TRIP TO BRANDON, MANITOBA, CANADA
SUMMER - 1994
Thursday - 2 June 1994
Left the mountain about 8:30am heading east through Young Harris, GA, Hayesville, NC, Franklin, Asheville, Greensboro, and on to Chester, VA, arriving at the John Berg residence at 6:30pm. Nice day for travelling. Not too warm, bright skies.
JBs gearing up for their week long cruise to the Virgin Islands. Kids all healthy.
John and I found time for a game of golf on Friday while Ann got reacquainted with Jordan and oriented to the household. Then John and Barbara left on Saturday morning before the kids woke up to avoid a teary scene. And we were on our own. Jordan seemed not to mind when she awoke full of her usual smiles. Having the two old kids around softened any shock of her Mom and Dad being gone.
I took Little John to his Little League game at 3:00pm on Saturday. He made some stellar plays at 3rd base, but did poorly at bat. The rest of the team was hot though, winning 14 - 5. On Sunday I took John and Bonnie to Sunday School while Mom stayed home with Jordan. Then after ball practice in the afternoon, Mom took the older two to see a movie, "The Flintstones," while I stayed home with Jordan.
John's 2nd LL game was on Monday night, a late affair not over until 9:45pm. The team won again. John again made some good defensive plays at 3rd, but struggled at bat. He got one hit and struck out twice, despite taking 120 swings in the Petersburg batting cages prior to the game.
Tuesday brought a visit from Cathy and her two girls. Read John Grisham's new book, "The Chamber." This one was a bit different than his others, still very much about lawyering, but different. It was a compelling story of the trials of a man on death row in his last month of life. The book should have an impact on public opinion about the death penalty. Grisham has a gift for capturing the gamut of emotions with his words.
Wednesday we had a nice visit from the Schumakers and Ransones. Then another LL game on Wednesday evening. This and the last game on Saturday were disasters for the team.
After a week with the kids, the parents returned to take over. They had had a super time on the cruise with many tales to tell about the experience. We left Chester on Sunday morning heading west on I-64 through Charlottesville, Charleston, and Huntington, WV. It was hot. Found a mall in Huntington to enjoy a little AC and walking exercise.
We arrived at our rendezvous point in Lexington,KY on Monday, June 13th, expecting the Cockrells to join us there the next day. This was our third trip to Lexington, and we had never been to town, so to town we went, in search of the Fayette mall. The heat was driving us to air-conditioning. After driving several miles out of the way, we finally found the mall on the southern outskirts of the city. Returning through town we drove through the large campus of the University of Kentucky, then found a Cracker Barrel for a late lunch.
Returning to the campground out near the Kentucky Horse Park we found that the Cockrells had arrived early also. But after two days of long drives we were all ready for a day's rest, so elected to stay in Lexington until Tuesday.
Tuesday's drive up I-75 to the Detroit area took us through Cincinnati, Dayton, and Toledo, Ohio. We parked the rigs at the Wayne County Fairgrounds not too far from the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. An Airstream caravan from Maryland was there, and we were soon invited down to meet the group. They were also headed for the rally in Brandon. The heat wave was really something. Had to turn on the AC in the trailer finally. This was the first time since leaving the mountains that we had even plugged into campground power, relying solely on our solar panels.
On Wednesday we drove over to the museum, a remarkable place. Built by Henry Ford to house his collection of old cars and other significant samples of equipment produced during the transportation age, the museum is a first class attraction. It was first opened to the public in 1929, dedicated to Thomas Edison, Ford's "role model."
Among the more memorable items on display were the limousine JFK was riding in when he was killed, the rocking chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated, the largest steam locomotive ever built, one of the first locomotive and trains put on rails (a small steam engine pulling four cars that looked more like stage coaches than rail cars), one of the first Airstream trailers pulled by a Chrysler sedan, a host of antique farm equipment, and hundreds of cars of all makes marking the progress of the automobile in America.
