Travel

Oh, the places we’ll go!!

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I’m sitting here listening to my daughter snore… She would kick me for telling you that! She is such a blessing! Moments like this make me realize how blessed I am and how lucky I am to get to experience the transition that has taken place in the last few years. My baby girl has become my best friend.

It’s not something I see when we’re busting our butts through our day to days, but when it’s quiet, I do… and I remember.

I remember being 15. I remember when all I wanted to do was join the Army and get away from Winchester, Illinois. I remember when a thought of children wasn’t until after I’d traveled the world!

Then I turned 16 with a daughter on my knee and I fell in love with blue eyes smiling up at me. I remember everyone who said we’d never amount to anything. I remember people saying I was making a huge mistake. I remember being terrified that they were right, but I kept on.

I remember standing in the rain so long I came to welcome it. I remember using every bit of WIC so I wouldn’t get cut back if we needed it and didn’t have any money. I remember thanking God every time my heat came on. I remember other kids learning algebra while I was paying a mortgage. I remember people saying I should drop out of school. I remember the look on all of their faces when I got my diploma like everyone else. I remember being uncertain if I was mothering right. I remember questioning if I was a good mom. I no longer question that.

I remember travels at night when she’d slept the whole way. Now, she helps me navigate! She’s my map reader, my “you missed your turn”er, the smile to my right. The assurance that we’ll never be truly lost together. After all, look at how far we’ve come!

In the end, we’ve done more than surf waves and climb mountains. Somehow, in my shortcutting through Memphis, I’m teaching her more than that Gulfport is practically a straight shot south. I’m teaching her that we’re capable, that she is capable. I’m teaching her that when she slips, I’m there. I’m teaching her there’s a difference between living and existing. I’m teaching her not to be afraid to go outside of her comfortable boundaries. I’m teaching her to have faith in herself.

She’s teaching me the same things!

 

 

 

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Where Taps is played at sunset…

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If you’re looking to enjoy a little bit of everything outdoors, Weko Beach near Bridgman, Michigan, is for you! With cabin rental at $50 a night, a secluded campground and hiking trails all within seconds from the beach, you can’t beat it!

You’re not going to find any amazing shells, but this area of Lake Michigan is a great place to find sea glass! Sea glass is simply glass that the waters have smoothed. After being recycled by the lake, it can be used to make jewelry or crafts or it can just sit in a jar and be pretty like ours!

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One of my favorite things about Weko Beach is that Taps is played at sunset every night during the summer months. This is a tradition and something my heart will remember all of my days. Hearing it played in general brings a tear, but hearing it played by trumpet… If there is an ounce of patriotism in your body, it will be pouring down your cheeks!

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Alabama Gulf Coast

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Gulf Shores sunrise

The beach signs say to ‘take nothing, but memories and leave nothing, but footprints’, but I leave a part of me there every time.

It’s almost been a year since I’ve enjoyed the blue-green waters of the Alabama coast. I can’t wait to get back!

The bridge to Dauphin Island is a little scary…

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Don’t worry, there’s also a ferry!

but the views? So worth it!!!

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Pere Marquette State Park, Illinois

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Like my grandma used to say, if you don’t like Illinois weather, wait ’til tomorrow! The well-known quote from Forrest Gump, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates…’ could easily be used to describe our weather. Just a few days ago, it was sunny and 75. Yesterday, our neighboring towns to the south and east dealt with blizzard like conditions. It’s not uncommon to see sweatshirts worn with shorts and flip-flops in the winter. We dress in layers and keep blankets in our vehicles to compensate for our extreme temperature changes.

This winter has been especially cold, so what do we do on an unseasonably warm day like Saturday? We get out!!

My daughter and I chose to hike part of Pere Marquette State Park. The trails we took led us high above the rivers, but we didn’t come close to seeing all of it. The park itself has 12 miles of hiking trails, equestrian trails, and you can rent a bike and ride a 20 mile trail along the Great River Road.

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Part of the bike trail.

Not a fan of the outdoors? Enjoy what is possibly the world’s largest chess game inside the lodge or just sit and enjoy the fireplace.

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The lodge offers reasonable rates and is only a short drive from Grafton, Illinois, where you can find wineries, a zip-line, a haunted hotel, I could go on and on!!

There is just so much!! The area has been a long time favorite of mine, but I feel I’m just beginning to explore it. One thing we have to go back for is to attempt to explore the Nike missile site which was active during the Cold War. I say attempt because it appears to be enclosed with barbed wire. It may be something we can just photograph, but only time will tell.

I love that Pere Marquette has several places you can drive to that offer nearly the same view as we had from the highest point we hiked to, McAdams Peak. If you do drive through the park, the Nike missile site is by Lover’s Leap. Yes, another Lover’s Leap! This makes at least 6 that I know of. How many Lover’s Leaps have you been to?

