Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Corona Virus quarantine and some cruising too!

Our time at home during the Corona virus quarantine
We arrived home on March 13 in the midst of pretty much everything being shut down.  It was so strange to be home, but not able to really visit with anyone, go to church, go shopping in a normal way, go out to dinner.  We did go to my son’s house and have a distanced meeting on their driveway.   I made some masks, and went grocery shopping the first time.  I felt so sad, so scared, so worried – I was thinking how I really really did not want to live like this:  being afraid to brush up against a stranger or get too close.  From looking at the world from above a mask, breathing through the mask and getting too warm….not fun.  Dan and I really restricted our trips to any store for the first few weeks of the lock down.
After about a month, and more had been learned and disseminated about the virus and how it is passed from person to person, I began to relax and lessen my fearful feelings.  Since we are in that demographic of the over 70 crowd, we are being very careful.  We wear masks when we go into any store, we did not have anyone over to our house for a meal.  But, once the weather started getting better, we decided that we could have one or two people for dinner outside on our patio – distanced, not touching, no hugs.  What a relief!  And, I no longer dread visits to the store – the stores we visit have been very good about cleanliness, almost everyone wears masks.  I feel comfortable.
I worked on several projects during this time.  The most time consuming was a picture book of my sister and my time growing up, our parents and grand parents.  The main time eater of this project was the culling of hundreds of pictures from our dad’s house, to arrive at a representative number of good photos that show what our lives were like growing up.  I couldn’t wait to get those books in the mail so that I could mail them to my sister, her children, and my children.  I do hope they appreciate the effort that went into it and also the fact that no one else will ever have to go through all those photos again!!
Time on the Kittiwake
The marina where the boat was stored for the winter was unable to start putting boats in the water until May – normally they are at it beginning in April.  Our boat was finally ‘splashed’ in mid May.  We immediately started spending time there, cleaning, organizing, stocking food items.  Once the weather was dependably good, we left for a 2-1/2 week cruise.  Canada is closed to Americans for the foreseeable future, so our cruising will be restricted to Michigan waters – believe me, there are PLENTY of places to go in Michigan.
If you picture the ‘mitten’ portion of Michigan, our cruising started at the base of where the thumb would be, in Algonac.  We only travel from 40 to 50 miles per day, at a raging speed of from 8 to 10 MPH.  We stopped in little towns and harbors along the outside of the thumb:  Port Sanilac was our first stop.  Since Harbor Beach was closed (for rebuilding of their docks), and Port Austin was only open for day stops, we had to continue on to Caseville.  We did stop in Port Austin, since our canine was desperate for a pee stop!  Caseville is a nice little town with lots of camping areas around, plus, of course the marina.  Travis and his family drove up with their camper for a couple of days.  It was fun having them onto the boat for dinner and for breakfast.  We took them out for a little Walleye fishing – made Travis’ day.  He caught a big one, cleaned it for us, and that was our dinner that night.  Caseville was a site we used to go as a family when both kids were small.  At that time, the beach was huge, and the water was great for kids because of the sandbars close in.  Today, the beach has been greatly eroded from the high waters of the lake.  But, still it is a good place to visit.
From Caseville, which is just at the top and on the inside of the thumb, we cruised across the Saginaw Bay to East Tawas.  Very nice marina and lovely little town, that actually had many restaurants, bars, and restaurants open.  A fairly good percentage of customers were wearing masks, and all the people working in the establishments.
Next stop was Harrisville.  Only one restaurant/bar was open, and there is not much in that town.  We decided to get a beer and sit out on their patio to drink it.  As we went in, wearing our masks, we noticed that not one other person, either customer or worker, was wearing a mask.  Hmmm.  So, we sat at the bar, told the bartender we planned to take our drink to the patio.  Nope, local regulations do not allow that.  So, we removed ourselves to the farthest and least occupied part of the dining room, had our beer, then went into the restroom for a good hand washing.  Then, we were out of there!  People are pretty cavalier up there, since the number of Covid19 cases is small.
Next was Alpena, then Rogers City, and Cheboygan.  We stayed at each place one night, and left at our leisure the following day.  In Cheboygan, we stayed at the City docks, where there were no attendants. A guy came by the next day to collect the fee.  It was a nice, quiet place, right near the downtown area.  We had met a couple from Florida in one of our stops, and we saw them again in town having dinner.  We joined them and had a nice conversation.
We had decided that we would explore the possibility of leaving the Kittiwake in Cheboygan for the winter.  The main reason is that this would give us a jump start on our cruising for the 2021 year.  It took us almost 2 weeks to get this far from the Algonac marina!  Cheboygan is only about 5 hours from home by car, and only one hour from our Grayling cottage.  We did secure a spot in heated winter storage, at Wolstrom’s.  Next spring, if we need to spend a few days in Cheboygan before the boat is splashed, we could stay at the cottage. 
From Cheboygan, we decided to spend one night on Mackinac Island.  We love it there!  And, we had decided to bring one dressy outfit and to splurge for a dinner at the magnificent Grand Hotel.  We took a horse-drawn taxi to and from, and had a delightful meal.  The downtown area was pretty crowded, with many people not wearing masks, so we did not linger there.
Next stop was St. Ignace, which is the most southern spot on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, just across the Mighty Mackinac Bridge – 5 miles long!  On our way to St. Ignace we cruised up to and under the bridge – wow!!  We planned to spend the 4th of July weekend in St. Ignace, which is a small town.  They had a parade and some of the best fireworks we have every seen!  On the same dock with us were three other boats sporting the AGLCA (Looper) flag.  That is pretty rare around these parts!  These three couples travel together all the time.  We were invited over to one of their boats for cocktails and snacks, which turned into dinner.  Fun!  We went back to our own boat to view the fireworks.
Unfortunately, on the 4th, Dan tripped on the rug in the boat’s salon and fell against the corner of the galley counter.  He thought he had broken ribs.  He was in such pain, but no ribs were broken.  He likely ripped a rib or two from the cartilage fastening them to his spine.  He could hardly move, and was taking probably more Tylenol than was good just to get through the day and night.
These three boats’ home marina is in Cheboygan, called the Duncan Bay Boat Club.  As it happens, we had made reservations there following our St. Ignace stay.  We and all those folks’ boats are also wintering in Wolstrom’s there in Cheboygan.  To get home for a couple of weeks, we had rented a car at the closest rental place, in Pellston – about 20 miles away.  One of the couples nicely offered a ride to get the car.  We picked up the car, threw the dog and our stuff in, and made it home in about 5 hours.
We love cruising on the boat.  We also love being home (me more than Dan!).  So, we are home for two weeks, visiting with the grandkids, doctors’ visits, house maintenance, enjoying the garden, new neighbors.  Also, it was really good that Dan was home to recuperate from his injury.  He already had an appointment with his GP in Ann Arbor on Tuesday.  She gave him a pain prescription that really helped.  Now, days later, he is still in recovery mode, but is experiencing much less pain.
I have committed the ultimate mistake in blogging - I have left the posting of pictures so long that I'm not even sure where some of my shots were taken!  Actually, I am going to include pictures up to our time on Mackinac Island.  The rest, I am leaving to be included in pictures from our 2021 cruising, during which, we will repeat many of our stops in 2020!

