrow--at least until the heat drives us back inside.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 30 -- Detroit to Sandusky

They say, "Always leave them wanting more." And that's where we were with Detroit today. We drove by the Ford plant near Greenfield Village, but there just wasn't enough time to take the tour. They bill it as very entertaining with no free samples at the end.

Our adventures actually started before we got into the car today. We met a lady at breakfast who kept talking to us about the area and things to do and see. As we started to our room, she followed us. She then told us she needed money for her medicine and offered to sell us her sterling silver ring for $10. We hesitated, but then decided we had given more then that to beggars so Joann is now wearing a big, heavy silver ring, which is probably hot. If her finger turns green, we'll just pitch it.

We checked out of the hotel almost immediately and drove out to see the Grosse Pointe mansions. On the way we stopped at a couple of old Mansions that are not really on tour for the public. The first picture is of the Col. Frank Hecker house. Hecker established the Peninsula Car Company and was one of the first Commissioners of the Panama Canal. It is currently used as a law office. It's a perfect example of how the city grew up around some of these beautiful old home. The next house is the Fisher Mansion. (Ever hear of "Body by Fisher"? Well, this is his home.) Fisher was a bachelor who presumably gave some great parties. In addition to his executive position in the Fisher Body Company, he was president of Cadillac from 1925 to 1934. It is said that when he was going out for the evening he would call the Cadillac plant and have a car delivered that matched his attire. Even though the house has 22,000 sq ft, it only has two bedrooms. The house was bought by one of Henry Ford's great grandsons in 1975 who proceeded to renovate the house to its former glory and then give it to the Hare Krishna. His daughter is a member of the Hare Krishna and lives in a nearby small house with her husband and two children.

The next two houses are examples of "everyday" houses in Grosse Pointe. The biggest houses--even bigger then these--were along Lake Shore Drive, but we couldn't stop to take pictures.

We then stopped and toured the Edsel Ford home on Lake Shore Drive. (This is the English style mansion with ivy in the pics.) Edsel, the only child of Henry and Clara Ford, died in 1943 at the young age of 49. His widow continued living in the house until she died in 1976 at the age of 80. Her will created a trust and she put the house and all its furnishings in the trust for the enjoyment of the public. As you can imagine, money can buy anything material and the house lived up to all our expectations. And we had a private tour since we were the only ones there so early in the morning. Many of the rooms were paneled with the interiors from English homes, including the grand stair case. The next picture of the small house was the playhouse Grandma Clara gave to her only granddaughter, Josephine, on her 7th birthday. What else do you give a little girl that has everything. The house is fully furnished, complete with Bavarian china, and a docent takes you through. The furniture is on a child's scale and adults have to duck to get in the doors. Our final stop on the estate (sorry, no pics allowed) was the garage, which houses two cars: Mr. Ford's 1941 Lincoln Continental dream car and Mrs. Ford's 1952 Lincoln Town Car, which she designed to have a higher roof to accommodate her hats. She rode in the Town Car from '52 to her death in '76. She never drove, she was always chauffeured.

The last house is the Henry Ford mansion, Fair Lane. Henry Ford's will left the house, several hundred acres, and $6 million to the University of Michigan, Dearborn. Unfortunately, the furnishings were not included and the grandchildren sold off most of the personal items. This made us appreciate what Mrs. Edsel Ford did by including all her furnishings in the trust. Henry Ford's house is about 38,000 sq ft versus Edsel's at 33,000. Henry's had a bowling alley and indoor pool, although the pool has been filled in and the room turned into a cafe.

