Also known as our vacation through the Great Lakes and to New York City
From June 12 through the 29th, Jon and I ventured across the upper quarter of the United States in search of all things interesting (I'll mention here that we drove through Ohio doing 80 and only stopped for potty breaks).
Our tour began in Duluth along Lake Superior where we did the usual "Duluth stuff" (watching the lift bridge lift all the way for an ore shipper was pretty cool, and visiting the Army Corps of Engineers Maritime Museum).
Then, following Superior's south shore, we camped on Wisconsin's Apostle Islands, taking the ferry to Madeline Island. I impressed with the stark difference of the North Shore with the South Shore. The south shore is much sandier (no cliffs) although the sand was red from the iron deposits. From there we cut through UP Michigan and camped on the Mackinac Straits where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. Mackinac Island was a bustling town void of "horseless carriages" and full of 19th Century charm. If you were to paint a picture of what you thought a bed and breakfast in a Victorian mansion with 100-year-old lilac TREES in the front yard looked like, you'd be looking down the streets of Mackinac. And fudge shoppes galore (to the exquisite delight of this pregnant lady!)
I'll take this moment to mention that even though we camped for about half the trip, the baby and I did very well! I was surprised how comfortable the air mattress was. For all you camping buffs out there, yes, we DID bring an air mattress and inflated it in our tent. But I don't want to hear any guff from you. Let's see how well YOU do sleeping on the ground with a 5 lb baby swimming inside of your belly! And a special "Thank You" to our friends the Charlebois-es who lent us those very camping chairs you see in the picture! Without them, I would have had a butt full of sand.
From Mackinac we followed the south shore of Huron and camped another night at Bay City, MI. We had interesting (and very talkative) neighbors at this site. I hope we were able to leave them with the hope and love of Jesus! Then we crossed over into Canada (where I was brutally attacked by a kamikaze butterfly who dive-bombed in through my open car window). We hid the apples and oranges under the trail mix and Tostidos and off we drove to Toronto where Jon received a wonderful first father's day present from God!! Upon arriving at our hotel, we noticed that our hotel was not next to, but ATTACHED and A PART OF the Skydome, excuse me, Roger's Stadium. The front desk lady asked if we had tickets for the Blue Jays game that evening. "No," we replied. "Well, I'll just upgrade your room so you can see the game, no extra charge!" Wait a minute...see the game? What was she talking about? Well, if you know your baseball stadiums, you would know that the Skydome has hotel rooms that look out over Center Field!! AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT WE HAD! A room that looked over Center Field! So we watched the Blue Jays play that night for free! (who cares if they played the boring Nationals...!) Here's Jon enjoying the game from our field-view balcony!!
We could see most of Ontario (and almost to Niagara Falls) from the top of the CN Tower, and we also visited China Town in Toronto. After only one day in Canada we left for Niagara Falls! This is probably one of my favorite sights of the trip! Sure, when you think of Niagara Falls you think of a beautiful waterfall where everyone gets married or takes their honeymoon. Well, there's a reason for that! Seeing and FEELING Niagara Falls was amazingly powerful and you can't help but be in awe of our great God for such a creation!! We walked over into Canada and ate lunch at a revolving restaurant which towered over both American Falls and Horseshoe Falls. We definitely splurged on that meal!!! And those silly Canadians made us pay 50 cents each to get through the turnstile to leave Canada. Good thing we didn't blow ALL of our Canadian money on that $4 icecream bar...
Then we plunged down into upstate New York where we camped 2 nights near Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame! We spent the better part of a day slowly meandering our way through the hall, but only after we had fulfilled my intense craving for donuts. Mmm...donuts...
From there we drove into the City of New York. We went over the directions about a hundred times and although Jon looked and acted comletely calm as he drove through Manhatten, Queens, and finally Brooklyn (where our friends live) he confessed later that he felt white-knuckled and pushed around...not unlike what he felt as he crossed into Iraq. Ah, I'm glad NYC could bring Jon back to his fond memories of Iraq. We stayed with long-time friends Barbara and Chad Lawson in Brooklyn and met their rambunctious doggie Charlie. That first day in the city was Jon's birthday. After Barbi cooked us delicious ribs and corn bread with chocolate/caramel cake for his birthday dinner, we took them out to a Mets game. And WHO were the Mets playing on Jon's birthday you ask???? THE MINNESOTA TWINS!!!! We got all dressed up in our Twins garb and took the metro to Shea Stadium. And as a birthday present, Santana pitched a shutout and the Twins won 9-0!! We were stoked! New York was a blur of amazing sights, like the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (aka The Met), and very, very swollen feet :) We even got to spend an evening with our good friend Mike Kurland who is going to school in New Jersey. To cap off the City, Barbi and Chad took us out to an Italian place that only the locals know (so it was affordable!) where we enjoyed a delightful, relaxing candle-lit meal! We were very impressed with New York and especially with New Yorkers! The Mets fans were gracious, transit-riders ALWAYS gave up their seat for my belly, and everyone was willing to help you if you had a question! People even asked if they could take a picture for us and didn't steal our camera! We were quite blessed :)
After New York brought a guy peeing on the New Jersey turnpike...that's all we had hoped for from New Jersey anyway. We saw the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (a beautiful city) and ate Philli Cheesesteaks for lunch. We didn't get to see the inside of Independance Hall, but we are already planning a trip back to Phili with our kids when we see Washington DC. Pennsylvania brought us to Gettysburg (where we camped again) and the next day we camped on the very edge of the border at Raccoon Creek State Park...known for its raccoons aparently. We didn't know, although the name should have given it away. It was there that our garbage bag was stolen and the bandit that thiefed it made off into the woods, only to be heard fighting with other furry friends over its contents. Too funny :)
On the return trip we stayed with my half-brother and his family in Indianapolis. It was great seeing their boys, especially since I hadn't met their youngest. We loved spending the day with them, seeing Connor Prairie (a working prairie town where Jenny works part-time) and playing with the boys. We both feel a little more ready for kids after spending a few days with them!
We saw my dearest friend Emily Lloyd up in northern Indiana (Amish country, donchaknow) before driving onto Chicago. We saw Chicago in one day...talk about exhausting!!! We went up in the ferris wheel at the Navy Pier, Norbert beat Jon and I at Mini Golf, then we walked through Grant's Park on our way to the Field's Museum (where we spent almost the entire time in the ancient americas exhibit...so FASCINATING!) and the Aquarium (where we swooned over the Balugas! Baby Baluga in the deep blue sea...swims so wild and he swims so free!) From there we sought out some Chicago-style pizza. We just happened to stumble on the best pizza in the City, Giorgiano's just down the street from the Sears Tower. We ate until cheese dripped down our chins!!! Then we topped off the evening with a view of the night-time skyline from the Sears Tower. It was definitely a packed day!
We drove through Wisconsin and cheered when we reached the Minnesota border! We took 61 up through Redwing where we stopped for lunch and the waitress asked us if we wanted any "tooooooooooooooast" with our "dinner." YES! It feels so good to be home :)