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Circus Trip 2018: Marshall, Michigan

Days 70, Sunday, September 23, 2018
Marshall, Michigan

Sunday morning my parents and I had breakfast with my Aunt Elaine, Uncle Richard and cousin Stephanie, and then we were off to the other side of the state to visit my mom’s side of the family.  Mom’s family is much smaller, but I have an aunt, uncle and cousin (and a few other relatives outside of Michigan) who live in Galesburg, Michigan, a small town outside of Kalamazoo. 

We headed over to the other side of the state, but driving separately since my parents had their own rental car.  I stopped in Marshall, Michigan and did a little wandering and shopping.  Marshall is a cute little town with a historic downtown area with shops and antique stores (which unfortunately are mostly closed on Sundays), and several nicely painted murals on the buildings.  

And then my cousin Megan met me at Dark Horse Brewing Company.  If you feel like you have heard of it, you probably have.  They had a reality show there several years ago, but I’ve never actually seen the show.  Megan and I got a beer and a pretzel with beer cheese, and I got a t-shirt!

That evening was pretty quiet, just enjoying a dinner of pork tenderloin tacos with the family, and catching up.

Not every day on the road can be thrilling I guess!

 

Daily Musings: Girl’s Days

Last weekend I spent the day with my oldest friend, Tiffany. 

Tiffany and I met when I was 7 years old and she was 5; her mom taught me how to ride horses.  I saw her one or two weeks a year for the first couple of years, and then once a week for lessons, and then as we got older we saw each other regularly for 4-H meetings and horse shows, county and state fairs, horse camping and various other horse activities.  It was a good way to grow up. 

It has been almost 40 years since we met and we are still friends.  We don’t see each other all the time, but we make it a point to get together for dinner or a girls day every few months.  And every time, we pick up where we left off without skipping a beat. 

We went south to have a late lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, the Train Wreck Bar & Grill.  The food is so good!  And the cocktails are excellent!  We sat for a couple hours, catching up and chatting. 

Afterwards, we went for a walk around Northern State Hospital.  Northern State was at one time one of Washington State’s largest asylums. It opened in 1912 and was in operation until 1973. 1,487 patients are buried on the grounds… The Spanish style architecture is beautiful, and we wandered around the buildings and peeked into the broken windows. At it’s height in the 1950s, over 2700 patients were there, committed for various reasons. 

According to histories, many severely mentally ill people were confined, but others were given quite a bit of freedom to roam the grounds, work in the various industries and sneak off into town.  Commitments were different back then, as husbands could have their wives committed for hysteria, and teenagers were sent there because they were troubled or difficult to deal with.  Sadly, lobotomies and electroshock therapies were performed there, and many patients were worse off after these treatments than before.

There are many rumors of Northern State being haunted, and I can understand why, with almost 1,500 people buried there.  When the facility closed, 204 containers of unmarked cremains were found as well, and buried in a nearby city cemetery.  There are probably more who died there, and their families had them buried somewhere else.  There was a palpable energy that makes your hair stand on end. I know we weren’t alone…

We explored only a tiny portion of the hospital grounds, and I would like to go back and see more.

Yesterday was a pretty nice day.  It would have been a good day for relaxing.  But no…  Yesterday I spent the day cleaning the deck.  It’s a tough job, but fortunately it is a once a year chore.  Thankfully my friend Shelley helped!

And it looks so good when it is done! 

I hope you are all well and enjoying the last of the weekend!

Circus Trip 2018: Historical Museum of Bay County

Day 67, Thursday, September 20, 2018
Bay City, Michigan

The Historical Museum of Bay County is operated by the non-profit Bay County Historical Society, and is located in Bay City, Michigan.  My Dad grew up in Bay County, living in Munger, a tiny little town that is no longer incorporated.  He attended high school in Bay City because the Catholic School in Munger didn’t go past 8th grade.

The Bay County Historical Society was first created in 1919, and is located within the former National Guard Armory building, that was built in 1910.  The building itself is a beautiful historic structure.

