Carolina: Cruising Past 70: OLA: Making it Last!

Monday, August 27, 2012

OLA: Making it Last!

World's Largest Tire...where else but in Detroit!
We wound our way to St. Clair, Michigan from Lakefield, Ontario, maybe 10 miles from the border crossing and camped at the St. Clair Resort of Thousand Trails. And, yes, it has just been 4 years since I said I do to Bill at 8 pm on 8/8/08, 3 ½ of which have been on the road! But it has become a never-ending honeymoon. Fulltime RVing is making it last...forever, or at least until the end! Bill says we have experienced so much together we might as well be celebrating our 10th!

Palmer Park in St. Clair, Michigan
dinner at River Crab across the banks of Canada on St. Clair 
He scoured the vicinity for a nice restaurant for our anniversary dinner and found River Crab on the banks of beautiful St. Clair River, with Canada as our backdrop. It was Wednesday Music on the Deck night so there was a live band. The food was excellent, Bill choosing seared halibut fatoush and I opting for the classic scampi when I found out that the live lobster had to be ordered in advance and the Dungeness crab was frozen! But the chocolate truffle cake was to die for! Strolling at the lovely Palmer Park before dinner added to such a nice anniversary day.

Spirit of Detroit
Detroit is only 45 minutes from our campground. With not much preparation, unlike when we were in the Canadian cities, I just clicked the item ‘Spirit of Detroit Statue’ on our Garmin. We were taken to the heart of downtown. And there it was…the 26-foot cast bronze statue that was cast in Norway. He is holding a gilt bronze sphere emanating rays to symbolize God in its left hand and in his right is a family group symbolizing all human relationships.

Joe Louis fist
At the intersection in front of this statue is a huge left arm with fist clenched! It is a tribute to former heavyweight champion and Detroit son Joe Louis. Just a few minutes from there is the Joe Louis Arena where many athletes were working the steps. Across the street is the 14-acre Hart Plaza where large evocative sculptures are on display. Beside the Plaza is the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, the very first, and still active, vehicular tunnel in the world, connecting Detroit and Windsor, Canada.  And beside the tunnel is the elegant GM Renaissance Center.

dramatic sculpture at the center of Hart Plaza
Our next stop was Hitsville USA in the Motown Historical Museum. Going there we passed through streets of old, dilapidated abandoned homes, sometimes with facades torn off, many filled with garbage. It is estimated that there are about 12,000 such homes in Detroit. The city’s population has dwindled, from close to 2 million, to less than 800,000. While certain areas have been renovated, giving Detroit a fresh new look in some areas, the spectacle of rows of abandoned homes was quite unnerving.

Motown Historical Museum and Hitsville USA
To join a tour of Hittsville USA,  we had to stand in line. The empire Berry Gordy built from the Motown sound he created together with Smoky Robinson, Marvin Gaye, etc. consisted originally of 8 homes on West Grand Boulevard (also known as Berry Gordy Boulevard). Only four of the homes still stand, two of which are used for the Museum and tour. Although it was exciting to listen to their rags to riches stories, we liked the Sun Studios tour in Memphis more because bits of the original recordings were being played while the story was being told. At the end, anyone can have his photo taken with memorabilia.

Then we went on to look for the World’s Largest Tire, a Uniroyal weighing 12 tons and standing 80 feet tall. We finally found it, after a couple of tries, on Interstate 94 between Highways 39 and 2.  It first served as a ferris wheel in the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair then transferred to this current location at Allen Park in 1966.  And as you turn into 24, the arrows will lead you to another empire, the one built by Henry Ford. There we found the Automotive Hall of Fame, the Henry Ford Museum with its Ford plant tour, and the family-oriented Greenwich Village.
daredevil ride at Red Bud Trail Speedway
We then proceeded to Bear Cave Resort on the other side of the Michigan thumb for another week of rest before we proceed to Bill’s 50th HS reunion in Pittsburg, Kansas. Now this is a unique campground. There is a real cave within the premises. And at the far end of the a waterfall, albeit small. And here’s another unique feature: about a mile from the campground entrance is the Red Bud Speedway, a motocross race track. You can hear the whirrrrr of the ‘cycles all day during weekends!

Devil Slide on Mount Tom
Mount Baldy
We also went to the Indiana Dunes (not Jones) National Lakeshore. All of 15,000 acres and 25 miles of shoreline, the national park is the result of the glacial deposits that also created Lake Michigan. It is unique with lovely beaches, marshes, and ‘mountains’. Mount Tom with the devil slide is 192 feet tall while Mount Baldy, his greens nearly gone), is 149 feet. And you can see the Chicago skyline from there. On the other side is the city’s power plant and breakwaters. And some Century Progress Homes still remained from a real estate development trial on the Michigan shores.

one of 5 remaining Century Progress Homes
Gerald Ford Presidential Museum and Berry Ford Garden
Then we made a special trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit The Presidential Museum and Library of Gerald Ford, 38th president of the US, is not imposing but lovely.  The beautiful Betty Ford garden is a labor of love of a master gardener, Connie Shell. At the far side of the museum is the burial site of the Fords (Gerald and Betty) where the greens are carefully maintained. Another nice place to visit in Grand Rapids is the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. It is all of 130 acres filled with almost 300 sculptures, one of which is the production into reality of the da Vinci horse sketch.   
iconic symbol of the University of Notre Dame
the Mae West HouseCar
But our main reason to camp in Bear Cave is to see Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, about 20 minutes away and the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana, another 20 minutes away. Notre Dame is a great campus but the big surprise is the RV Hall of Fame. It had 55 RVs dating from the early 1900s! Even Mae West's Housecar was there! It was so nice to see the history of luxury camping through the different models from the time the wagon was hitched to a horse or a trailer to a Model T!

Airstream Ranch with 7 old models on display and new onew running on the highway!
And the never-ending honeymoon continues! Fulltime rving is making it last forever! .