My Travel Memories: The Car Ferry and Frankenmuth, Michigan

After Wisconsin, we repeated the trip that we made in 1980, this time from Detroit down into Ohio.  In order to get to Detroit, we could have driven back down through Chicago or up through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and back down.  Instead, we took the Badger, a car ferry that, at the time, traveled back and forth between Kewaunee, Wisconsin, and Ludington, Michigan.  Nowadays, the route goes between Manitowoc and Ludington.

I’ve always had a little problem with motion sickness.  It first really showed up when my folks took me deep sea fishing back in the 1970s.  I was miserable.  It never occurred to anyone to bring some kind of motion sickness medicine.  When I got older, we went on the Wendella Boats (a future Northern Illinois Destination) and I discovered that, so long as I can get fresh air, I’ll be okay.  Unfortunately, the car ferry was in 1987, long before Internet-based FAQs.  I didn’t know what I was getting in for, and didn’t know if I’d have access to fresh air.  As a result, I took a Dramamine before we left and spent most of the trip dozing in and out of consciousness.  It was a nice convenient way to travel from one state to the other, however, even if really industrial.  The Badger was originally built to carry train cars, so the Queen Mary it ain’t.

I was still a little drowsy until we got to our next stop, which was in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  Frankenmuth is a nice little town full of white people, much like Door County.  The difference is that where Door County was settled by Scandinavians, Frankenmuth was settled by Germans from Bavaria.  And you can tell that is where they are from, because the town center has lots of kind of stereotypical looking Bavarian buildings.  I suspect that Frankenmuth looks more like Bavaria than Bavaria does (and in 2019, I’ll be visiting Bavaria and will be able to put my theory to the test.

Frankenmuth was the final destination that was new to me on our 1987 trip.  My next travel memory, and the final post on our 1987 trip will be a little bit about the return to cities like Detroit and Cincinnati.  I should be posting that one on June 4, if I continue to keep up with my schedule.

And My Pedometer Counts Had Been Going So Well . . .

I know that getting a consistent 10,000 steps per day is not really likely to happen in my life at the moment.  I walk a lot, but I just stand still for even longer and standing is exhausting in itself.  So, when I first started using the SHealth app on my phone, I counted my steps for a couple of days and then added a couple hundred more to push me a bit harder.  The total I came up with for the day was 8,200.  And, over the first year and a half that I used the app, I got so that having an average of 8,200 steps per day for an entire month got to be pretty easy. I didn’t necessarily make it every day, but I did more days than not, and was able to make up the excess so that I got the average nearly every month.

Then May 2016 happened.

I got off to a kind of weak start because May 1 was a Sunday and I generally don’t work Sundays.  Alex and I went to see a movie and then walked for about 20 minutes, which works out to about 2,000 steps.  So that’s an average of 2,000 steps per day for the month of May.  Then I was off on May 4 and didn’t get an early enough start to do much walking.  By the time I got my act together, it was starting to get too warm to walk.  On May 7, I worked the municipal election, so I didn’t get my full steps that day, either.  Then I came down with some kind of virus on May 16.  For the next week, it took a Herculean effort to even hit my goal for the day, much less start on the shortage.

So now it’s about bedtime on May 25 and I only have six days left in the month.  I also am still 47,000 steps short for the month, which means that I need to average 7,800 steps per day for the next six days.  Two of these days are my days off, though.  If I don’t do any walking on either of those days,  I need 12,000 steps per day on the four days that I’m working.

Will I make it?  If I remember to do so, I will post on June 1 and let you know.

National Geographic January 2016, Part 1

So far, this issue is going much better than the previous one. Let’s see if I can keep up this momentum.

A couple of times in my life I have traveled somewhere just in time for something interesting to happen.  The most notable of these was my family’s trip to the UK.  I had breast cancer in 2001 (it’ll be 15 years this October and I haven’t seen any sign of it since then, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be okay at this point) and decided that I wasn’t going to die without ever having been to the UK, so we made our plans.  As we finished the plans, we realized that we’d be there just in time for the Queen’s Golden Jubliee celebrations.  We also were in London on June 7, which was the day of the World Cup match between England and Argentina, a match that England was apparently expected to lose, but which it won.

How does this tie into my National Geographic project?  For 2016, National Geographic is doing a series on the National Park Service in honor of the Park Service’s centennial.  I didn’t even know that 2016 was going to be the centennial for the National Park Service when I planned a three-national-parks-and-a-national-forest trip which includes the oldest National Park, Yellowstone.  This was a complete coincidence.