But Mom and I had a different interest in visiting the museum that day.  My grandfather, served in World War I in the Ambulance Corps.  Yes, you read that correctly.  World War ONE.  You see, my grandfather was already well into middle age when he married my grandmother at the age of 48; he was born in 1887.  And when he was serving, they were still using horse and mule drawn ambulances.  My grandfather, having grown up on a farm that used horse drawn plows, would have been a hot commodity on a horse drawn ambulance crew.  

My Grandfather, Circa 1918 in World War I

The Historical Museum of Bay County happens to have a World War I ambulance among their collection that was from my grandfather’s unit.  It was so cool to see!  This ambulance is a motorized one, and we aren’t sure if my grandfather ever used it, as the end of the war was a period of transition from horse drawn to motorized vehicles.  So it might not have been an ambulance that my grandfather used, but wouldn’t that be neat if it was! 

Either way, it felt like a step back in time to experience just a tiny bit of what my grandfather would have experienced when he was in the War.  He also was stationed in France for nine months after the Armistice, as the wounded were still being treated and evacuated back to their home countries.  There was a lot of work to do for a soldier in the Ambulance Corps even after the war ended.  

We checked out the other exhibits at the museum, including Bay County’s history in the logging industry, historic nursing uniforms and the history of the fire service.  We only had a limited amount of time, and there was way more that we didn’t get to!  It was a worthwhile stop, and there is no charge to see it!

 

I never met my grandfather, as he died in 1960, long before I was born, and I never got to hear any of his stories.  It was nice to have some small connection to him. 

Book Review: History Decoded

History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, by Brad Meltzer

Have you ever wondered about the famous events of our history and whether there are conspiracy theories associated with these events?

History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time

Author Brad Meltzer has long held a curiosity about conspiracy theories and reached out to readers to compile a list of the ones that most interested them.  And boy did they deliver!  His book goes into detail on ten different historical events and their associated conspiracy theories, including some that I had never heard of. 

It was really interesting and I learned about the Georgia Guidestones and the mystery surrounding their construction.  What happened to the money from the Confederate treasury at the end of the Civil War?  I also learned about the missing cornerstones from the White House and the Capitol Building and the alleged connection to the Freemasons. 

Other tales included were historical conspiracies that I had heard and read about, including two of the most famous in U.S. history.

Did John Wilkes Booth survive and escape after the assassination of President Lincoln? 

The assassination of President Kennedy is one of the most investigated and documented events in history.  And it is rife with conspiracy theories.  Did JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, really act alone?  And did Jack Ruby, who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald a few days later, act independently or was it part of a larger plan?

Overall, I felt this book was a fascinating deep dive into this less explained area of history.  Meltzer did a great job of dissecting each conspiracy theory, presenting the evidence, and discussing where the evidence fell short.  In reality, these are all theories, but who knows, maybe one or more of them will be proven true. 

4 stars. 

 

Circus Trip 2018: River Raisin NBP

Day 65, Tuesday, September 18, 2018
River Raisin National Battlefield Park, Monroe, Michigan

Remember the Raisin!

Seriously though, who remembers the raisin?  I’m quite confident that I never knew about it in the first place, making it impossible to remember the raisin.  If this is a thing, and they assured me at River Raisin National Battlefield Park that it is indeed a thing, its reach has been limited, at least in the last 200 years.

The War of 1812 was the impetus for the Battle of Frenchtown.  It had been occupied by the British, as a part of their larger occupation of the area around Detroit, Michigan; of course that was before Michigan was a state.  So the British occupied the area and the Americans, under the command of Brigadier General James Winchester, decided to try to drive the British out of Frenchtown on January 18, 1813.  Of course, Winchester was defying orders; he was supposed to be remaining within supporting distance of Major General William Henry Harrison’s (yes! the later President) column about 30 miles south.  Oops.