By the time we had finished both tours and had lunch, it was about 3:00 pm and we started driving towards Virginia. It started lightning and raining after we got on the Ohio Turnpike, so we stopped near Sandusky, OH, for the night. We should be able to easily complete the last 400+ miles tomorrow, meaning we will get to sleep in our own bed tomorrow night. Look forward to seeing everyone on the Loop tomorrow and our daughters this weekend--if they are available.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29 -- Milwaukee to Dearborn, MI

Today was an early day. We were so concerned that we would miss the ferry this morning that we could hardly sleep last night. We got up at 4:00 am and was at the ferry by 4:45. It departed on time at 6:00 am and being high speed (about 40 mph) we made it to Muskegon, MI, in about 2 1/2 hours. From Muskegon, we went directly to Grand Rapids and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. His burial site is beside the museum. The first picture is of the Grand Rapids skyline from inside the museum. They did a good job representing his life, career and marriage in different areas making him grow as you proceeded through the museum. The three things that impressed us the most were: 1) the recreated Oval Office from his days in office. Betty decorated the office including designing the rug used. They also reproduced the cabinet room from his presidency. The three presidential portraits he included in the cabinet room were Eisenhower, Lincoln and Truman. 2) The second thing was that they had the ladder used at the Embassy in Saigon during its evacuation at the end of the Vietnam war. They included pictures that showed people climbing the ladder to reach the helicopters that kept landing on the roof. 3) The third was a poster from the mid '70's that could be used today. Although we've included a picture of it, it's not a good shot. The bubble says "Are we gonna let those morons kick sand in our faces?" "Would we really kill for oil?"

From Grand Rapids we drove to East Lansing and the campus of Michigan State University. The picture of the Spartan is from there. Joann's deceased brother, Harold, graduated from State and was always a big supporter of their athletic programs to the point that he did recruiting for them. When he died, he willed a portion of his estate to the University.

We then drove on to Ann Arbor and saw the University of Michigan campus. They are only about 60 miles apart, which adds to their rivalry. From there we drove on to Dearborn, MI, with plans to see the Henry Ford Estate here tomorrow before going on to Detroit, which is only a few miles down the road. Since we missed the nice Spring weather, we feel like we have jumped from Winter to Summer with these 80+ degree days.

Monday, May 28, 2007

May 28 -- Milwaukee

It was a sad day for Milwaukee Brewer's fans as they lost to the Braves 2-1. It was a great day for us, since we saw some new sites, enjoyed some beautiful weather and ate some wonderful food.

We started our day by stopping at Miller Park where they were preparing for the Brewer's game. The guard at the gate was very nice and let us park in the employees' parking lot and walk around the outside of the stadium. It gave us a great view of the inside with the roof open. After that we drove to the River Walk in downtown Milwaukee. A lot of the walk is being renovated and was closed, so our walk was short. We did walk around the part of Milwaukee referred to as the "Old World." The Old World was primarily Germany, so we were in our glory. Unfortunately, the two main stores we wanted to visit were closed. One was the Cheese Mart and the other was Usingers with its 70 varieties of sausage.

We then went to the Pabst Mansion for a tour. Like many of the old mansions, the original owners lived in them only a short period of time. The mansion was built in 1902 and Cpt. Pabst died in 1904 and Mrs. Pabst died in 1906. Their heirs sold the mansion to the Catholic Archdiocese in 1908 and it was lived in by the Archbishops for 67 years. They painted the fabulous wood paneled walls and did other devastating things to the house that almost ruined it. They even painted over some of the murals in the house. In 1975, the Holiday Inn next door bought the property with plans to tear it down and make a parking lot. In the meantime the Milwaukee Preservation Society raised enough money to save it from the wrecking ball and in the past 31 years they have worked to restore the interior to its original grandeur. The house cost $250,000 to build in 1902 (that's $10 million in today's dollars) and the ceiling in just one of the bedrooms cost $230,000 to restore. We estimate that they are about 70% complete with their restoration, so we saw a lot of it completed. We had planned on seeing 2 other mansions, but discovered they were both closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. So, now we have something to come back to see. We did get a view of one of the other mansion's gardens from the road and they were very impressive. By the way, if you drink a Pabst Blue Ribbon beer today, it is brewed by Miller in Chicago.

After our tour, we returned to the Old World part of Milwaukee to have lunch at the best German restaurant we have eaten in since leaving Germany. It has been in business since 1902 and with the same family. It's called Mader's after the family. The decor was outstanding and the food was near perfect. We had no idea and just lucked out. The hallway to the restrooms is lined with photos of famous people who have eaten there and with letters of "thank you" to the family. We were certainly in good company.