A bridge on the St. Clair River

One of the big un's we have passed!

Another big guy to share our waterway!

Sunset in Caseville!

A visitor in Caseville!

The walleye dinner from Travis' catch!

Barge full of junk at sunset-beautiful!

our slip in Caseville

pretty sunset in Caseville

Can't get enough of those sunsets!

Docks in Alpena

Cheboygan City docks

In a Cheboygan park

love this pavilion in Cheboygan park

First view of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

more coming into Mackinac Island

Guarding the entrance to Mackinac Island

Coming closer

last picture from Mackinac Island, I promise!

Buoy at entrance to Mackinac Island channel

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Albuquerque and Santa Fe, last stops for this season

Albuquerque, New Mexico

We had decided, on the way to Albuquerque, that we would head for home as quickly as we could as soon as we spent a couple of days there.  Dan had a cousin (not by blood, but family in spite of no blood in common!) that he had not seen in probably 50 years!  We stayed in a commercial campground for the first 2 nights, then moved to Kirtland AFB for 2 nights.  We did get to meet Mary Esther and her husband, Sam, for dinner on Saturday night.  Great Mexican food and conversation.  

Albuquerque is another area with beautiful scenery, with mountains in the background.  Here are a couple of pictures from where our first campground, which was located on the Rio Grande (nope, not the one on the Mexican border!).

Dan and I are quite naturally separated from most people while we are traveling. We did some exploring of Santa Fe on Sunday, and had a lovely lunch at the La Fonda Hotel.  All restaurants and bars were closed here (and most places in the country) on Monday.  That will be our last sit down meal in a restaurant for a while!