So Winchester went rogue and allowed Lieutenant Colonel William Lewis to attack Frenchtown with 666 troops, most of them inexperienced regulars and volunteers from Kentucky.  They crossed the frozen Maumee and Raisin rivers and after a brief battle, they did manage to take Frenchtown.  Harrison didn’t like that Winchester and Lewis defied his orders,but he was pleased that Frenchtown was back in American hands.  The British were less than pleased.

The British, as you can guess, set about sending troops from Fort Malden and got to Frenchtown on January 22.  The locals tried to warn Winchester that a large column of British was coming, but he ignored the warning, thinking that the British would need more time to prepare an attack.  Big oops.

The British and allied Potawatomi tribe attacked and basically annihilated the Americans.  In less than an hour, over 300 were killed and about 500 were taken prisoner.  Anyone who could walk was force-marched to Fort Malden; those who fell behind were killed.  But those left behind at Frenchtown didn’t suffer a better fate.  The Native Americans set fire to the homes that housed the injured soldiers; those that could escape were shot as they exited the buildings.  The others were burned alive.

Winchester screwed up in not heeding the warning of the impending arrival of the British.  If he had moved his troops away from Frenchtown, it is likely that the reinforcements from Harrison’s Army would have arrived and changed the outcome of the battle.  As it was though, news of the massacre traveled far and wide and incited feelings of horror among Americans.  In fact, Kentucky, having lost many prominent citizens in the battle and massacre, encouraged many new enlistments for the war.

The National Battlefield Park is relatively new and there isn’t much there.  It officially opened in 2011.  The Visitor’s Center had some interesting exhibits and a movie on the battle, and you can walk an open field with some historical markers.  They have plans to reconstruct some of the buildings and acquire surrounding lands to protect more of the battlefield.  They are making progress, as they opened a new Visitor’s Center since I was there – it’s huge!  It will be interesting to visit again in another 10 or 20 years to see how it has changed!

Circus Trip 2018: Antietam

Day 64, Monday, September 17, 2018
Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland

I was due to start heading west to Michigan for my cousin’s wedding and to spend some time with family.  But along the way, of course, I planned to sightsee!

Antietam National Battlefield was on my list.  I had visited back in 2008, but a freak snow storm deposited approximately 1/4 inch of snow that had shut down the Visitor Center (and I thought we were bad about snow in Washington state).  I was determined to return.  Too bad the rain this time was insane!

Antietam (called the Battle of Sharpsburg in the south), was a Civil War Battle that occurred on September 17, 1862, and remains to this day the bloodiest day in American history.  22,717 Union and Confederate solders were killed, wounded or missing that day.  Of course, it also has other historical significance.  Although it was technically a draw, General McClellan and his Union troops were able to stop Confederate General Lee’s advance into Maryland.  That was enough of a victory for President Lincoln, and he used the opportunity to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, which would take effect on January 1, 1863 in Confederate controlled areas.

The battlefield land was established as a park on August 30, 1890 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Approximately 385,000 people visit each year.

I first stopped at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum, which was supposed to be open that day.  It was just starting to rain.  The Pry House was General McClellan’s headquarters during the battle and now has Civil War field hospital exhibits inside, so I was very interested in seeing it.  Unfortunately, it was locked up tight – thwarted again!

So I headed over to the Visitor’s Center, and was happy to find it open.  I sat in on a Ranger presentation about the battle; where things happened, and how the battle unfolded.  The Visitor’s Center has a viewing area for these presentations on the second floor, so you get a good view of the layout of the field and can see a visual of what the Ranger is discussing.  It was interesting!

Then I went out on the auto tour.  I stopped by Dunker Church and took a peek inside. 

I drove through Miller’s farm, where the fighting began on the morning of the battle.  I climbed to the top of the Observation Tower.  By this time, it had started to rain really hard, and the wind was kicking up, creating quite a sway at the top of the tower!

By the time I made my way over to the Burnside Bridge, which I REALLY wanted to see, it was a torrential downpour.  I was sad, but ultimately decided to skip it, as I’m not even sure I would have been able to see it if I walked over to it.  Which just means I will have to go back!  One day, I will see Antietam as it should be seen.

