Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall Chores

Forest shadows on the fallen leaves.

Every fall, there are chores to do around the house. One of the most odious is getting rid of the old gas in the motorcycles. I am forced to find a warm day, take the bikes out and ride through the countryside until the tank is nearly empty and then run the carbs dry. Last Sunday was the day for this chore. The sky was blue with a few clouds floating by. The temperature was up to 73 deg F. It was late fall in Michigan with most of the colors turning shades of beige and brown, but a few brightly colored trees along the way.

The story I would like to tell you is about a nice ride with my camera taking pictures along the way. Unfortunately, that is not the way it turned out. I was riding the ZRX when I started to notice the photographic opportunities. But I hadn't remembered to bring the camera. According to the gas gauge, I still had plenty of miles to go, but riding home to get the camera, it coughed and died about 1/2 mile from my driveway. By the time I rolled to a stop, I was about 100 yards from home with a small hill to push it up. Making the crest and breathing heavily, I coasted down the hill to my driveway.

On the plus side, the chore was done and going out with my camera in the car opened up dirt road possibilities that I would never have done with the ZRX. On the negative side, it would have made a better story without all that running out of gas stuff.

I guess you can say that Michigan has its own charms. One of the first that I ran across was Grandfather Maple.

He is old and wrinkled, but still has his charms.

But he is a big fellow and must have been standing by this road for a long time. Note my blue car in the corner of the photo for scale.

The fields have color and shades of their own.

St Jacob Lutheran, one of my favorite country churches.

Glenn Road invites you to explore.

More sunlight colors in the grasses of the fields.

Reithmiller Road is guarded by an Oaken Arch.

Along the way, one of our neighbors is experimenting with wind power. I should have slowed down the camera and allowed the blades of the windmills to blur into circles. As it is, you can't tell that all except the tall windmill in the foreground are spinning madly and making electricity. Each of these windmills is about 6 or 7 feet in diameter and the farm is on the edge of a wide, swampy plain without trees. If anyone has good land for wind power in Michigan, this guy is looking pretty good.

Who says all Michigan roads are flat and straight. This is a relaxed cruise kind of road.

A farmer's dam. This stream flows out of Locker Lake and the farm captures the stream for pond just before crossing Camp Road.

Autumn can be a colorful time, but soon the only color will be brown and we will be entering into stick time. The motorcycles are put away for the winter and I will enjoy the last few days of color.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Between the Coasts

So many people fly from coast to coast and look down on what they assume is nothing.

Having just travelled, as much as possible by backroads, through Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and parts of North Carolina, I am amazed at the number of people living out there in the countryside. Every little town, every bigger town yet not a city, and every country road in between, there are millions of people living out their lives.

Even in this day of sprawling suburbs and coastal megalopoli, there are more people living between the coasts than there are on the coasts. The truth is that the average American is small town and I'm happy to be part of that.

John and I happened to be talking about this subject and he brought up a website of wonderful photos which I think I will append here. These guys flew across the country and back in an old Piper Cub which means that they flew low and slow. As a result, they have a wonderful collection of photos of the country "between the coasts" and, yes, even a few photos of a big city. It just makes me itch to visit places like Zoar, Ohio, just a few miles down the road.

Vintage Flying

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Walking the Land of my Great, Great, Grandfather

When I was a kid, we would visit our grandparents in Indiana every summer. Spending time with my grandfather, he would tell stories about when he was a kid, especially about the summers that he spent with is grandfather. His grandfather was Iven Moore (apparently,pronounced like "Evan" in his lifetime).

Over the years, various members of our family have tried to find Iven's land, although the house is known to have burned down by the 1950's. Each of the attempts were frustrated by the poor memories of older family members and poor maps. One of the goals of this year's motorcycle trip was to find Iven's land.

My sister had dug into topo maps and property records since the last attempt. That, combined with satellite photos from Google gave us some idea of what to expect. The plan was for my sister and I to meet and see what we could learn.

View Iven Moore's Land in a larger map

Here is an interesting sidebar. I have a friend who is about to become a great grandmother. Her mother is 83 and still living, so she will be a great, great grandmother to a living child. In my case, my great, great grandfather was born in 1827 and passed after a long life in 1909. My great grandfather was born in 1831 and my grandfather was born in 1894. We seem to have a lot of space between generations in my family.

Iven was a master woodworker who made his living making everything from furniture to wagons. Although born in West Virginia, he brought his family down the Ohio on a flat boat and later moved to the hills of Indiana. The land he bought was back in the hills, on top of a tall hill. There, he built a 2 story log home in the shape of an 'L'. The outside was covered with clapboards to make the house look respectable and keep out the wind. The walls were said to be 14" thick.

He also built a barn, wood work shop, and a smoke house. Between their animals and fields, they grew most everything they needed. Using the woods around them for material, they made anything else they needed.

Iven sold a few acres up on the hill to the Harmony Church and part of my sister's research told of a small cemetary in the churchyard.

Fast forward to 2010 and we used GPS to find Mt. Moriah Cemetery where Iven and Belinda are buried. When gravestones are more than 100 years old, the carving have sometimes faded, so you use your fingers to make out the letters and words.

New resident guarding the old gate to the Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

We drove over the ridge to the next valley where Iven lived and drove right up the driveway of a house where Iven's land should be. I went up to the house to ask permission to walk on their land and met the current owner who was a very private man. Overall, he wasn't comfortable with us being on his land, but our stories were convincing and he knew where the old cemetery lay. In the end, he decided to take us for a walk and show us the old cemetery. As the current owner was uncomfortable, I didn't take too many pictures, but I did like the light coming through the trees (photo above) and somehow felt it might be the kind of thing that Iven or my grandfather would have seen in these woods.

This place must have always been remote. It is in a part of Indiana that is below the reach of the glaciers. The valley's here are narrow and winding. They have been eroded over the many centuries. Iven's hilltop is relatively flat, but hill side is steep and 50 to 100 feet above the valley.

The cemetery didn't hold any of our relatives, just a few forgotten graves overgrown by the forest. Someone had planted Myrtle at one of the graves. Over the years, it has grown beyond the graveyard and now forms a telltale ground cover in part of the forest.

I suppose that none of this is particularly significant to anyone other than my sister and I. Still, I felt a connection to a long ago ancestor. I imagined the home he built and felt the connection to the workshop and its tools. There is a wistful feeling from seeing and walking on land that connects to my grandfather's stories.

So here is to all of my ancestors. A line of people, experiences, and stories that are more a part of me than I realize.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Goin' South

A modern, Southern Indiana, interpretation of cabin life. I especially like the window air conditioner.

If you keep going south in Indiana, pretty soon you run out of Indiana and into the Ohio river.

Below that is Kentucky and the realization that I wasn't making much time or miles as the crow flies. All these back roads are great, but they add an extra 50% or so to the expected miles and double the expected time. I found myself looking for a hotel in Elizabethtown or E'town. This was the setting for the movie of the same name and is close to the Fort Knox Army base. That makes it a pretty lively place and a very young population. Nothing like a bunch of polite young people in uniform to make me feel my age.

Coming out of E'town, I found yet another collection of nice back roads with the biggest problem convincing myself to stop an take photos when there is a nice road ahead.

As it was election season, I was amused to find that some Kentucky counties not only elect their Sheriff, but also their Jailer. Sounds like a good scam to me.