Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The route to Arizona

I left Yellowstone in snow and traveled east. I had several places I wanted to visit. A GPS would have said the logical route from Yellowstone to Arizona, where I want to spend the winter, is to go south through Salt Lake.
I don't have a GPS for a reason. It would probably be handy finding places in cities, but I like maps, I like asking for directions, and I like the back roads and the serendipitous findings.
The things on my agenda included a visit to Charlotte Robinson McLaughlin. Char and I grew up together. I was a mere 9 months old when our parents met and became lifelong friends. Char was older, often our babysitter. She lives in Bismarck, ND.
It was a good chance to visit. We talked, and talked, and talked. And in between we ate (her mom, Adina, was a great cook and Char is super), we walked, and I got to know her husband, Jim. I left a day earlier than planned to miss snow and ice, but was glad for the time we had.
The watercolor calendar which hangs on the refrigerator in my motorhome is Char's work. Some of you have seen it.

The second place to visit on my list was my aunts in Michigan. Mom's two younger sisters still live in the area where they grew up on an apple farm.
Getting to southwestern Michigan can be done a couple of ways.
One of the ways is to go near Chicago. I didn't want to do that. The other way is the scenic route. And so, I traveled back roads through Minnesota and Wisconsin, picked up Hwy 2 and headed into the UP. Big big interstates are handy for truckers and people in a hurry. I am neither.
Minnesota is wild rice, 10,000 lakes, and Paul Bunyan country. I know why there are 10.000 lakes. They need them to catch all the water that was falling as I traveled through.

Those are good sized trees in the background, just to give you some scale.

When I reached Michigan's Upper Peninsula I called my cousin, Dick. He and Jan live in Indiana. I said I would call well ahead of my visit in case they were at the family cabin in Charlevoix, which is below the UP but still in north western Michigan. Jan answered the cell phone and it turned out they were on a vacation to the UP. We were several hours apart. So, we made plans to meet at Alberta, site of Henry Ford's model lumber company town.
We arrived within 5 minutes of each other, wandered thru the museum (Ford needed lumber for the frames of the early cars), and then went to lunch together. More about visiting Dick and Jan later. I also stayed with them for several days in IN, after the sun came out.
Fall color was good in the UP but the weather wasn't. Years ago, Lin and I spent a good deal of time exploring there. This time forecasts called for continued rainy, grey, cold weather with chances of snow. So, I did not linger.
It seemed it rained constantly across Minnesota, Wisconsin, the UP and southwest Michigan. Looking at my photos, I realize that not only did it not rain quite constantly, it wasn't even grey the entire time. Occasionally the sun broke through, though never for long. When it did, I grabbed the camera and got some fall color.
roadside rest stop in the UP

Time with family

My mom grew up in southwestern Michigan after the first 5 years of life in Idaho. Her sisters Eilleen and Ruth still live there.

That's my aunt, Ruth, with her niece, and my cousin, Margaret. We headed out to the orchards to pick apples. Margaret's mom, my Aunt Eilleen was busy picking behind me when I snapped this photo. Eilleen and I made up a couple large batches of applesauce, a tiny bit of which I still have in my freezer. Margaret went home and made pies.

Eilleen and I spent some time looking at old family photos. She is a "saver" and still has some of the letters my mom wrote her over the years. She is going thru the boxes now, rereading, and then, hopefully, sending more of them to me. I already have a treasure; a letter my Mom wrote on the train, SPAR (women's coast guard) stationery, between Florida and Chicago. I am hoping Eilleen still has the letters Mom sent from her post in Ketchikan, Alaska.

My maternal grandparents, Ross V. Dilley and Gail Maxfield Dilley neither of whom I ever met as they were deceased well before my birth.

While I was in Michigan I saw cousins Margaret, Bill and his wife, Barb. They are the offspring of Eilleen. I have committed to returning to Michigan for Eilleen's 100th birthday which is just four years away.
I also got to see Ruth's daughter-in-law and her grandson Ross who now runs the orchards. I got caught up on other family which I didn't get to see, but who Ruth and Eilleen have seen.

The sun came out when I reached W. Lafayette, IN . And it stayed out while I visited "Dilley Park," home of my cousin Dick Dilley and his wife Jan. Here is my motorhome, getting ready to leave, after a delightful several day stay. In front are my cousin, Dick, with the white hair. If he looks like he isn't very tall, rest assured he is 6 ft plus. It is just that son Neil, is really tall. Neil and his delightful son, Reese, were out for a business trip which Neil was able to combine with visiting. Grandparents got time with Reese, mom got a little vacation, and I got to get to know more of my extended family. I also met Anna, Dick and Jan's oldest grand-daughter, now a freshman at Purdue.
My friend Rebecca, roommate and exploring companion from the years I worked at Bodie State Park, met me for breakfast in W. Lafayette. She and her son had made a trip back to Pennsylvania and were on their way home to Calif. Who would have ever suspected a meeting in the mid-west for the two of us.?
Off traveling again, I hit the secondary highways and rural routes. South through Indiana and then east across Kentucky

I stopped at the South Union Shaker Community on my way across Kentucky. It wasn't a planned stop, but I saw the sign and made a pleasant detour. This is the laundry room. The photo below is the exterior of one of the buildings.

I thought I'd pull into Mammoth Caves National Park for a night. It ended up being a couple. I did do a cave tour, but I am not a "cave person." I much preferred the scenery on the surface. There are some great hiking and walking trails, the fall foliage was beautiful.
I especially liked the waterfall spilling over one of the cave entrances I could have kept going south from Indiana. One of those items on my "agenda" was to revisit the National Museum of Civil Rights in Memphis and do a short article on it for one of the RV magazines. But there was yet another detour.

Fellow Yellowstone driver\guide Larry Crowe comes from eastern Tennessee and he laid out the southern hospitality invitation. After a great day of photographing together in Yellowstone, he suggested I might like the Great Smokies which, when he is not in Yellowstone or gallivanting around the globe, are close to where he lives. So I took him up on his offer, parked my motorhome on his property, abandoned all ideas of reasonable eating, and had a great visit.
We had rain. But then the weather turned perfect. We did some photographing at a nature area nearby and a full day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some of those photos are below. Going out with other serious photographers is good for me. It gets me back into the excitement of it and gets me to do things I should do, like use a tripod and get down close to see things. I had the same kinds of experiences in Yellowstone when Ronnie Silver visited or when I went out with Doug.

Conditions were ideal; fog, dew and sunshine. For a bit we were concerned that fog would win out. Instead, we had patches of fog and enough sun to highlight fall colors.

I have several photos in my files of other photographers at work. You'll see Ronnie, in her red cap, among frosted wildflowers in Yellowstone in that blog

The above is part of my Betty "Monet" group.
Below "ya'll come visit, ya hear," as Larry extends Tennessean hospitality to friends. He lives near Mervil, but if you are looking for it on the map, check for Maryville. That's how they say "thangs" around there.

Next stop, after a night at a Walmart in route, was David Crockett State Park in Lawrenceburg. It ended up being a several day stay. Beautiful spot and close to Amish country in nearby Ethridge (no, there are no photos in deference to the wishes of the people) but I enjoyed driving through the country, seeing the large farm houses, the black buggies, and stopping to buy bread and preserves and to look at furniture and quilts.
I explored the Natchez Trace. Lin and I drove the full length of the Trace years ago, but I opted for a couple day trips, with camera. The photos below are from that exploration.

To the right is a section of the old Trace, a road which lead from Natchez to Memphis.

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