Circus Trip 2018: Alexandria, Virginia

Day 63, Sunday, September 16, 2018
In and around Alexandria, Virginia

My last day in D.C. was a relaxing day with friends.  In the morning, I went horseback riding with a friend of mine in Silver Springs, Maryland.  Alexis rides at a stable there and was able to use two horses for the morning!  Mine was a 16.1 hand mare named Rosie.  She was very sweet and we had a great trail ride. 

Later in the afternoon Alexis, Jason and I went to a place called Vola’s in Alexandria for drinks and appetizers.  The day was warm and the outdoor seating was lovely.  I had a Whiskey drink and it was soooo good!  It was fun just catching up with friends.

On the way home, Jason and I stopped to check out the George Washington Masonic Memorial.  It is such an impressive memorial!  Construction was started in 1922, and it was dedicated in 1932.  However, the interior was not completed until 1970!  It is designed to look like the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt.

It is such a beautiful building!  We were there in the evening, so we didn’t have a chance to go inside, but maybe one day.  The interior is supposed to be pretty interesting, with murals and displays honoring George Washington.  We did get to walk up the stairs, so at least we got some exercise!  It was a nice, relaxing final day in the Washington, D.C. area. 

Book Review: Mayflower

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick

It was my turn to choose a book for book club, and I really wanted us to read some non-fiction. So I brought four choices, and this was the one that won.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Mayflower is aptly named, being the story of the Pilgrims and their journey to America in 1620.  The book covers a time span of over fifty years, beginning with their persecution in England, because they chose to break away from the Church of England, believing that it had moved too far away from the tenets they held.  They sought to find a place where they no longer had to worship in private, and first moved to the Netherlands.  While they found religious freedom there, they found life was difficult because they didn’t have land, so they were forced into menial labor jobs. 

102 Pilgrims departed for American in September of 1620, and set anchor off of Cape Cod on November 21, 1620.  Due to their late start, they stayed on the ship for the winter, and didn’t begin to build their settlement until the spring.  Due to an outbreak of disease, and not having enough food, at the end of the winter, only 53 people remained…  They were assisted by the Native Americans almost from the beginning, along with some stores of corn that they found buried nearby and stole (they did eventually replace the stolen corn). 

The book details the establishment of alliances between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, which held for about 50 years.  Unfortunately, eventually these relationships broke down, due to a lot of suffering, mistrust, and treachery.  The result was King Philip’s War, a war that I had heard about but didn’t know much about.  The book goes heavily in detail about the war, the alliances, and the cruelty effected upon both the Native Americans and the settlers. 

All in all, it was a very interesting book, but it was a more challenging read than Philbrick’s other books.  Perhaps it is because of the large number of characters described, with multiple Pilgrim leaders, as well as a great number of different tribes and sachems.  I was also expecting it to be more about the way that the Pilgrims lived and worshipped, and it ended up being much more about the war. 

A good overview, but you will probably need to read other books if you want a more detailed look into the Pilgrims’ lives.

And, by the way, the book club meets on January 14, so we will see how many of them read it!

3 stars.

 

Circus Trip 2018: Navy Football

Day 62, Saturday, September 15, 2018
Naval Academy Football Game, Annapolis, Maryland

After we visited the Lincoln Cottage at the Soldier’s Home, my friends Jason, Kathrin and I got to do a thing!  Something I would never pick to do on my own.

A football game!  But not just any football game.  You see, Jason is an alumnus of the Naval Academy at Annapolis and he had season tickets to their football games.  And even though football is not really my thing, I had a lot of fun.

First we stopped in at an Amish market for tailgating supplies.  We got sloppy joes, cheeses, wings, and soft pretzels.  And of course, booze, but not from the Amish market.

When we arrived, we found Jason’s designated space and had a mini feast.  And then we went a wandering…  We found Jason’s former boss, who was hosting a big tailgate party and we had fun socializing and meeting people.  There was lots of laughter!