How National Parks Tell Our Story — And Show Who We Are, by David Quammen, photographs by Stephen Wilkes.

Just like it says on the label, this article goes into the history of the National Park Service and tells how they decided on a single vision for national parks.  The photographs in this one are awesome, even for National Geographic photos.  Wilkes set his camera up at an elevation and took thousands of pictures of parks (Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and West Potomac Park) over one day.  Then he pasted them together into panoramas showing the vantage point through the night and the daytime.

This Is Your Brain on Nature, by Florence Williams, photographs by Lucas Foglia

This is Your Brain on Nature is about the health benefits of getting out and getting some “green time.”  Williams even goes so far as to say that people may have lower incidences of physical ailments if they live within half a mile of green space.  On the other hand, there is the “urban advantage,” where people who live in cities tend to have have longer, healthier lives than those in rural or suburban areas.  Some of the “urban advantage” probably comes from access to health care, and others come from being able to walk to destinations rather than having to travel in a car to get there.  I wonder, too, if the presence of urban parks makes a difference.

South Texas Destinations: San Antonio Botanical Garden, San Antonio, Texas

When my now-ex and I were first married, we lived in the northwestern suburbs of Chicago. We used to visit the  Chicago Botanic Garden (link to follow after I come back from my August 2016 trip to Chicago) on a fairly regular basis. So when we came down here to Texas and found ourselves with nothing to do one day, we decided to check out the botanic garden here in San Antonio.  And, while it was not as elaborate as the one in Chicago (and was much, much smaller!), we liked what we saw.  I have maintained a membership to the garden on and off for the last 23 years.  I love having a membership because there’s no pressure to spend all day at the garden.  If you want to drive on down there and visit the conservatories then leave, you can.

The site that now holds the Botanical Garden was originally the city reservoir.  It’s kind of hard to tell unless you’re at the very top of it, but the land is on top of a hill and the city was able to use gravity to deliver the water to homes in the area.  This period lasted for about seven years, from 1883 through 1890.  According to the Botanical Garden website, local residents began to worry about the reservoir becoming contaminated and so it was abandoned. The land of the reservoir and the surrounding area became the San Antonio Botanical Garden 90 years later, in 1980.

Today, the garden has lots of smaller gardens within it, including a Japanese garden given to the city by our sister city of Kumamoto in Japan; a series of conservatories; an area of small houses that demonstrate different ways to landscape in a water-conscious way without just yanking out your lawn and putting in rocks (a pretty common approach here, I’m afraid); an assortment of formal gardens; and my personal favorite, the “Texas Native Trail.”

The Texas Native Trail takes up quite a bit of space, so I’m going to focus more on it.  There are three sections to the Texas Native Trail.  The northernmost part is set up to display the plants of South Texas. The South Texas area has an adobe house from the 1880s.  Just south of the South Texas area is an area set up to resemble the Pineywoods of eastern Texas.  This section has taller trees than you find in most of San Antonio surrounding a man-made pool.  The pool is home to an assortment of animals, including ducks and turtles.  The far end of the pond has a reconstructed log cabin first built in Fayette County in the 1850s.  The southernmost section of the trail is set up to resemble the Hill Country with prairie plants and a waterfall.  The Hill Country section has two historic structures, the Schumacher House, which was built in 1849, and the Auld House, which was built in the 1880s.

san antonio botanical garden pineywoods pond
The pond in the Pineywoods section of the Texas Native Trail

The garden has a restaurant, housed in the carriage house of Daniel J. Sullivan, an Irish immigrant who set up a bank that helped fund cattle drives.  The house, which stood on the land at the corner of 4th Street and Broadway, was razed in 1971.  The carriage house stood there for another 17 years.  The owner of the land, the Hearst Corporation (who owned the San Antonio Light newspaper) offered the carriage house to the Botanical Garden if they could move it in three months, a task that they (with the aid of the San Antonio Conservation Society) completed successfully.  The carriage house is currently the entrance to the Botanical Gardens and I believe that there are offices on the second story.

I say that the carriage house is currently the entrance because the gardens are undergoing an expansion. Much that is currently there will remain, but there is an empty plot of land between Funston and Pinckney streets.  The garden owns that land (which has been used for overflow parking in the past) and they are adding new features to it, including a new parking lot and entrance to the gardens.  The projected opening for the new section is in the spring of 2017.