Outside the museum is Greenfield Village, a collection of old buildings of historic significance. Beginning with Ford's old home and birthplace, the buildings were all moved into the village after he purchased them to save them from destruction, including Edison's labs from Menlo Park, NJ and Ft.Myers, FL, Harvey Firestone's home, Noah Webster's home, a Steinmetz cabin, the Wright Brothers' home and bicycle shop, machine shops, power plants, and much, much more. To save walking, we took a horse drawn carriage ride around the village. While a good way to get an overall view of the place, the narrator was lackluster. The information was there, but his delivery was un-enthusiastic to say the least.
We ate lunch at the Eagle Tavern on the village green, then headed back to camp, hitched up, and moved the rigs up the road 90 miles to Frankenmuth, Michigan.
Frankenmuth is a Bavarian style village in the middle of a large farming area. The area was settled in the mid-19th century by German immigrants. A trip back to Bavaria in 1950 inspired the Zehnder family to create the present atmosphere of the town. There is a long covered bridge over the river, a Bavarian Inn with beergarten, lots of flowers, clock shops, woolen mill, and a huge Christmas store. The streets are wide and clean with flowers in abundance. The extreme heat dampened our enjoyment of the place, but it was still a nice place. Coming out of the German restaurant where we ate supper, a thermometer read 100 degrees. And that was at 8:30pm.
Our meal at Zehnders consisted of a family style spread of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh green peas, stollen bread, and ice cream.
Friday June 17, 1994 - Ann and Frances spent the morning shopping at Bronners Christmas Store in Frankenmuth. Then we moved on up the road to Mackinaw City.
Taking the suggestion of a camping neighbor in Gulf Shores, Alabama made when we were down there a couple of months ago, we found Mackinaw Mill Creek CG on the shores of Lake Huron just east of the huge suspension bridge which spans the Mackinac Straits. Again, taking that neighbor's advice, we asked for sites right on the lakeshore with a view of the bridge. Lo and behold, we then found ourselves in beautiful sites right next to a small Airstream caravan from Maryland that we had run into earlier in Dearborn. To our relief there was the break in the heat, a 20 degree temperature drop with a fresh breeze off the water.
Mackin-aw is the English spelling of an old Indian word. Mackin-ac is the way the French spelled it. In both languages it is pronounced Mackin-au', but, in fact, neither pronunciation correctly matches the Indian way. The Indian word means "break in the land," or "land fault." Since in earlier times the French controlled everything north of the straits, the French spelling continues in that area. References to Mackinaw south of the straits are spelled the English way.
The Mackinac Bridge is a marvelous piece of work. The nearly five mile long bridge is suspended from cables made up of over 42,000 miles of wire. The main cables drape over two 552 foot tall towers that are planted 3,800 feet apart in 210 feet of water. The bridge is the only connecting link between the upper peninsular of Michigan and the lower part of the state.
Mackinac Island can only be reached by boat and is noted by the total absence of any motorized vehicles on the island. There are plenty of horses and bicycles. We decided to relax on Saturday, then take the hydroplane to the island on Sunday for a Father's Day meal at the Grand Hotel. Despite that decision to relax we still found time to visit Mill Creek just a mile from our campground.
Mill Creek was the home of one of Michigan's earliest industrial centers. The energy of the creek was harnessed to produce finished lumber and grain. Two hundred years ago logs were cut into boards, but left in tact at one end. This made it easier to float them to Mackinac Island where the ends of the logs were cut off to free the boards for use. The remains of the old mill were found about 20 years ago, and research uncovered exact plans for its reconstruction. Now part of the Michigan State Park system, the saw mill was demonstrated by re-enactors in period costumes. Water turns a flutter wheel which in turn works the reciprocating saw at the speed of about 200 strokes per minute. The log is moved into the saw by a unique system also powered by the water. The only drawback to the mill was the limitation imposed by the weather and season. There were only a few months each year when there was enough water in the creed to power the mill.
We took the Arnold Cruise Line catamaran to Mackinaw Island on Sunday (Round trip cost - $11.50ea).