Then it was time for the game, so we made our way in and found our seats.  Navy was playing Lehigh University, a college from Pennsylvania.  But the game…  Yeah, it was football.  There really isn’t much more to say, right?

I was fascinated by the tradition.  Jason explained that all first year midshipmen have to attend all the home games, in their dress whites.  And every time Navy scores, the midshipmen have to run onto the field and do the number of pushups to equal the score.  So when the score is 7, they run out for 7 pushups.  When the score is 21, they have to do 21 pushups.  And on and on like that.  Did I mention that the final score was Navy 51, Lehigh 21?  That is A LOT of pushups.  I bet those young men and women were exhausted!

Jason also explained that every midshipman is required to participate in a sport.  Golf, basketball, swimming, cheerleading – whatever you choose, but you have to choose something.  Makes sense in a career where they want active minds and bodies.  What a holistic education!

After the game, we drove to downtown Annapolis and went to a pub type of restaurant.  We got appetizers and chatted for a while, then took a stroll down some of the streets of Annapolis.  It was my second trip there, and I still wish I had more time.  Such a fun day!

Circus Trip 2018: The Soldier’s Home

Day 62, Saturday, September 15, 2018
President Lincoln and Soldier’s Home National Monument, Washington, D.C.

Visiting the Lincoln Cottage at the Soldier’s Home has been a dream of mine for years.  The cottage first came to my attention when I read Lincoln’s Sanctuary, a book by Matthew Pinsker, in 2012. The book documents Lincoln’s use of the home during the summers and early falls of 1862-1864.

Lincoln was bereft after the death of his beloved son Willie in February 1862, of typhoid fever.  So that summer, he and Mary moved to a cottage on the grounds of the Soldier’s Home, a retirement home for aged and infirm war veterans.  Little did they know, it would be a respite for three summers, and would be where he undertook some of the most important decisions of his Presidency, including firing McClellan and drafting the now famous Emancipation Proclamation in the summer of 1862.

Lincoln’s cottage was only declared a National Monument on July 7, 2000, and opened to the public in 2008.  It is still on an active military installation, known today as the Armed Forces Retirement Home, Washington.  As a result of its fairly recent designation, many people, even Lincoln enthusiasts, have not heard of this important Presidential site.  Interestingly, Presidents Buchanan, Hayes, and Arthur also used the home as a summer retreat during their Presidencies.

The home was built between 1842 and 1843, by George Washington Riggs, who later went on to found the Riggs National Bank.  He sold the home and 251 acre property to the government in 1851, when they were looking to establish a home for veterans.  Lincoln and his family fell in love with the relaxed atmosphere of the home.  It was only three miles from the White House, and afforded the President a relatively easy commute on horseback.  Tad made friends with the soldiers who lived there, and was accepted as their mascot of sorts.

Poet Walt Whitman lived along the route of Lincoln’s daily commute, and the two took to greeting each other with a bow each day as Lincoln rode by.  And in a sad ending to his time at the home, the President and Mary were actually there before they took their last carriage ride to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865.

As the cottage is on an active military installation, you have to go through a check point and show ID to get there.  While you are onsite, you can only visit the cottage and its Visitor’s Center.  There you can purchase tickets and view exhibits, mostly related to the drafting of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Outside, there is a statue of Lincoln and his horse.  Perfect for selfies!

But the cottage is the real star.  Cottage is a bit misleading of a term, since it is actually a fairly large home.  It is built in the Gothic Revival style, with ornate gingerbread and gables everywhere.  So pretty!

The tour was fascinating, with the docent sharing stories of Lincoln entertaining people in the sitting room, late at night, in his pajamas and slippers.  Or writing at the desk; the desk here is a replica of the desk that sits in the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House.  The cottage is unfurnished, but you can imagine what it would have been like in Lincoln’s day.  I am always in awe when I get to walk in the footsteps of such a great leader.  My visit here was nothing short of incredible, and truly a bucket list item fulfilled.