Saturday, October 28, 2023

Life is One Long Ride, Enjoy the Journey

Sparky LOVES riding her bike, as anyone who follows our blog knows. This post is yet another tribute to one of the nicest bike trails in the US, the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail leading out of Goshen, IN to Shipshewanna, with some other trail spurs along the way. Even though it is not a Rails-to-Trails, it's a beautiful paved path most of the way. Because some day Sparky is going to be too old to ride, she wanted to make another post about riding the Pumpkinvine in late October so she can look back on these photos and reminisce about the different seasons on the trail....Here is what she saw on her 16 miles today from Goshen to Middlebury and back.

Less than two weeks ago, the trail was a canopy of mostly green leaves. Now, it's all shades of yellows, browns and oranges. The trees changed so fast!

Riding the trail, the carpet of leaves on the ground would change from a swath of yellow.....
To browns in another section, then oranges, and reds yet in another section of the trail, even a swath of green.....

The flaming sumac are predominate on the trail now. With many of the trees having shed their leaves, the sumac really stand out.

The farmers have harvested their corn but the soybeans are still standing....
There was a section of trail that had raindrops still glistening on the leaves, the patterns were cool! No matter how she tried, she couldn't capture the sparkle of the dew drops, when looking at them without the camera phone, they looked like rhinestones on the leaves. Through the lens, ordinary raindrops. Nature is so beautiful, especially on this trail. Even decaying leaves (at left) look cool.
Not only are there the usual fall colors, there was a small shrub or bush that was PINK!
If you're been following us, you might remember Rocky the Trail Snake? Someone with a little whimsy started a painted rock snake with a head and about three rocks way back in the early summer. They posted a sign about adding to him with a link to a FB group for him. "Rocky" has grown to a length of over 160 rocks by now and is about 26 feet along at the side of the trail off on the berm. He has been lovingly attended to by someone sweeping away the fall leaves so you can see how he's grown. Here is a section of the newest rocks. People are so clever with painting them!
Somebody added a really big rock with a Halloween theme painted on it, two ghouls with "return of the living" painted on it.

Soon Rocky will be hibernating but it has been fascinating to see his growth and the participation of the riders and walkers along the trail, as they added cool additions to his tail.

Another cool thing about the trail is they have regular events and others scheduled to use the trail. There is a running race this weekend, Sparky saw some runners on the trail today getting their mileage.

We are really enjoying fall's beauty... A big cold front is coming in soon...Highs in the FORTIES, lows in the twenties and thirties for the next two weeks. We are ready. Bought an ice scraper, Sparky bought her boots and we are stocking up on fall and winter clothing. That's something we really didn't need while we were traveling out on the road, following the sun and staying where it was warm most of the time.

Sparky will probably change her tune when the first icy sleet comes to Elkhart, IN, but she has lots of crafting projects ready to go for those bad weather days, and she is subbing a LOT, keeping very busy. Eldo is doing lots and lots of research about all kinds of things. 

The latest on the rig is it has been painted, but a part is still on hold! Probably another couple of weeks before we can pick it up. We are having it winterized and not traveling anywhere at this point in time, we are going to settle in for the season.

We know we won't have any travel stories for awhile, but occasionally, we will venture out of Elkhart and will keep you posted. Thanks for reading and staying with us, if you are! 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Keeping Busy...It's Fall, Y'all!

Sparky loves fall....It's her favorite season. Not Eldo's,  because he knows winter is coming and he hates it that we have to now spend it in northern Indiana. Spoiler alert! Sparky loves winter, too..She's probably going to see if she can cross country ski this winter. Maybe on the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail! Speaking of the Pumpkinvine, the trail is still pretty green, even for mid October, but it's changing.

We are still waiting to hear about our rig, it should be done any day now. They are waiting on one more part and then they will paint it...So we've kept busy doing a few cool things..Sparky took the architectural boat tour in Chicago. Eldo has a pinched nerve in his back, so he stayed in Elkhart.

Sparky went with her best friend of 40+ years, Jeannie Garrett. We started out from the South Shore Railroad Station at the South Bend Airport. Fare is 7.00 one way for seniors. When we met up, we discovered that we were both wearing black hoodie sweaters! We might as well ave been twins, lol.