The garden has a number of events throughout the year.  There are art exhibits and educational programs.  They have nighttime events and plants sales, as well.  One of my favorite events (and one that I plug to everyone I can) is the Dog Days.  For three or four weekends a year, you can bring your dog to the garden for a fee of $5 per dog. That $5 goes to animal-related charities. I try to take my dog (who is a little old lady now) at least once a year because she enjoys getting out and meeting, not the other dogs, but the people at the gardens. And the charities that the garden supports are worth it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the garden is as wheelchair accessible as it could be.  Some of the paths are steeper than ideal and/or loosely packed sand/gravel/wood chips and, of course, some of the historical buildings are not accessible.

National Geographic August 2013, Part 3

Let’s see if I can finally knock this issue out and then get back on track.

Secrets of the Maya Otherworld, by Alma Guillermoprieto, photographs by Paul Nicklen

We go to Mexico in this article to investigate a phenomenon known as a cenote, which is a sinkhole that is filled with water.  The water of some cenotes is exposed to the surface, but the one we’re concerned with here, the Holtún cenote, has formed a cave above the water.  The archaeologist that we are following in this article, Guillermo de Anda, found signs of human sacrifice in the cave on earlier expeditions and had a theory that the cenote was used as a sort of natural clock, marking the two days a year when the sun is directly overhead.

De Anda and his partner, Arturo Montero, found that the sun does reach directly into the cenote when the sun is at its peak on those days and they have a theory that the location of Chichén Itzá may have been determined by the position of the cenote.

Parade of the Painted Elephants, by Rachel Hartigan Shea, photographs by Charles Fréger

In Parade of the Painted Elephants, we visit the Elephant Festival in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India.  The festival features elephants, which are working animals for most of the year, being decorated with paint and jewels.  In what must have been 2012, Fréger went to the festival to photograph the elephants and got his pictures just in time.  I say that it must have been 2012 and that he got them just in time because the festival has been cancelled twice, once in 2012 and once in 2014, because the organizers didn’t send the correct documents to the Animal Welfare Board and, out of concern for the elephants (they didn’t reveal, for example, the chemicals used in the paints that year), the Animal Welfare Board shut the festival down.

Next up, January 2016.  Finally.

So, I Was Going to Write About the San Antonio Museum of Art. . . .

I figure that since my last South Texas Destination, Denman Estate Park, was the home of a major donor to the San Antonio Museum of Art, I maybe should write up the museum next.

At first, I thought that I should make another trip to the museum, but I’ve been there dozens, or maybe even scores, of times over the last 23 years that I’ve lived in San Antonio, so I don’t actually need to go there again before I can write knowledgeably about it.

Then I went looking for my pictures from my last trip to the museum and couldn’t find them.

I know that my last trip to the museum was after my dad moved down here in 2009. In fact, Alex, my dad, and I went to lunch at La Gloria at the Pearl Brewery and then hiked down the Riverwalk to the museum, and the oldest Yelp review I can find for La Gloria is from 2010, so we can probably make that the earliest start date.  I think we must have gotten there after 4 p.m. on a Tuesday, because the museum has traditionally had free admission then and I don’t recall paying admission, though that’s actually immaterial.

The trip must have been before June of 2014, however, because that’s when I got my Galaxy S5 phone.  I originally thought to look at my Google Maps timeline to see if that trip is on there and found that neither the Pearl Brewery nor the museum is on my timeline.

I have opened and looked into every folder in my photos directory between those dates and had no luck.  I’ll keep digging just in case, but I think they’re gone.  It’s a pity, too, because there were some pictures that I was really proud of in there.

So it looks like I’ll have to go back to the museum after all.  I might be able to return to the Pearl and to the museum on Saturday, May 21, but the museum might be pretty crowded then and I might not be able to get any really good pictures without multiple strangers hanging around in them. Also, Alex and I are both recovering from a pretty nasty respiratory virus.  I feel a lot better, but I’m several days ahead of him and he got hit harder than I did.

Alex spends Memorial Day weekend (for those not in the United States, that’s the weekend before the final Monday of May) and nearly all of June with his dad, so this Saturday is going to be our last Saturday together until June 25. We have plans with my dad on Sunday, so that’s out.

So, it looks like if we can’t go on May 21, I won’t be writing about the museum until at least June 25 and at that point I might as well wait until Alex gets back from his dad’s and then go before noon on a Sunday or after 4 on a Tuesday when we can get in for free.