We then went to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Their new Quadracci Pavilion, the first Santiago Calatrava-designed building in the United States, features a 90-foot high glass-walled reception hall enclosed by the Burke Brise Soleil, a sunscreen that can be raised or lowered creating a unique moving sculpture. From the outside, it appeared to be a ship with wings.
After viewing all the wonderful art, we went out to see the ending of the Memorial Day Parade. They then had a member of each service--including the Coast Guard, Jeanine--lay a wreath in the water of the reflecting pool at the Milwaukee County War Memorial built above the Art Museum.

We then decided it would be a good idea to find the Ferry we are taking tomorrow for Michigan. It was not as easy as we thought, since the highways are so torn up. But we did find it and made reservations for the 6:00 am sailing. That means we'll be getting up around 4:00 am to get there on time. On time is 5:15 am--not 6:00 am. When we arrive in Muskegon, MI, around 9:30 am, we'll be back in Eastern Daylight Time.

May 26 -- Minneapolis to Milwaukee via Madison

The day was beautiful--clear blue skies and 75 degrees. We enjoyed our drive very much, but we were surprised by the terrain in Wisconsin. Expecting lots of flat land with grain fields and dairy cows, we were surprised to see rolling hills with lots of woods. We had driven over 100 miles into Wisconsin before seeing our first dairy farm. In Madison, we had lunch near the University and had a good view of the Capitol. The picture of the Capitol was taken from our outdoor table as was the picture of the two of us. It seemed like the Capitol, which our travel guide says is the largest outside of the Nation's Capitol, was part of the University. Driving on to Milwaukee we saw more dairy farms, but not many. It makes us question their title "America's Dairyland." The number of dairy farms is declining due to the high costs.

After checking into the hotel, we turned on the TV to the weather channel and discovered that Northern Virginia was having severe thunderstorms, so we called Jenn and Terry to see how things were. Apparently, it wasn't really storming yet and Terry said they really didn't notice the weather because they never get outside--too busy finishing the painting in the nursery and putting together the baby's furniture. We would feel sorry for them, except we are too excited about becoming grandparents.

After a short rest, we headed for downtown Milwaukee. On the way we passed Miller Park where the Brewers play. It looked a lot like the outside of Camden Yards, except for the retractable dome. Next, we discovered that they are building a new interstate through downtown Milwaukee and our navigation system doesn't deal well with detours. We drove out to Lake Michigan and took a walk on the beach. On the way back to the hotel we drove through a small park that reminded us of Rock Creek Parkway in D.C. and then we drove by some beautiful mansions just about a block from the Lake. On Memorial Day we hope to tour Milwaukee and some of their beautiful old homes like the Pabst Mansion.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

May 26 -- Minneapolis and St. Paul -- The Twin Cities

The first thing we learned on our tour of the Twin Cities was that they do not get along and they have very different cultures. Minneapolis is constantly tearing down its old structures and building new. St. Paul preserves its historic buildings and has strict codes regarding their rehabilitation. St. Paul thinks Minneapolis gets all the States perks. (Minneapolis has the major leagues athletic teams, the State Theater and the State Opera House. ) St. Paul has the Capitol Building and St. Paul's Cathedral. They both have sky walks that allow you to walk around the downtown area without ever going outside. They are heated in the Winter and cooled in the Summer even though our guide said they only have two seasons in Minnesota -- Winter and road repair time. The sky walks in St. Paul are owned by the city and are all uniform. The ones in Minneapolis are privately owned and are all different. St. Paul was originally called Pig's Eye after the scoundrel who was kicked out of the military and stayed in the area near Ft. Snelling. Fortunately, a French Roman Catholic missionary showed up and built a Church called St. Paul. He was subsequently successful in getting the name of the city changed to St. Paul. Since then a new St. Paul's Church has been built and it is the 4th largest Church in the United States.