Leaving Mackinaw City at 9:00am we arrived on the island 16 minutes later to hop immediately on a horsedrawn carriage for an 1 3/4 hour tour of the island. There are no motorized vehicles on the island, only bicycles and real horsepower. The carriage was driven and narrated by a college girl named by Jenny, working on the island for the summer. We visited all the major historic buildings, including the Grand Hotel, the Governor's mansion, St. Anne's Church, the island golf course, Fort Mackinac, many stables, the shopping area, then left town for a ride through Mackinac Park with a stop at Arch Rock, an unusual rock formation on a high bluff overlooking Lake Huron. It was a gorgeous day, the heat wave at least temporarily behind us. The tour ended at the Fort where we disembarked and watched several reenactment events. The Fort was built by the British before our Revolutionary War, came under U.S. control, was retaken by the British during the War of 1812, then again by the Americans in 1815. It was a military post for many years through 1895 and a choice assignment for the troops. The re-enactors set off cannon and rifle fire, conducted a court martial, and were present throughout the day in their costumes further making our visit like a trip back in time.
We hailed a "taxi" (another horse- drawn carriage) for a ride to the Grand Hotel for lunch. What and elegant place that is! With a front porch over 600 feet long, rimmed with tall white columns, each with the American flag flying, the hotel makes an imposing picture. Lunch was a buffet in the elegant surroundings with a wide variety of gourmet foods. We walked back to town to let things digest a bit, then, while Ann and Frances did the shops, Lamar and I rented bicycles and pedalled eight miles around the island. This may be the only place in the country where one can ride a bicycle on a level paved road that far through magnificent scenery and not worry about automobile traffic.
We boarded the 5:00pm catamaran to go back to the mainland after a thoroughly enjoyable day. At 8:00pm we took part in a Vesper cruise that lasted 1 1/2 hours until sunset. With songs, a devotional service conducted by a local pastor, the interdenominational event was an appropriate ending to the good day. The cruise took us to the big bridge where the pastor told of what the bridge meant to the people of Michigan, linking the upper and lower sections of the state for the first time in 1957, and drew a parallel between the bridge and the God's link between himself and his people - Jesus. The bridge spans the turbulent waters of the Mackinac Straits. Jesus spans the worldly sins that separate us from God.
Refusing to let the day end, we went into town for ice cream, then watched a 30 minute movie about construction of the bridge. Completed in 1957 after several decades of planning, It is the world's longest suspension bridge. It took three years to build at a cost of 100 million dollars. It is aesthetically beautiful and an engineering marvel.
It was after 11:00pm before we got back to the campground, a full day to say the least. We were tired, but aware that this was probably the highlight of the trip.
Monday, June 20, 1994 - From Mackinaw we drove along the beautiful northern shoreline of Lake Michigan for several miles, then crossed the Upper Peninsular to follow Lake Superior to Marquette. Marquette is the largest city in the U.P. We stayed in the same Gitche Gumme campground that we were in five years ago and watched the movie "Dave" in the campground theater.
From Marquette we moved on to Superior, Wisconsin and the fairground campground where we spent a few nights after the Duluth rally. Crossing the bridge to Duluth, Lamar discovered that he had lost oil pressure, so while he got that fixed at the local Chevrolet dealer we found a launderette and did our wash. Then it was on to Inter- national Falls, Minnesota, then a border crossing, and on to Winnipeg.
We made a stop at the little town of Steinbach, Manitoba to visit the Mennonite Heritage Village. This 40 acre complex centered around a wide street restored to resemble a typical village in southern Manitoba in the late 1800s. The church, school, and dwellings were all century old buildings, moved in from other areas. We ate an old fashioned Mennonite meal at the Livery Barn Restaurant. There was a general store with local crafts, stone-ground meal, candy, and many souvenirs. A windmill with 60 foot sails dominated the outskirts of the village. A modern interpretive building housed displays that explained Mennonite beliefs and history. We watched a group of women working on a large quilt.
