Tuesday, December 26, 2023

A Trip to the Motor City

Holidays are wonderful times to get together with families, especially if you don't have to fly! Sparky's sister lives near Detroit, so off we went for a quick trip to the Detroit area close to Christmas. It's about a 3.5 hour drive from Elkhart, and we needed to put a few highway miles on our baby Bronco to "break in" the engine. Guess that's still a thing--vary your driving speeds the first thousand miles. We definitely have been doing that!

We went to Belle Isle Island, a 982 acre island park that is 2.5 miles long, in Detroit, developed in the late 19th century. Belle Isle, also known as the "Jewel of Detroit", is the main island with several surrounding islets. You can walk or bike all around the island which would be 5.4 miles. One third of the island is a natural wooded area. Of course, it's surrounded by water, with 7 miles of shoreline. There are three lakes on the island, and 230 acres of forested wetlands. You can rent kayaks there, picnic, fish, swim and visit all the wonderful resources. There's an aquarium there, which is ranked among the top ten aquariums in the country by visitors, a gorgeous memorial fountain, a beautiful conservatory that is under renovation, a nature center, and the Dossin Great Lakes Museum, which we visited today. That's the Edmund Fitzgerald anchor Eldy is standing in front of outside the museum.
Eldy in front of the Edmund Anchor

The museum was very cool. The museum is all about the steamships that have traversed the Detroit River from the early days and the boating history associated with the Detroit River.

When first entering the museum walkway coming in, you see the Miss Pepsi hydroplane racing boat. It's about 36 feet long and about 9 feet wide, and ran on 230 gallons of jet fuel. It was built in the late forties and retired from a successful racing career in 1952 because no one could challenge it. It was the fastest hydroplane on the Detroit River during its time. No wonder, as Detroit's expertise in engines and motors was legendary.

The Gothic Room

As you continue on into the museum, the most beautiful oak carved entry room awaits. This is part of the Gothic Room, a smoking room from the City of Detroit III steamship. The steamship was a side wheel steamer, one of the largest sidewheel steamers on the Great Lakes and at the time it was built and launched, the largest in the world. The Gothic room had intricate English oak carvings and was located on the top deck of the ship. There was plush leather upholstery, leaded glass windows, and a pipe organ for entertainment. The ship also had a winery on board, a palm tree court, and salons. These luxury steamers were the forerunners of today's cruise ships. The ship ran between Detroit and Cleveland, or Detroit and Buffalo. Nothing but the finest china, crystal, and accommodations for passengers who wanted a luxurious cruise during the early 1900's.

The museum had a pilot house where you could try your hand at navigating a freighter past buoys to dock it. That sounded like fun! The video said Sparky crashed into a buoy, but she swears she never hit anything! (That's what she said about the dent in the truck, says Eldy.) There were many more wonderful exhibits. Sparky loved the freighter horn area, where you could push a button, and hear all the different signals that a freighter uses while navigating the river. Love the sound of those horns!
The museum was small and easily walkable, but interesting and informative. There was a sizable section devoted to microplastics and how damaging they are to people and the environment. Even beer has microplastics in them, sad to say.

While in the Detroit area, we visited the Motor City Brewing Works, a brewery and grill. It had the most fantastic pizza and salad, and Eldy loved his tavern brewed Witt beer that he had. The salad had fresh mozzarella on it. Yum!
We also drove around downtown Detroit a little bit. We viewed the Brush Park district where opulent old homes at the turn of the century are being renovated and restored to their former glory. This area used to be called the "Little Paris of the Midwest" in its heyday. We didn't get any photos, because it was such a dreary day. But here is one from the internet of one of the more famous ones--the Ransom Gillis house, which has been restored.
Our brief Michigan holiday was over too soon...then it was back to Indiana to share Christmas Eve with Eldy's son and his family.  Here are the Three Musketeers-- (Sparky's brother-in-law, sister, and Eldy) at the brewery:

Back in Indiana.....Eldy's son's family...

From our family to yours...may the coming New Year bless you with good health and good tidings....
                                     Sparky and Eldo

Thursday, December 7, 2023

SOLD! Time for a New Ride.....