The trip is not without hassles, even though it is inexpensive to get to downtown Chicago. Because new and old tracks are being renovated, or rebuilt, or relocated (not sure which) you get off the train in Michigan City, IN, ride a chartered bus to the railroad station in Gary, then hop back on the train the rest of the way to Chicago. The chartered buses (provided by the South Shore) are nice but cramped seating. Seats are plusher than airplane seating, but jammed really close together sideways and front to back. Good thing it's less than an hour ride to get to the train station! Lots of stairs up and down at the railroad stations, just in case anybody with questionable knees wants to know.

We got to Chicago and boarded the boat for a 90 minute tour of the Chicago River architecture. (Fare was 57.00 each. There are several boat tours available on the river and some for a little less. They are all pretty similar but the one sponsored by the Chicago Architectural Society seems to be the most popular.) 

This tour is so amazing, that many locals do it more than one time. You see all the cool architecture from 20 feet down below the street level on a boat by traveling all three branches of the Chicago River. Chicago is home to four different architectural schools and has one of the most diverse and largest collections of skyscrapers in the world. There are many architectural styles and architects reflected in the city's skyline, from Gothic Revival, Brutalism (a 1950's-1960's style that is massive, blocky, has rough surfaces, and uses a lot of concrete) to Post Modern.

Jeannie (the other Jeannie), has been on the tour twice already. That's how great it is, each guide always has a few other stories to tell and she always learns something new on the tour. It was really great! A beautiful day, in the low eighties, the tall skyscrapers give you a little bit of shade now and then, and the wonderful stories of the styles, the buildings and the stories of the architects visions keep you captivated. The Great Chicago Fire was the catalyst for new fire codes and new ideas which brought architects from all over the world to the Windy City. Architects' work from Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Mies van Der Rohe, Jeanne Gang, and many more grace the city's skyline.

You learn a LOT of cool things! Sparky didn't know that because of raw sewage and pollution dumping into the Chicago River, polluting the city's source of drinking water from Lake Michigan, city residents became very ill with typhoid, cholera and other waterborne illnesses. As a result, engineers came up with a plan to reverse the water flow from Lake Michigan BACKWARDS towards the Mississippi River in the early 1900's. On to the buildings!

333 Wacker Drive--Curves on the river side with alternating stripes of blue and green glass--blue for the sky, green for the grass....then the traditional rectangular shape on the street side. This building was featured in the movie, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", where Ferris's dad worked, and the exterior was featured in the movie, "Batwoman".

150 North Riverside--2017--a really interesting building, nicknamed "the pencil".

This skyscraper was built on a site that was only 39 feet wide because of railroad tracks, city easements and Riverwalk requirements. They squeezed a 1.5 million square foot building onto the compact site by starting narrow at the bottom and widening at the top with a massive concrete "spine" that holds the elevator core. Caissons were drilled more than 110 feet below the surface. Vertical metal fins help cool the building. Because of the strong winds that buffet high skyscrapers, there has to be a way to mitigate the wind. Hidden in the upper floors are giant water tanks containing 160,000 gallons of water. The water sloshes around in the opposite direction of the wind which reduces sway.

Marina City Towers-1962--the "Corncob" Towers...There is a second one right beside the first. It's a city within a city...The scalloped balconies give a very distinct look to these residential palaces. When it was built, it was designed to have everything you could possibly want to have within your reach--a theater, swimming pool, bowling alley, ice rink, stores, restaurants, and a private marina that never freezes if you live there and have a boat.

Sears/now the Willis Tower-1973, formerly the tallest tower in the world for about 20 years. The design for the tower came from a package of cigarettes and how they are bundled inside the package. So the building's inner core is based on a bundled tube design.

Sears/Willis Tower on the left

It contains 43,000 miles of telephone cable. (!) Six roof mounted robotic window washing machines clean 16,100 windows. The building is designed to sway up to 3 feet and has the world famous Sky Deck Observation Center, the highest public viewing center in the United States. On a clear day you can see four states.

300 S Wacker Drive--1970's--"You are right here" the red rectangle. As you ride along the river, you pass this building that has a 400 foot tall map showing your exact location marked by a red rectangle as you pass by. The red rectangle lights up at night.