Winnipeg is the capitol of Manitoba, a city of some 650,000. It began as a merger of seven smaller cities. There were scores of other Airstreams in camp also waiting their appointed day to enter the rally site in Brandon. Just three sites down Jay and Marilyn Smith had pulled in just minutes ahead of us. We learned that the Ohio caravan had booked a Gray Lines tour of the city for that evening, and there were some extra seats, so we signed on. The double decker bus (an import from Scotland) came right out to the campground to pick us up, then proceeded on to the city for a three hour narrated tour that was excellent. We saw everything from elegant and exclusive residential neighborhoods to the redlight district downtown. For the most part Winnipeg is a beautiful city, clean, with wide tree lined streets, and several hundred parks.
Winnipeg is located at the conflu- ence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers in the center of the province near the southern boundary. St. Boniface, one of the original cities, contains a large French speaking population. We stopped at the Assiniboine Park for a walk through the flower gardens. This was once a cattle ranch, but is now nearly 400 acres of bike paths, flower gardens, ball fields, woods, and beauty. It was after 11:00pm before we got back to the camp- ground, exhausted but satisfied with our introduction to Winnipeg.
It was solstice time in Manitoba. The sun rose at 4:00am and set about 10:30pm, reminiscent of our time with the midnight sun in Alaska. And it was a time to relax for a day before driving on to Brandon.
I spent the day cleaning the Suburban and the trailer only to have to drive in rain the next day and have them both messed up again, but at least there was one less layer of dirt.
We arrived in Brandon in a light rain and were guided by the parkers to our site on a slight hill in a large pasture. We were parked between the Cockrells and the Smiths. The wind was blowing fiercely, and large pockets of mud were developing on the "roads." Along with a few thousand others this was to be home for the week. We quickly got set up and drove three miles into town to the Keystone Center to register for the rally, there meeting several old friends from previous activities. Ruth and Earl Howes recruited us to work with them on gate security for evening entertainment.
Brandon is a town of about 40,000 residents located on the Assiniboine River just south of the Trans-Canada Highway 150 miles west of Winnipeg. It is in the midst of the richest imaginable farmland. The farms are plush green, and where the soil can be seen it jet black. Signs were plentiful about town welcoming the Airstreamers back. The rally was held here once before in 1975, and there's no doubt the merchants recognize the economic boom to the community. The facilities are very different. The Keystone Centre where the rally activities are to be held contains several acres under roof, has been built since the last rally. And the site where we have parked is different.
Caravans of ten to fifty trailers started arriving on Sunday, and before long our pasture was full of Airstream trailers and motorhomes, all perfectly aligned in neat rows equally spaced. The water committee had everyone connected to the system almost immediately. Otherwise we were dependent on our built in resources for other utilitites. Our solar panels did a good job keeping the batteries charged.
Church services were held in the Keystone Center on Sunday morning with about 800 people in attendance.
The message was good and we saw many old friends. Sunday was a beautiful day, but on Monday the rains returned, and there was more mud to contend with. Caravans were coming in on Sunday and Monday, and by Monday evening there were 1700+ units registered. Despite this being our 5th International Rally, it was still an astonishing sight to see so many silver trailers in one place, all in perfect alignment, equally spaced about the parking site. There was still two more days to wait before activities began.
I was asked and agreed to be a committee chairman for next year's rally in Amherst, Massachusetts, to be in charge of Caravan Video Presentations, part of an intensified program to promote caravans. Means putting together a new tape about club caravanning and presenting it at the next rally.
On Wednesday we drove down to the little town of Souris where a swinging bridge over the Souris River is the town's claim to fame. It was a long and bumpy walk while kids in front of us tried their best to get the bridge swinging to and fro. We ate lunch in a small restaurant that obviously catered to the locals. It was good.
Later on Wednesday we went with the Finleys, Schwartzes, Cockrells and Sperlings to a German restaurant in the town of Wawanesa, a fantastic meal served in a single tray that contained all sorts of fresh vegetables, schnitzel, spaetzel, mushrooms, and other goodies. So much food was left over after everyone pigged out!
Opening ceremonies came off on Thursday as scheduled and were as impressive as ever. The march of region and unit flags was over long, but contributed to the pomp and ceremony. Then the entertainment began with talent from Brandon. There was a band that played 50s music, a poet comedian, then a smaller band with three very good singers.
