Saturday, September 22, 2018

Bantry, North Dakota

Today we visited a piece of family history.  Driving across North Dakota can be a bit lonely and intimidating, since you can travel for miles without seeing another car.  We are taking US Route 2 across the northern part of the state, and though it is a 4-lane scenic byway road, we still have traveled great distances without seeing other vehicles.  Instead, we have seen mile upon mile of hayfields dotted with round hay bales that always remind me of giant Wheaties cereal, huge fields with cattle, along with fields of wheat, soybean and corn.

Husband John’s father Ivan was born to Harry and Lenore Greenfield, in Bantry, ND in 1911. After completing blacksmithing apprenticeship in Ohio, Harrry traveled to the west coast, including San Francisco and Seattle, but eventually settled in Bantry ND, where he homesteaded, living in a sod house initially, then build a farmhouse.  He also opened a blacksmith shop in town  (at the time a booming place of over 200 inhabitants).  He met Lenore Matz from WI, who was in town searching for her father (another long story).  The two married, and Harry built a two-story home in town for Lenore and the family they would have, ordering furniture from Sears Roebuck in Chicago, which was delivered to them by train.  Harry and Lenore had the world in the palm of their hand at this point, with the farm, the blacksmith business, and a large home in town. They had two children, Ivan Ralph Greenfield (B. 1911) and Eugenia Greenfield born a few years later. Lenore died in the 1918 flu epidemic, and Harry was so devastated at the loss that he lost interest in both the farm and the business, soon moving back to Ohio to ensure that his children were closer to family who could help him care for them.   Harry died a few years after leaving Bantry, leaving Ivan and Eugenia as orphans, each sent to live with a different family member.

Ivan often talked with us about his childhood in Bantry, both the hard times and the good times, and felt strongly about visiting the town toward the end of his life just for one last look.  John, son Mark, and Ivan made that pilgrimage in late 1990’s, and found a town down on its heels, but still with a bar, a church, and a post office that was open two days a week, and a population of around 18.

As we move across the nation, on our way from life in Michigan to life in Washington state, it seemed a given that we visit Bantry for one last time.  That visit was today.  We were extremely fortunate to meet and converse with two people, one of whom still lives in Bantry (one of 5 current residents) IN THE HOUSE THAT HARRY GREENFIELD BUILT! What are the chances?  This gentleman’s family has owned the house for at least two generations; it was one of two in Bantry that looked well-maintained.  (Bantry has recently been featured in a recent book on “Ghost Towns” of ND:

Most of the buildings still in Bantry are derelict, overgrown, and sad-looking.  Some have been torn down or fallen down.  Still, there is evidence of a town once occcupied by a hardy group of people who could handle the loneliness and harsh weather of this area.  We were curious about the people who remain in this area, that to many of us would seem like a lonely and devastated region from which families would flee.  We were fortunate to meet Darlene Tiffany at the Bantry Cemetary, who lives in Towner, ND, the closest town to Bantry.  She and a group of other interested people have formed an association to maintain the cemetery, record the history of the people who are at rest there, and contribute to the updating and maintenance of historical documents about the hardy inhabitants of Bantry, this remote town.  She was an amazing woman with a wealth of knowledge of the families who farmed and lived in this area, speaking of the families by name as though she knew them all, although she knew some only through her research through various records.  This was LUCKY FIND #1 today!   Lucky find #2 was running into the man who owns and lives in Harry Greenfield’s former house!

Massive cottonwood tree - base must be 6 feet in diameter

Harry Greenfield's house

Close-up of Harry Greenfield's house
The appearance of most homes remaining in town

John with gentleman who now owns and lives in the house built by Harry Greenfield

Bulldog Honey Farm Honey, the sole business remaining in Bantry, ND.  The  current owner of  Harry Greenfield's home gave these to us as a gift.  (BTW, DELICIOUS!!!)
Someone has spruced up the church; new roof, new paint.

Bantry Township Hall

Sometimes, reaching into the past is painful....sometimes, reaching into the past is rewarding.  Today was both.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Copper Falls State Park, Wisconsin

As we move westward, we alternate between staying in places for purely practical reasons (like the KOA today to take care of laundry, camper cleaning, and other misc. errands), and State or County park campgrounds that give us a small taste of the beauty of nature that a given region offers.

Copper Falls State Park on Tuesday was such a stay.  It happened to be a fairly short distance from Route 2 as we drove through northern Wisconsin, so we stopped, stayed, and walked some of the paths to the various falls.  This is another campground originally built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930’s, which reflect the amazing work done by the men participating in the program - buildings, pathways, bridges, and overlooks made of local materials, built to last, built to be used and enjoyed by generations to come.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

9/16/18.  This John Denver song is a perfect reflection of where we are in our lives right now: Today is the First Day of the Rest of Our Lives
Two days ago we closed the sale on our home of over 30 years in Richland, MI.
Yesterday we spent the day reorganizing our Airstream travel trailer and both vehicles in preparation for two weeks or so on the road across the US, and potentially several months of living in the Airstream in Anacortes WA as we begin the search for our new home, the landing place from which we plan to continue to travel and adventure as long as life and health permits.
Today was the first day on the road as we head to the west coast. Spent this first night at the Mackinac KOA, a stones throw from the bridge.

