6 November 2015–September and October had us on the road, by car, by train and by foot.
MapQuest proved the maxim “Always check and recheck directions.” In short, be prepared to be waylaid. On our way to Onekama, Michigan at the end of August, we ended up on a one lane seasonal road that had grass growing in the middle. It was an interesting place in the woods, but we turned around and followed a regular M-A-P route. The road we left behind had us laughing all the way to Little Eden.
One highlight of the week in Michigan was visiting a Lutheran Church in Manistee that is now a museum of its Danish heritage. A man living next door unlocked the building and asked of us only three things: ring the bell, preach and sing. I got the preaching part which involved reading the love chapter, I Corinthians 13. It must have been used in a wedding since I found the text lying on the pulpit. “Best sermon I’ve heard,” the man said. He teaches music in the adjacent quarters that used to be a school.The building includes a beautiful hall with a grand piano on the stage. Three of us sang and the fourth listened.
In Wisconsin we visited House on the Rock and Taliesin, the latter a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the former a sensory overload built by Alex Jordan–each worth the money. In the same area we really enjoyed the town of Mineral Point. Miner families from Cornwall, United Kingdom, helped settle this lead mining region. The town’s Pendarvis area includes a collection of seven historic buildings on Shake Rag Street, built in the Cornish style (Women shook a rag when it was time for the miners working the surface and underground mines and smelters to come home for dinner).
Earlier miners had not brought their families and moved around the area. An interpretive sign had this bit of information: “Why is Wisconsin called the Badger State? Wisconsin’s nickname, the Badger State, comes from the early non-native miners of the Upper Mississippi lead and zinc region. They did not come to put down roots, so they did not build permanent homes as the later settlers would do. Instead, they lived in dugouts in the hillsides, like badgers.”
On the way home we stopped for boned and buttered perch at Tebel’s Restaurant in Merrillville, Indiana, a place introduced to us by the late Lou and Wilma Stealy. Delicious as ever. We had weekend company, followed the next weekend by a two-day trip to Illinois with Marty’s siblings and spouses to visit cousins. The next day, Monday, we did a long-planned road trip to up-state New York to visit with friends there. Memorable time, with visits to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, The Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, a number of art galleries and Corning Glass Museum.
The longest trip involved a train ride to Cannon Beach, Oregon for the wedding of great niece Jenny Lauver to Rory Igo. It was a three-day wedding, October 22-25, 40 people present, lots of fun, food, visiting, bonfires on the beach by Haystack Rock, a costume party, team Olympic games and as much sleep as one could muster. Jenny and Rory had a civil ceremony in Boston, where they live, and this was the follow-up religious exchange of vows. I was honored to serve as wedding officiant. Blessings to Jenny and Rory!
We planned to walk the mile plus distance to the Ocean Lodge in Cannon Beach from the place near the Sleepy Monk Coffee Café where the Amtrak-related coach dropped us off. After a spell the sidewalk disappeared and we pulled our bags along the roadside/bikeway. We got half way there and were pausing to get our first glimpse of that gorgeous Haystack Rock when the Sherriff stopped and asked. “Are you alright?” and “Where are you going?” We said, “Ocean Lodge.” He said, “Would you like a ride?” I said, “Sure.” We piled our bags in the police vehicle, which sported the slogan, “We aim to make a difference,” climbed in the back seat, and arrived at our destination, amidst a parking lot of BMWs, Porsches, Caddies and other conveyances. .
We added a week to our stay to travel in Washington State’s Northwest. Driving 60-miles-an-hour on sections of highway 101 seemed almost a sacrilege. The area is beautiful, ancient, one of the thin places between the best of secular and sacred space. We enjoyed stays with Stanley and Marlene Kropf in their new home in Port Townsend, WA and with cousin Lenore and Stevan Challenger on Camano Island, WA. Deep connections. On Sunday, happily, we attended the dedication service for Michael Kenneth Bender, son of Katie (Lenore’s niece) and Bryan Bender at Seattle at Seattle Mennonite Church.
It was a moving service with four infants dedicated. Pastor Megan Ramer named each child and said, “[child’s name] . . . this is your church.” She then told the congregation, “This is your child. . . .” and placed the child in a member’s arms. So moving.
Before boarding the train in Chicago for Portland and Cannon Beach, we visited an Open House at the Chicago Federal Reserve. Billions of dollars are stored there, as at other such Reserves in other cities. In the museum we got a packet of shredded bills. We also posed for a picture next to a case that contained a million dollars. Interestingly, before boarding the train in Seattle to come home, we visited the Klondike Gold Rush Museum operated by the National Park Service. In the late 1890s, gold fever brought about 100,000 miners to the long trail to northwestern Canada and Alaska. A brochure notes, “In Dawson City and Seattle more fortunes were made off miners than by mining.. In 1906 Klondike gold exceeded $108 million at $16 per ounce.”
We arrived home November 4, no pots of gold in hand, but with priceless memories. We’re enjoying the comforts and tasks of home for a season, basking in the exchange with family, friends, people on the train, at home and in places and communities new and old. -John Bender