So I guess I’ll start working on a different South Texas Destination just in case.  Maybe I’ll do the Botanical Gardens.  I can find lots and lots of pictures from there (we’re members and get in for free). . . .

My Travel Memories, Door County, Wisconsin

During our trip to Wisconsin, we spent a day touring Door County.  If you look at a map of Wisconsin, Door County is that thumb that sticks up into Lake Michigan.

Door County is full of small towns that are, well, not so ethnically diverse.  The population is largely white and largely of Scandinavian descent.  It is a beautiful place, though, and is home to 11 lighthouses (all of my pictures of which are with my now-ex).  We walked around in a park and my mom thought that it looked like it would be a nice place to live.  I thought it might be nice for a while, but that I’d go nuts being so far from a city.

We also went to a fish boil.  Watching the fish being cooked was really fascinating. They put the fish in a basket and put the basket in boiling water.  Then they put some kind of fuel on the fire beneath the pot and the fire flares up.  Unfortunately, the eating of the food is less exciting.  It tasted okay, but it lacked a certain something.  I also had the really disconcerting experience that no matter how much I ate, the amount of food didn’t seem to decrease at all. This led my primary memory of the fish boil being my mother grousing at me because I wasn’t eating. I’m glad I did it the one time, but it wasn’t the kind of experience I’d ever care to have again.

National Geographic August 2013, Part 2

Apparently that sugar story, and my dad’s reaction to it, created a real antipathy in me towards this issue.  I’m just having the hardest time ever reading it. I may break down and go forward to January 2016 soon and just read this one whenever I can bring myself to do so.

Additionally, I’m sort of experiencing a reading detour at the moment.  For several years during my childhood, my dad bought me one Nancy Drew mystery book a month.  I’ve been planning to read them for the last, oh, ten years or so, and in this last week or so, I’ve begun that project.  I’m now up to #14, The Whispering Statue.  They’re pretty dated, of course.  Nancy wastes a lot of gas driving to places where she can make phone calls and things of that nature.  One detail that I didn’t remember from my childhood stuck out at me — several of these books make an attempt at multiculturalism.  For example, we meet a Native American woman in The Secret of Shadow Ranch and The Mystery of the Ivory Charm features several characters from India.  The child character, Rishi, has trouble with the first person singular pronoun that’s kind of distressing for me.  It’s established that Rishi speaks Hindi, and Hindi does, in fact, have a first person singular pronoun.

Anyway, on to the lions of the August 2013 issue of National Geographic:

The Short Happy Life of a Serengeti Lion, by David Quammen, photographs by Michael Nichols

I’m somewhat confounded by this title.  The article is about the social structure of lion prides and their assorted coalitions of males.  We follow one two-member coalition of males, C-Boy and Hildur, as they mate with the females in their prides and fight off invaders, most notably a four-male coalition that are referred to as the Killers.

Lion prides are only females, generally grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and aunts.  Males work in small groups that affiliate with the prides and father their children.  When a new coalition of males moves in, they kill off or drive away the cubs, which causes the females of cub-bearing age to go back into estrus and then the new males father new cubs on the females.

In this article, we find that the biggest cause of death for lions is other lions.  Males will, of course, kill the offspring of other males, and males will kill other adult males.  Males will occasionally kill females (and it is from this that The Killers got their names — they are the prime suspects in the deaths of several females that were being studied).

Overall, this does not sound like a happy life to me.  But then again, I’m not a lion (at least, I would expect that someone would have told me if I were . . . ) so maybe that is happiness for a lion.

Living with Lions, by David Quammen, photographs by Brent Stirton

Living with Lions leads off with a picture of a man with no arms being bathed by another man.  This led me to believe that this was going to be another article like the one on leopards moving into cities from December 2015.  It isn’t.  The meat of this article is about lion conservation.

The home range of the lion has shrunk over the past millennia.  According to Quammen, at one point, lions spread at least as far north as France, as evidenced by the lions in the cave drawings in Chauvet Cave. And now the lion is confined to Africa and even that habitat is shrinking.  Lions do come into conflict with humans, but things like the human population expanding into the territory of the lions and trophy hunting are causing a lot of the drop in population.

We also meet a group called the Lion Guardians.  They are members of the Maasai tribe, who traditionally have hunted lions, to protect the lions instead.  They are paid a salary and trained in how to track lions with radio collars and they track the lions and prevent lions from killing livestock.  As of 2013, the program appeared to be working, and lion killings were on the downswing.