9/18/18.  Yesterday we followed Route 2 along the UP shoreline of Lake Michigan, getting a last look at the lake that has been such a huge part of our lives, and that of our sons. Bittersweet for sure. Last night we spent in the Marquette city campground, called Tourist Park, and feasted on both fresh (fried) lake trout and smoked whitefish - another “last time”, this time for 2 favorite foods during our years here in Michigan.
Today we head for Copper Falls State Park in WI. Our aim is to drive about 5 hours each day, following Route 2 across the country to Washington state.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Treasure Found: Brookgreen Gardens

We're catching up on blog posts that reflect this season's travels because we finally have a good internet signal.

Almost directly across the street from Huntington Beach State Park is Brookgreen Gardens, which is touted as "a unique melding of art, nature, and history."  It is all that and more!  Brookgreen Gardens accreditations makes clear how unique this place is: "Brookgreen Gardens is one of the few institutions in the United States to earn accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, as well as being designated a National Historic Landmark and being listed on the National Register of Historic Places."

Those who know us may think that with John's knowledge of history and museums, and my interest in gardening and art, we set out for the Huntington Beach area specifically in search of this unique place, but in fact it was a serendipitous find - a once-in-a-lifetime find, to which we plan to return later in March to see it for a second time in its full early springtime blooming glory!

As it was, we visited this treasure in mid/late February when some of the earliest blooming trees, shrubs, and bulbs were just emerging.  Brookgreen has a fascinating history which I will not repeat on the blog but will encourage anyone who is interested to find our more about the history and intent of this amazing creative endeavor to follow this link and/or Google the name to learn more.  My camera and I went crazy, and though I've tried to limit the photos I include here, its been difficult to pick from the plethora of photos I took.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

THIS is why we keep exploring new territory!

As I said in our last blog, returns to the campgrounds we have enjoyed in the past offer a strong sense of homecoming.  But where we are for the next two weeks is the perfect example of why we also enjoy exploring new campgrounds.

We are at Huntington Beach State Park, SC, for the next two weeks, and believe we've identified another campground that hits our "top 10" list. In past trips, two of our favorite campgrounds have been Fort Pickens State Park in FL  because of the beautiful white sand beach and historic buildings right in the park, and Goose Island State Park in Texas because of the lovely private campsites separated by live-oaks, and the opportunity to view a variety of shore birds, many of which are unusual to us Michiganders.  Huntington Beach State Park combines the best elements of both of these old favorites, as well as offering a number of other attractions to explore in the surrounding area.  These first few days, weather has been lovely, cool (40-60 degrees Farenheit) and mostly sunny, so we have just walked and walked and walked, with and without binoculars and cameras, soaking in just this campground.  In subsequent days we plan to explore other places in the vicinity that promise to offer new experiences and new sights.
HUGE campsites with visual privacy (we think we're in one of the best!)

This is the view out our back window when we are inside the camper.

Pine Forests
HUGE gnarled Live Oaks

Spanish moss dripping from trees
Boardwalks over the extensive protected dunes to the beach
THE BEACH!!!! Walkable for miles, dog-friendly.

And the shore-birds:
Great Egret

Great Blue Heron - Breathtaking and a great fisherman!

Pelican cruising the saltwater marsh

Lovely little Killdear

Cormorant, just checking out the scene

Snowy Egret

Showing off his flashy feet

Showing off his fancy plumage.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Home Again, While on the Road

We are spending a week at one of our favorite campgrounds in Florida - one that feels like home whenever we are here: Blackwater River State Park.  We first stayed here in February, 2016.  At the time it was a "default" campground because the campgrounds along the coastal beaches where we had hoped to stay were full.  During that stay, it became one of our favorite places, so we were thrilled to find that we could stay for a week now, without having made prior reservations. 

Based on what we've seen on the news, we had thought that the Florida Panhandle and areas inland from that were severely affected by the last round of hurricanes, so our initial plan for this winter was to head to campgrounds in South Carolina.  Since a "weather window" opened sooner than we had expected, we left Michigan a week earlier than planned and as luck would have it wound up here at Blackwater.  The link above from our first stay here in 2016 describes our first impressions of this park.  Our stay here this year just reinforces our earlier perceptions.

Because of the limited number of campground sites (30 compared to over a hundred at other state parks) it is a quiet place, conducive to reflection and relaxation. 
 Despite the signs warning of alligator presence, at this time of year and at these temperatures, not only the alligators but also the turtles and other water creatures are either hibernating or hiding - at least we have not spotted any.

We have made the 1-hour drive into Pensacola twice from here, so that we could feast on fresh seafood, prepared by us in our Airstream, served on paper plates rather than fine china - delicious - well worth the drive. 
"Royal Red" shrimp from Joe Patti's in Pensacola
Seared sesame Ahi tuna - served on a paper plate in our Airstream still tastes as elegant as if prepared at a restaurant

We have spent hours reading, hours walking on the well-maintained paths and boardwalks or over rough wooden bridges through the swampy areas; we have stopped numerous times to watch the reflections of the cypress and other water-loving trees in the low-lying swampy areas; we have been amazed yet again at the incredible white-sand beaches along this river, and have talked about how much our grandson Jack would enjoy playing in that beautiful, soft sand. We have relaxed in the evenings by a campfire, talking quietly or not at all, sipping wine, savoring the evening air.

Natural tree-root stairs on a walking path at Blackwater River SP

This is a park that appears to draw visitors of all ages, with one thing in common - appreciation of the natural beauty and quiet of this place - a place to which we hope to return, again and again, as somewhere that feeds our souls.