Sunday, June 1, 2008

Homeward bound...and determined

Well, fellow travelers, last week was the final dash of the trip. Sunday, got up early again (having a room facing east where the rising sun hits you in the face helps that process). Headed into PA to see the Ephrata Cloister, sorta a German-based version of the Shakers, and then on to Intercourse to see the Amish Country. It was, well, an experience. Am sure the locals really don't care much for "English" like me coming in and traipsing around. The stores tend to be Mennnonite-run tho' imagine my surprise when it turned out that "Nancy's Quilt Shop" had Chinese immigrants behind the counter.

Monday was Decoration Day (today we call this Memorial Day) and got to spend it, in all places, Gettysburg. The battlefield was something. A lot happened there so it got kinda confusing. The best image was that of Confederate reenactors outside a store selling Civil War souvenirs with an African American woman talking to her friend on the street. Talk about exploding with irony. While touring, went past Eisenhower's farm--he bought land next to the battlefield and considered that, in many ways, his homestead. So much for those Kansan ties. Not like Truman and Independence. Drove across PA to Sandusky OH for the night. Saw the sunset over Lake Erie.

Tuesday was Heritage Quest. Drove across Michigan, where my family is from. Entered into Monroe County, which is French Canadian in ancestry and one side of my family has been there since the 1700s. Even the street names are family names: Nadeau, Cousino, Navarre. Saw the little (and I do mean little) town of La Salle where my grandmother grew up. Then to Haslett, which is outside of Lansing, where my grandfather grew up, my mother lived as a small child, and ironically, where my dad lived as a teenager. Went to the old Marsh family homestead and knocked on the door, not sure who would answer. Turned out the family who lived there knew my family very well. Got to see the home and the landmarks that I had heard about for so long: the enclosed porch, the garden in back with the lilacs, the hill down to the swamp and the rr tracks with Lake Lansing and Hickory Island beyond. All my life I had heard of these places and they sounded so far apart. They're not. The whole area is smaller than College Hill. Michigan as a whole is flat with lots of lakes, swamps, marshes, etc. I seem to be a descendant of the swamp people.

Then to Holland, Michigan to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins. We toured around and went up to Muskegon, where the Prices are from. Saw the Price home, the synagogue where some of the family attended, and other landmarks. Let's just say a lot of the area is now a "transitional" neighborhood and it was good to have visited it in the daytime. Back in Holland, the Dutch heritage is still highly prized, with the folksyness we see, for example, in Lindsborg KS with the Swedes. One wonders how Holland's Chamber of Commerce would treat a discussion of modern Holland which, in addition to windmills and tulips, is just as known for its red light districts, hash bars, gay marriage, and mosques.

The following day, I took the ferry across Lake Michigan from Muskegon to Milwaukee. After a slight mix up on schedules (note for the future: double check the sailing times as the company as I made a reservation for what I thought was Thursday and they thought was Wednesday). Minor glitch but got on board and headed across. About a 2.5 hour ride across. They even show movies on the boat.

The next day after that, it was Frank Lloyd Wright-apalooza. Saw his Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa, the Unitarian Church in Madison (as well as the now completed Monona Terrace), then to Taliesin and southern Wisconsin. I saw lots of the prairie style but not much prairie. Lots of forested hills with broad river valleys but little that looked like what I would think of as the tree/grasslands combo that we call prairie here in KS. Ended up at Effigy Mounds National Monument on the IA/WI border.

Yesterday was the last day of the trip. A mad dash across Iowa from outside Dubuque to Cedar Rapids (to view, among other things, the "Mother Mosque of America") through Des Moines and to Madison County. Yes, I saw the bridges. There are about six of them and I visited 3. They are quaint from a distance but the social history side of things comes from reading the graffiti that literally covers the interiors of the bridges from end to end. After that, headed on down to Kansas City where I had supper on the plaza. Then, it was into Kansas and down through the Flint Hills into a gorgeous KS sunset. Kansas was welcoming me back home again. Got in about 10:30 last night. Researchapalooza is over. I survived. I think.

Am still processing things. What a time! Am not so much thinking of the trip as ending as much as a new phase of research and study will begin. Will keep you posted!


Dr. Bill ;-) said...

So happy to see your observations!!
Looks like we have many common interests...

I really enjoy my Google Alert for Blogs on “Kansas Flint Hills!”
Yours came up today!
Our 22 county Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Inc. promotes visits to the Kansas Flint Hills – the website is:
Hard to believe it has been over a year now since the 22 page color photo spread in National Geographic’s April 2007 Issue on the Kansas Flint Hills, as a distinctive landscape. We are now working to get the Kansas Flint Hills designated as a National Heritage Area.
We would appreciate a link from your site, to ours, if you are willing to do so. THANKS!
Best wishes!
Dr. Bill ;-)
Personal Blog:

Danifesto said...

I love that you got to see the family stuff and the Frank Lloyd Wright sites. The Flint Hills are one of my favourite parts of Kansas. So stunning. People just don't know!