Santa Fe – I had heard about this town, and was excited to see a little bit of it.  Santa Fe was the most unusual looking town that I have seen in the US!  Most buildings were flat roofed and adobe – even recently built housing areas.  The downtown plaza was mostly that style of construction too.  We went to the New Mexico Historical Museum and were lucky enough to join with a docent who focused on the railroads as being such an integral part of New Mexico’s history.  Before railroads, everything had to come in by horse/mule-drawn wagons, or horseback.  Of course, there were no tourists.  Once the tourists began to come, several tuberculosis sanatoriums were established here in the area of Santa Fe.  The weather here was very attractive because of the plentiful sunshine all year.  The TB patients were encouraged to be outside as much as possible.  Many of these people took up painting and other art forms.  Today, Santa Fe hosts a large contingent of artists of all types….again, because of the railroad!

We learned more about a man, Fred Harvey.  He arrived in this country from England on a boat, by himself, at age 15, with the equivalent of two pounds in his pocket.  He started by working in restaurants in New York, then New Orleans.  He learned a lot, saved his money, and then started a restaurant in St. Louis with a partner.  The restaurant did well until the Civil War.  His partner split with all the money to go and support the Confederacy.  Fred then got a job on the train.  During his travels by train, he was dismayed and disgusted by the food that was available to travelers.  Being smart, industrious, and confident, he managed to convince the owners of one railroad to let him start a restaurant to service rail customers.  He provided quality food with fresh ingredients, and the rest is history!  He went from restaurants to hotels, always insisting on the highest of standards for his customers.  He got whatever fresh ingredients that was available from surrounding ranches and farms.  Other items were shipped in via the train in refrigerated cars.

He hired a woman named Mary Coulter, an art teacher in Minnesota, to participate in the design of his restaurants and hotels and to decorate them.  The La Fonda Hotel was an example, and much of the hotel appears just as she designed it, complete with works of art.
One of the ways Mr. Harvey provided excellent service was through the “Harvey Girls”.  Most of the population in these western areas was men.  He hired young, single women from out east to serve the meals in his restaurants.  They lived in dormitory-type places, with a dorm ‘mother’, curfews, and rules.  They could not date or marry while being a Harvey girl.  They were required to wear clean, pressed uniforms at all times – for meals at the rail-side restaurants, a bell would ring to announce the imminent arrival of a train.  The girls and staff sprang into action, ready to provide a top notch meal during the 40 minutes or so that the train would be at the station.  After that train pulled out, the girls were required to change into a fresh uniform before the next train arrived. 

These ‘girls’ became, I’m sure, the matriarchs of many families in the west.  Everything we heard about Fred Harvey caused us to marvel at his influence in these parts.  I’m really surprised that neither Dan nor I had ever heard of him before traveling here in the Southwest.

I took LOTS of pictures in Santa Fe!  Such a cool town - from the little that we saw on one day, we knew that we could have spent a week there!  Everywhere we looked was something very artistic - door wells, windows...   

installation depicting some cutthroat trout

typical construction style

end of the Santa Fe trail - had a real effect on this history of Santa Fe

beautiful wood design

love the wood!

Rosie the Riveter statue in the museum

stunning hand painted windows in the hotel

fireplace with carved wall

lovely painting in the hotel

as someone who sews, these hand embroidered curtains are especially impressive!

another view of the hand painted windows

carved art by a doorway

I really love this piece

this is the bathroom stall door - art everywhere in the hotel!

art outside a downtown building

first native American made a saint, Kateri Takakwitha, 1656-1680

We were sitting there, on Saint Patrick’s Day, in a military campground during a very strange time in our country and the world.  The COVID19 virus is spreading rapidly, and all over the country and the world, we are trying to slow the spread by staying at home, by limiting our social contacts and our trips out to stores, doctors, etc.  We are over 2400 miles from home.  We left the next morning to get home as quickly as possible.  We expect to find no restaurants open, but we are well provisioned and should have no problem with enough food to eat.  We didn’t know if we would find campgrounds open, but we were fine with that, too.  As long as we have fuel for the truck and propane for the camper (heat and stove), there is really no need to pay a campground, even if they are open.  

We arrived home in 3 days, stopping one night in a roadside picnic area and the last night in a Walmart parking lot.

Now, we are home in Michigan - we are so truly fortunate.  We have a comfortable home, a yard to enjoy, plenty of food to eat, income not dependent on our working outside the home.  Our boat will remain in its winter storage until the marinas are able to open.  I miss being able to freely visit my grandchildren, but I do talk to them often and visit at a distance on their driveway!  I miss attending my church - our minister is sending out services, complete with scripture, sermon, and music from our music director and others.  I find myself sitting there listening with tears running down my face.  It is hard not knowing when things can start to open up again.  Our job, right now, is to stay home to keep this awful virus from being able to spread.  I pray every day for our health care workers (doctors, nurses, techs, facility support), and all the truck drivers and store workers who keep our essential supplies available to us.  I'm calling our blog complete for now - more when our travel bug can be nourished again!!