We drove past many of the Twin Cities' highlights, but it was hard getting pictures from the bus. Later, when we went back to some by car, our camera battery died. We saw Hubert Humphrey's grave; Walter Mondale's home; the house used in the Mary Tyler Moore show; the Governor's Mansion where no one has lived since Jesse Ventura was Governor three years ago; MANY statues of the characters from the Peanuts cartoon strip (Charles Schultz was from St. Paul); several of the city parks (1/6th of the land area of Minneapolis is dedicated to city parks); Minnehaha Falls where Minnehaha and Hiawatha were going to plunge to their death until Hiawatha's Father gave them permission to marry; the house where F. Scott Fitzgerald lived with his parents (after flunking out of Princeton) until This Side of Paradise was published and he had enough money to move away from St. Paul, marry the glamorous Zelda Sayre and never return (now the City honors him and named the Theater where Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegon and Prairie House Companion fame broadcasts from); and several other things that escape our mind at the moment.

Key to pictures: 1) State Capitol Building (presumably it has the largest unsupported dome in the world. 2) The house used in the Mary Tyler Moore show on TV. Apparently, she never saw the house until the series was off the air, but the owners showed her around when she did come for a visit. They have a statue of her downtown on a street throwing up her tam like she did on the show, but again, she never walked these streets in the show. 3) Schroeder and Lucy in a St. Paul park that is dedicated to Charles Schultz. 4) A house on Summit Avenue, which is the snob hill street for St. Paul. The Governor's Mansion is on this street. 5) Minnehaha Falls, supposedly the highest urban water fall in the country. 6) Sky walks in downtown Minneapolis, 7) The spoon with a cherry (water runs over the cherry) in sculpture park. The Basilica of St. Mary's is in the background. It was designed by the same person who did St. Paul's Cathedral, but it is not as large.

What a moose would look like if she dressed like a Red Hot Momma, or...

what Jeanine would look like if she were a moose. Take your pick. We found this adorable moose in the Department 56 store. Carol Ann and John, you guys would love this store. Be sure to check it out if you're ever in the Mall of America--3 rd floor, West side.

Friday, May 25, 2007

May 25 -- Bismarck to Minneapolis

Today was primarily a driving day. The Eastern half of North Dakota was very flat with lots of farms. Parts of it would rival Kansas in boredom, but we were listening to David Baldalci's latest novel, Simple Genius, and time went very fast. Our first stop of the day was at a Frontier Village with a National Buffalo Museum. Their claim to fame was the world's largest buffalo. If you haven't guest, it was just a statue. Our next stop was in Fargo, ND, to see its one and only highlighted attraction, the Fargo Theater. There's not a lot going on in that town and before we knew it we were in Moorehead, MN. They run into each other and we didn't even know when or where we crossed the line. We arrived in Minneapolis around 4:00, checked into the hotel, rested for a couple of hours and then tackled the Mall of America. What a monster! But, Jeanine tell Bryan he would love it. Not only does it have 520 stores, 50 restaurants, and the world's largest indoor amusement park, it has a Lego Imagination center that would challenge any kid at any age. The camera man in the glass cage and the clock are both made out of legos. We ate dinner at the Mall in Wolfgang Puck's Express restaurant. Great food. We are scheduled for a tour of Minneapolis at 10:30 tomorrow and we then have a better idea of the city hightlights. We have now been in 49 states--only 1 to go.

Memorial Day Weekend

This is Memorial Day Weekend. The weekend to remember our past and present fighting men and women. That Spokane Armed Forces Lilac Parade was so patriotic. It brought tears to my eyes. And the parade was top notch. As good as the Tucson Rodeo Parade or the Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Parade. This is some of what I remember:

Air Force jogging down the parade route. Marines riding in a truck and pulling a howitzer. The National Guard with a sign that said: drivers needed. Coast Guard marching in snappy uniforms. And the red hot mommas! Yep! These mature women dressed in pink with pink flamingos on their straw hats and pink Kirby vacuum cleaners in their hands. The vacuum cleaners had pink lights to match the pom poms on their sneakers. What a hoot! I have a new goal: to become a Red Hot Momma in the Spokane Parade. Just wish these ladies could vacuum up this Iraq War.