The NBC Tower--1989 The Art Deco style with flying buttresses...

NBC Tower
Going under several of Chicago's famous bridges, was almost as cool as seeing the buildings above!

The Aqua Tower--2010 designed by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang. It has the look of terrestrial (land) topography (the natural and physical features of an area). It resembles hills and valleys. Each balcony is designed to maximize the sunlight and views of the surrounding area and mimics limestone formations in the Great Lakes region. It has one of the city's largest "green" roofs with a water efficient irrigation system. Sparky missed taking a photo, so this one is courtesy of the internet.

St. Regis
One of the most beautiful skyscrapers (in Sparky's opinion) was the St Regis Chicago--2020, formerly the Vista. It is 1,198 feet tall, the tallest structure in the world designed by a woman,  Jeanne Gang. It is three towers connected in a step like structure and has 6 different shades of glass. This building set is unique in shape (called a truncated pyramid) and that it has three "blow through" floors of uninhabited space that allow winds to pass through to reduce sway in addition to six water tanks containing 400,000 gallons of water to counteract the movement of the wind.

One of Sparky's favorites was the Tribune Tower. This is a beautiful building that was the result of a contest back in 1922 with a 100,000 dollar prize, to be built in the Gothic Revival style. It has an octagonal tower rising to a crown with a three story arched entryway. The entryway has depictions of Aesop's fables and 150 small remnants of stones and/or materials from buildings around the world that are encased into the concrete walls on the outside of the building. Examples are the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid, petrified wood from the Redwoods National Park and many more. Home to The Chicago Tribune for many years, it has now been turned into residential condos. The view from the river is the view of the entire building. The closeup is from walking to the Tribune Tower just a short distance away from the boat dock where we disembarked.
Tribune Tower entryway
Once we got off the boat, we decided to walk just a few blocks to the American Girl Doll Store. Jeannie's granddaughters had several dolls as they were growing up, and Jeannie has sewn lots of clothes for them. The store was pretty amazing, if you are an American Girl doll aficionado. They even have a HAIR SALON to style your American Girl doll's hair. They had FIVE stylists ready, willing, and able to help you with your doll's hair.

American Girl dolls, 18", run close to one hundred dollars and more. They represent periods in history for certain models and are well researched and relatable, and so they are VERY popular with little girls. This American Girl doll at left, is a special holiday addition and was selling for over 300.00!

If you have to go to the ladies' room while you are at the doll store, they even provide a special doll hook IN THE STALL for you to hang your doll on while you take care of business. Geesh!
After walking a few city blocks back and forth and having been in the sun all day long, we were tired, so off we headed back to the South Shore train station for our train/bus/train trek home to South Bend and for Sparky, on to Elkhart.

It was a fabulous day, not a cloud in the sky. 

Sparky has seen Chicago many times during her time growing up in the 50's and 60's, traveling by train to downtown from the suburbs, but never had she seen Chicago from the river perspective. With that, she will leave you with this take on Chicago architecture....Looking up at the Tribune Tower.  Bye for now.......

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

It's Been Awhile....

And it's going to be awhile longer....Our rig is mostly done, but waiting still for skirting parts which will be another two to three weeks. We haven't gone over to look at it, because Sparky has been busy subbing, and Eldo just finished his assistant coaching position  with his granddaughter with the high school girls' golf team, in which they qualified to be in the regionals--a wonderful finish for both coaches' first season.

Sparky is really enjoying teaching again....the kids for the most part have been really great, and she feels very welcomed in the schools. Finding enough substitutes each day is a real challenge in this area, so she is in demand. And she gets hugs, drawings, and little notes which are great. The drawing at the left was from a little third grader who got every detail down from what Sparky was wearing that day, from earrings to a brown fanny pack, badge, black capris, and athletic shoes.

Sparky is still riding the Pumpkinvine Bike Trail, it's the best one in the area and it's a wonderful trail to ride as the seasons change. Now, in late September, the asters are starting to peek through the fading summer coneflowers, ornamental grasses, and the leaves are starting to turn on the trail. A new portion/extension of the trail has been added near County Rd. 35 and County Rd. 20, it's been a couple of years in the making and that means that you no longer have to go out and ride two lane county roads for over a mile to get back to the portion of the trail that leads to Middlebury. It was always a little scary when construction trucks, garbage trucks and other speeding vehicles whizzed by you on the two lane roads as you got off one part of the trail to get back on the next part of the Pumpkinvine. On one ride, Sparky saw tomatoes for sale! They were delicious, the last ones off the vine this late in the year....