On Friday we went to a Tampa Bay unit luncheon at the Victoria Inn. The meal was served buffet style and was good. We went from the inn to the conference center for a speech by Larry Huttle, president of Airstream, Inc. He advised that the company's business had grown by 37% in 1994 and the future looked good with more and more of the "baby boomer" generation soon to come of age for trailering. Thor Industries, Inc., Airstream's parent company also grew for the year. Thor has the remarkable feature of being free oflong term debt. For the first time Airstream built more motorhomes than trailers. In describing the Airstream lifestyle, he spoke of our caravans as "travelling heritage," carrying on the tradition begun by Wally Byam.
Entertainment on Canada night was the best ever with several hundred performers from all over Manitoba representing the different cultures of the region. There were Phillipine dancers, Japanese drummers, French can-can girls, Irish singers, a 10 year old Princess from the Phillipines who sang beautifully, a ballet company from Brandon, a glee club from the local area, and to top off the show, Ukranian dancers from the home town of our President, Lawrie Stephen, an altogether fantastic show.
Saturday was the day of the domino tournament. Lamar entered hoping to take a ribbon. Instead he got paired with some ladies who had never played before which slowed things down too much. I got lucky and got another second place. The entertainment on Saturday night was a combination of bagpipe tattoo and the Peter Glen show, good but way too long.
On Sunday we went to a Region 3 breakfast, Bob Black's last hurrah. Over four hundred people were there to see the new region officers installed. Then we went to church in the arena to hear a sermon on anxiety. "Be not anxious for what you eat, or what you drink, or what clothes to wear, or what tomorrow will bring, but concern yourselves only with the Kingdom of Heaven."
On Sunday afternoon, a military demonstration was put on at the local Army base, called Shilo. There was such a traffic jam of cars and Suburbans that it took over two hours to drive the 18 miles. As a result we missed the show, but got there jus in time for an excellent steak supper on the hillside. On Sunday night Peter Glen returned for a patriotic musical called "Music of the Blitz," old songs of the World War II era. Peter Glen, Cora Lee Allen, and Mickey McTavish are real performers.
Monday, the fourth of July, was the big parade through the streets of Brandon. Joined by floats from the city, the WBCCI parade was one of the best we've seen. Then a club wide picnic on the grounds of the Keystone Centre with barbecued prok and beans. The club band performed on Monday night, and a presentation was made plugging the rally next year in Amherst, Massachusetts. Sounds like a good site on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in the western part of the state.
Tuesday was a relaxing day with not much going on. Ann attended a wellness seminar while I went to a meeting of the Genealogy Club. Lamar played in the annual golf tournament.
On Wednesday we put on our armbands to do Gate Security duty again, guarding the doors of the Hobby Show and manning the gates at the evening entertainment. This is easy duty and gives us good reserved seating for the shows. The main event of the evening was the installation of new officers for 1995. The procedure was colorful and well done. The new president, Gene Stubbs, appears capable of leading the club well. Other officers installed were half of the region presidents from regions 1,3,5,7,9, and 11, and the other international officers. Handley Ward was ins- talled as president of our region 3.
We were out at 7:30am on Thursday, getting set up for the big flea market. Over five hundred tables were set up. It was a good chance to get rid of accumulated stuff and meet the people. Then, after a noonish meal at Sommers, a little Mennonite restaurant in town, we went back to camp for a short rest before resuming security duty for the evening event. And what an event that was! After a short review of cultural performances by the Indians, French, Scottish, and Mennonites, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police put on their musical ride in the arena, thirty-two horses in perfect coordination in an hour long performance. Then, the colors were retired to a medley ending with the bagpipes playing Amazing Grace and a chariot ride around the arena for retiring president Lawrie Stephen. There was hardly a dry eye in the place. The entertainment for this rally was clearly the best we had ever seen.
Then, following goodbyes to our friends, we headed back to camp for the last time and prepared to depart in the morning.