 

 

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The pretty little town that time forgot…

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Nestled along the Great River Road in Illinois, you’ll find the quaint little village of Elsah. Elsah was founded in 1853 and at that time offered free lots to anyone who would build their home with stone from the local quarry. In 1973, the entire village was put on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of the homes built before 1861 are still standing today. The homes are privately owned, but the owners are used to photographers and have no issues as long as you respect their privacy.

Resembling a scene from a Charles Wysocki puzzle, it would be a great place to sit and write a novel or to set up an easel. It’s roughly 40 miles north of St. Louis and less than 5 miles from the nearest town, but feels a thousand miles away from everything!

 

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“You lookin for the gold?”

“You lookin for the gold?”  I shook my head no. I did this because I stutter horribly when I attempt to lie. Truthfully, a thought of the gold  was in the farthest corner of my mind until he mentioned it, but I’ve always kind of been looking for it. I’ve never been one to take something that wasn’t rightfully mine, but it would be cool as hell to find! “That’s too bad cause I think I know where it’s at, but ain’t never had nobody who wanted to come with.”

*Just a tid bit about central Illinois language, ending a sentence with “with” is perfectly acceptable.

The gold he was speaking of belonged to Azariah Sweetin. Story says he hid his gold in at least one of the caves along the Hillview Blacktop, but was kicked in the head by a horse and forgot where he put it. There are many stories surrounding his old stone mansion, but we’ll get to those another time.

I went into the bar to ask about another old stone house, but it was assumed that I was talking about the Sweetin mansion. I’ve never been one to turn down an adventure and I’d worn my steel toes that day, so what the heck!

On the way, he told me about the overpopulation of rattle snakes since the river had been up and that cougars had been seen near by. If I hadn’t seen both for myself, I would’ve been like many others who think those things don’t exist in Illinois. Then there are those who know they exist and some who even claim we have our very own Bigfoot!

We got to the cave area and keeping all these things in mind, I grabbed a very large stick! I didn’t really have a plan for it, but it was better than nothing. I hadn’t expected to explore a cave that day and knew I was unprepared. I didn’t have three sources of light, I didn’t have a rope, I had no idea what I’d find. Was this a cougar den? Bigfoot’s lair?

I’d heard legends long told of others who went looking specifically for the gold. Stories of Azariah himself, well, his ghost anyway, chasing those who got near it. Remembering this, I said softly, “I won’t take it, just show it to me.” It was dark, our flashlight was dim. He wanted to go farther, but I got a gut feeling we weren’t supposed to be there. I stood by the entrance while he walked a little more. He came back empty handed, but still excited.

I never went back and today it’s so overgrown you’d never even know the cave was there. I wish I could tell you we found the gold, but we didn’t. However, that gut feeling I got makes me wonder if we did!

Here’s all that’s left of the Sweetin mansion today.

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St. Joseph, Michigan

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When I was a little girl, my bedroom was mainly white with accents of peach, light blue, and yellow. My mother, liking everything to match, bought me a poster of a beautiful lighthouse at sunset. The bottom of the poster said “St. Joseph, Michigan”.

I grew up in a town of less than 2000 people, but even still, my mother would’ve been angry at me for walking three blocks to buy a piece of gum! At night, I’d gaze at my lighthouse poster. Occasionally, I’d pretend my flashlight was it’s light. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. “Someday”, I thought, “I’m going to that lighthouse!” I didn’t know how because it was much farther than the grocery store, but I would!

Then one day, I did!!

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Swinging Bridges of Brumley, Missouri

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An awesome Google Earth find!

While searching for cool places to go on our trip to Lake of the Ozarks, I came across these old swinging bridges! They’re very easy to find if you don’t mind getting your truck a little muddy. I’d recently had work done on mine and was looking to test out my four wheel drive!

Crossing the first bridge was easy, the second, not so much! It is open to traffic and I’m a bit of a thrill seeker, but it wasn’t for me. I did attempt to walk across it until the wind blew and the whole thing moved! There’s a hole nearly big enough to slip my whole body through. The locals say if you want a rush, stand on the side when a car goes over. Apparently, the boards pop up on the edges!

I’ve found two different dates on when they were built. One is 1925, the other is 1931. I’m not sure which is correct, but they’re obviously very old! And a very cool find for someone like me!

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On a recent trip to Quincy, Illinois to see my father, my Aunt Linda spoke of my “internal gps”. Bridgeton Mill in Indiana is a prime example of that with a funny story to go along with! We travel with a TomTom I refer to as ‘The Gypsy’. I’m sure telling you that now will come in handy in my future rambles.

Bridgeton Mill was a final stop on our Indiana Dunes trip. I’d planned traveling so we should have been at the mill by sunset. However, with no signal, I was trusting my gut. I was pretty sure I was in the right place when the road became gravel and then dirt. Knowing I was in the wrong place, I stopped to ask some farmers. I told them how we’d traveled from Porter just to see the mill at sunset. One scratched his head, got a map out and…

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Bridgeton Mill

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