An old farm truck on the Vine

We took a trip one weekend to one of the local apple orchards, Kercher's. We were going to pick apples with the apple picking pole, but the crowds were enormous. So we just picked up some cider, enjoyed looking at the ample pumpkin and gourd selection, and went on our way. We will go visit another day during the week when it is not so busy. We are going to revisit Miller's Old Cider Mill, too, in Middlebury, where you can view an old original cider press being used by Mr. Miller and his family to press cider. Talk about fresh cider!

Sparky saw an Amish buggy for sale. It was around 2,000.00 for a closed one. That seems like a bargain when new ones can range from 4-10,000 dollars and the average is 9-10,000. The buggies have makes and models just like cars. Amish buggies can be more high tech than you think with automotive style brakes, a dash console with LED components and switches, taillights, and turn signals powered by cordless tool batteries. They are made from wood, metal, and/or fiberglass. The material used affects the price. Buggy accessories/choices include: plexiglass or no plexiglass, shapes and cushioning of seats, different types of brakes, upholstery materials, curtain doors, sliding doors, hinged doors in the back, some dashboards made from inlaid or exotic wood, and then there are a variety of lighting options. The cost of the horse is extra--figure around 3-12,000. Many Amish buy retired thoroughbred race horses, that's why you see such spirited, beautiful trotting by beautiful horses pulling buggies as you drive around the northern Indiana countryside near Elkhart, Middlebury, and Goshen. Even though Amish buggies are becoming more updated with more modern options, horse drawn transportation is still seen as a way to avoid the distractions and temptations of modern technology. According to some writers, the Amish are not all against technology, but only adopt something new after deciding that it won't drastically change their way of life, like solar panels! 

Each buggy takes about 100-150 hours of labor to make. There are two main types of buggies--open or closed. Open buggies are wagon like for hauling and shopping trips, sometimes referred to as a "hack", an equivalent to a pickup truck. A two seater is sometimes referred to as a "courting buggy". You can buy buggies as single, double--a two seater, or a queen which has one seat with extra storage behind the seat. The most common buggy is the surrey. They are built with a bench seat and a storage area in the back. Surreys come open or closed. Covered buggies are called top buggies. The newest version of the buggy is called the mini-surrey, which holds more passengers than the regular top buggy. Sounds almost like the Amish version of the minivan!

Did you know?....According to a well known Amish buggy maker... A good buggy maker will make a buggy so it collapses in a crash. Even if they did not, the entire buggy collapses if a wheel is damaged. You WANT to be thrown from a buggy. If car or truck weighing several tons crashes into you, being thrown is your best chance to survive. The buggy may be designed to splinter, eject, and throw the passengers and driver, hopefully into the grassy roadside. Living in this area, we hear of crashes more often than not, as buggies share the roads in this county with big semis, construction vehicles, and careless drivers who don't realize the hazards of driving and sharing the roads with the Amish and Mennonite communities. We have seen more than one crash directly as well, and it's always very upsetting to see that, as buggy injuries are usually more severe than car to car crashes and the horse is often the one to suffer the most.

What's coming up in the near future? We don't know....Golf season has ended and different holidays are nearing...maybe a day trip for foliage viewing in Michigan?....Festivals are always wonderful to see and there are plenty in the area.

That's it for now...thanks for following along and catching up with us...See you later!

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

August in Elkhart

We are officially moved into our small apartment, a total of 911 square feet. That's a nice uptick from about 400 square feet, which we think we had in the fifth wheel. That 911 square feet would be small and tight for a lot of people if you were coming from a house, but coming from living in a tight RV, it feels a LOT roomier. The apartment has two bedrooms and one bath. Oh, boy, Sparky gets a room to craft in! It is also very light and airy, which is a very welcome change from the dark interior of the fifth wheel.