Friday, July 8, 1994
Odometer - 29400
Departure along with 2,000 other trailers would seem to be a traffic snarler, but it never is. No one leaves at exactly the same time, and everyone has a different destination and direction to go in. The traffic tie up came at the border entering North Dakota. We were backed up a couple of miles before the border patrol started just waving us through. Airstream had a tent store set up in Dunceith, ND at a truckstop. We stopped to browse for a bit, had breakfast, then headed on to Devil's Lake for our first stop. Devil's Lake is the largest lake in ND, and the small CG at the state recreation center was nestled amongst the trees. Considerable rain had fallen in the last few days, and bugs were plentiful. The bugs attracted birds, and they were singing away.
On Saturday, we drove on to Fargo to spend the weekend at Lindenwood Park in town. This is the same place we stayed five years ago when we came through. The park is run by the American Legion and dedicated to Roger Maris, a hometown baseball hero. It was Lamar's birthday, and we decided to relax for a day in the beautiful park.
Fargo was once the terminus of the railroad, where the cattle drives of the old West were destined for loading on eastbound trains. This is where the cowboys were paid off and where they spent their money. Once a wild town, it is now a pretty place with wide tree lined streets. The Red River separates Fargo from Morehead City, Minnesota. The river was swollen out of its banks and threatening to flood the surrounding farm land. Recent rains have been unusually heavy, but on this day the sun was shining brightly, and the air was clear.
From Fargo we moved to the Airstream Park in Clear Lake, Minnesota, about 50 miles from Mineapolis. This turned out to be a beautiful park with a golf course, swimming pool, and other amenities. And the cost was just $6.00 a night which included play on the golf course. This would be an ideal place for a caravan stop. Frances was not feeling well, having developed a cold, so we stayed two nights there. We enjoyed some freshly picked corn purchased at a roadside stand.
Lamar and I have spent many fun hours playing dominoes. For a while he was ahead, then I'd catch up, then he'd go ahead again, once as far as five games. Then I caught up and went ahead a few games. It evens out pretty good. We've also played many games of spades, hearts, and canasta.
About fifty miles southeast of the Airstream Park was The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. We planned to park the rigs in the mall parking lot, spend a few hours there, then head on south. All parking for the mall is in covered multi-decked areas, so there's no place to park a trailer. However across the street is a huge parking lot for the convention center. Several RVs had spent the night there, and it provided a good place to park. The mall was gigantic with stores of every description. Watching the multitudes of people was about as interesting as shopping. This one was better than the big mall in Edmonton, Alberta. We were there by the time it opened at 10:00am, and we got away by about 2:30pm.
Not far down the road the rains came in torrents. We found a CG at Owatonna and got soaked getting set up. It took six blocks to get level, then the blocks sank into the mud and we were just as unlevel as before.
On Thursday, we drove into Iowa and to the Amana Colonies where an RV Park has been established opposite the Welcome Center. There are seven villages making up the colonies: Amana, Middle Amana, High Amana, West Amana, South Amana, East Amana and Homestead. Established in 1855 as a church oriented communal society, it lasted until 1932. At that point the people voted to form a corporation called the Amana Society, each owning a share of stock. From that "great change" on, the community continued to sorvive and thrive with the business then separated from the church. The people have been known for their quality craftmanship, a reputation extending to the widely appreciated Amana appliances.
The people of Amana came from Germany and Switzerland to North America in 1842, first settling near Buffalo, New York. They moved to Iowa 13 years later to isolate themselves from outside influence.
The Amana Church is known as The Church of True Inspiration, and can be traced to 1714 in the old country. The word Amana comes from the Song of Solomon, meaning "remain faithful." The neat red brick buildings reflect the craftsmanship of the self sustaining community. Much of the village activity is now related to tourist catering.
Had a little car trouble entering the Amana Colonies, sluggishness when the engine speed got above 2500 RPM. Found a GM dealer and serviceshop in nearby Marengo. It turned out to be a clogged fuel filter. After corrections were made the engine ran better than ever. Must have been some stoppage all along.
From Amana we drove to Champlain, Illinois, then to Padukah, Kentucky, where we celebrated Ann's birthday with a meal at Patty's in the Land Between the Lakes. Then home.