After waiting and waiting for repairs to be done to our rig, we decided to sell our truck or trade it in and then sell our RV. We are not going to be RVing any longer for quite awhile, but when we do, it will be in a smaller rig IF we head back out on the road, or decide to be snowbirds. It's been tough driving around down in a big dually, finding big enough parking spaces, and finding decent diesel prices which are currently hovering around 3.99 here in northern Indiana. Oil changes on this behemoth are over 300.00 each time, in addition to extra expensive parts when they are needed, so we thought it was a good time to jump in on a trade. Car dealers are having to get many used cars from auctions, and are not getting very many trade in vehicles, so Eldy did his research, we did our due diligence on driving some different SUV's, and here is what we settled on:

We traded our truck in for a 2023 Bronco Sport, the Outer Banks trim model. Owners affectionately call it the "Baby Bronco."  It's got some great safety features, some awesome new technology in it, and the ride is amazingly smooth for a truck type/sport vehicle chassis. 

We have a built in phone charging pad. We have heated seats and steering wheel which is so nice for our aging bodies! We have a terrific sound system in it. We have adaptive cruise control which slows down the car if the car in front of you slows down.  Lane assist, lane centering, what's not to like? Especially if you have a tendency to wander a wee bit from side to side while driving. (Just like Sparky is starting to do on her own feet when walking! lol...) There are lots of safety features and interesting technologies that are going to take us a bit of time to figure out. The inside is steel blue and gray, a really pretty combination. We are going to put a hitch on it, so Sparky can transport her bike.

What about our RV, you might be wondering? We have put it up for sale. It's just too big for us now and with getting older, we need something smaller and easier to travel in and for shorter periods of time. The repair shop did an AMAZING job on the body work. It looks like a brand new rig!

Hopefully, down the road, we will look at a class C, which is a smaller recreational vehicle. With a class C, you don't have to tow a car behind unless you want to. We would take off for the worst of the winter months in the midwest, heading towards the south and west, and then return back to Indiana for the spring, summer and fall. We shall see.....

In the meantime, Sparky went to Houston for a quick trip over Thanksgiving, passing through O'Hare Airport on the way. Sparky loves airports, and they are getting more and more interesting with art work and architecture, to enjoy your temporary stay, IF you are not in a hurry to get somewhere! This C terminal at O'Hare is so cool!

There are also beautifully designed walkways with artwork. This one had a park bench shaped like a guitar along the side further back.

Eldy had Thanksgiving with his family, but didn't take any photos. Phooey! 

Back to Houston....Sparky's grandson is now almost as tall as Sparky, and he loves playing basketball. He's quite the reader, too, and when we last talked, he was recommending books for Sparky to read. (Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). We went to a fun arcade place and played a variety of fun games. Sparky's favorite was air hockey. She was ahead 4-1, then got slammed by her grandson and ended up losing. Guess he let her win the first few as he didn't want to shut her out completely right away, he said, haha.

It was 40 degrees in Houston that day!

The visit was over too soon, and it was back to school after the weekend.  Bye-bye Houston, TX for now....
Boots made for walking-Houston airport

And back to Indiana....Sparky has been super busy subbing and really loving it. She only will do grades K-4, but even kindergarten is getting tough. The kids really have a hard time sitting still at that age, and there isn't enough physical activity to help their little bodies settle down for awhile. It's much more academically oriented and quite a few are just not ready for that yet. Sparky sees a lot more emotional difficulties in the primary grades--kids are very stressed these days, and teaching is much more difficult than it used to be. Teachers are seeing a lot more emotional outbursts, anger issues, inability to focus issues, and many are quitting the field due to micromanagement of teaching practices. Teachers can't teach the way they'd like to teach any more. Tests, tests, more tests.....There's no room for creativity, no time in the day for it, but the really talented and gifted teachers manage to get a little imagination and wonder into the day despite that. 

Sparky was in a second grade classroom last week and the kids were required to listen to a video all about the War of 1812, and expected to understand how it occurred, and what led up to it. The instructional vocabulary was way above their heads, and there were maybe two students who actually had somewhat of an idea about politics and the direction the country was headed at that time. That was the main focus of the reading program curriculum---history. Times most certainly have changed! In other schools there is a heavy emphasis on phonics, which Sparky has always advocated for, so everywhere she goes, she sees different aspects of education, and she finds that very interesting. Part of the allure of subbing, besides trying to make a difference with kids, is that Sparky loves the interaction with the kids and being called "Mrs. Sparkles" or "Mrs. Sprinkles" often. So she will keep subbing until the day she no longer can or somebody gently suggests, "Have you thought about volunteering at the local food bank?" Haha...

Blog posts may be coming fewer these days, but we will stay in touch. Thank you so much for following us along in our journey and if you are still interested in reading, we appreciate that even more as our lives keep changing and moving in a different direction. 

Bye for now.....Sparky and Eldo