It was a challenge going from an RV with LOTS of cupboards for putting everything in them, to the apartment with the only shelving and cupboards in the kitchen. We were surprised and just a little disappointed to find that there was NO medicine cabinet in the bathroom. You KNOW old people have lots of meds, right? So we had to get creative with tubs and shoe boxes under the sinks.

Sauder cabinet
Keeping that in mind since there were NO built in cabinets, as we gathered pieces of furniture from yard sales and thrift shops, Sparky insisted just about everything had to have a dual purpose and drawers or doors. Sparky bought a Sauder tall cabinet with shelves to put together. Back in the day, everything Sparky owned as a young single mom was pretty much Sauder put together stuff. Sauder is pretty decent furniture and the how to assemble guide is very thorough. And funny. Further on in the manual it said to pause for a beverage!

But we still have boxes and boxes to unpack and finding spots to put everything away is the biggest problem. Eldo says, "I can't believe we had all this in the RV!" That's because it was all contained behind closed cabinet doors, lol. The main bulk of what's left is Sparky's amazing craft supply collection. (AHA! I knew it wasn't MY stuff! exclaims Eldo.)

The apartment, although small, has lots of natural light coming in. We have a little patio and a storage shed. The complex has a nice laundry, a small pool and a workout room. And if you are so inclined to do yard work, because you miss having a yard, (that would be Sparky) residents can get paid 10.00 an hour rent credit for work done around the complex!

Grey headed coneflower
Sparky is a bit further from the Pumpkinvine bike trail, but that doesn't stop her from getting out there and riding 12-18 miles a couple times a week. The wildflowers are incredible right now....The lavendar bee balm, grey headed coneflowers, purple coneflowers, they are all blooming like crazy along the trail. It's a beautiful ride any time of the year.
Amish farm-corn and zinnias
The butterflies are really enjoying the prolific bloom of flowers...

The cornfields are tasseling....There is nothing better than Indiana sweet corn in August and it's everywhere. The farm fields are beautiful. It's amazing how tightly packed those cornstalks are! The yields must be great for the farmers. They've had ample rain this year and not had to irrigate as much.

Swallowtail on bee balm
It's hot, but not unbearably so, like in the southwest. Temperatures are in the high eighties during the day and low sixties at night. We are really enjoying the area as we settle down for awhile. Sparky will start subbing soon, hopefully, and Eldy is in the height of golf season with the Concord High School girls' golf team. He is VERY busy and that's a great thing for him to have an outside interest that gets him up and moving around. The golf team won their first match and are steadily progressing with their skills. They should have a very respectable season with their new coaches!

Sparky saw the biggest drone she had ever seen while bike riding. It was spray dusting the cornfields. It stopped spraying as it came to the end of the field where she was just outside the edge of the fence. Wonder if she was on camera and the operator stopped spraying because of that? It immediately flew back towards the farm and didn't spray any more after that. Maybe it returned to get more spray?

Along with the many many fields of corn, there are of course, soybeans. Did you know soybeans produce pretty little purple flowers hiding underneath their canopies of fuzzy leaves and stems? 
You may not always see Amish while riding the trail, but they are always out and about either in the fields or in their buggies traveling here and there.  Sparky just missed a buggy today....

The rock snake has gotten a LOT longer! Look at this little dude. In case you missed it, someone started a two rock snake with a little request to post on social media as the snake gets additional rocks. Sparky first saw it with the head and one rock earlier this season and that was it. How fun for people riding along the trail! There are some cool rocks in the snake.
Some more talented rock painters.....
The flower quilts are at the height of their season. Now is the time to go see them if you are in the area...
Quilt garden Abshire Park Goshen

Downtown Goshen
We continue to enjoy the small town of Goshen. They close off the streets the first Friday of every month with usually some sort of theme, for music, food vendors and shopping discounts. We haven't made it over there yet,  but it's on our list of fun things to do when it's not too hot. Sparky loves the downtown vibe there....

We are regular visitors to JoJo's Pretzels on Main Street in Goshen. They have really great warm, freshly made pretzels. Sparky loves her sour cream and onion pretzels, Eldo loves his garlic/parmesan pretzels.

And with that....School starts next week and Sparky already has work lined up with a fourth grade class for half days for two weeks! We shall see you later down the road or in town, haha...Five days till the RV goes in for repairs, the countdown begins in earnest!