Great Lakes Trip 2019 By the Numbers

Nights: 12    
Days: 13
Hotels: 10
Miles Driven: 3,747
Loads of Laundry: 10
Books on Tape Completed: 2
Model T Rides: 4
Jr. Ranger Badges Earned: 3
Ornaments Bought: 5
Swimming: 3
Bottles of Water Drank: 96
Metro/Subway Rides: 6
Ferries: 2
Carriage Rides: 3
Minutes Riding a Scooter: 9
States Visited: 8 (Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana)
Tim Horton’s Food Stops: 1

Hours in Canada: 13
Cleaned the Car Window: 4
Pizzas Eaten: 6
Red Box Movies: 4
Lowest Miles Before Running out of Gas: 7

May 31, 2019-Great Lakes Day 13

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We all slept well last night, and none of us wanted to get up this morning. We did end up leaving the hotel around 9 after our breakfast. Breakfast was the same which isn’t really surprising since we have mostly been staying at the same hotel chain each night of the trip.

Once we were on the road, we realized that the warm weather was back and back for good. We listened to our book as we drove on down the road. Our first stop was Santa Claus, Indiana. Obviously, we didn’t have time for the theme park there, but we did walk around the museum. I even bought a cute little ornament in the shape of Indiana with a Santa Claus painted on it.

From there, it was a short hop to Lincoln’s Boyhood Home. I feel like most of our trips revolve around Lincoln or maybe there are so many Lincoln sites that we are always finding somewhere new to stop. This stop wasn’t new though since our last visit here was in 2014.

On the front of the building, they had 5 sculpture type murals depicting Lincoln’s life. As Whitman was looking at these, he stood on a bench and shouted, “Now we are looking at false idols.” I guess that he has been listening when he’s at church and Bible study. I did have to explain that these statues were of Lincoln and not false gods.

We watched the film and then walked to the log cabin site. A bit further down the trial, there was a living log cabin where people were working inside. The kids were able to climb up the pegs beside the fireplace to look in the loft area. Then we walked back down a trail that had stones from all of the memorable places in Lincoln’s life.

As the girls and I walked back to the visitor’s center for the restroom, Graham and Reagan ran all the way back to the parking lot at the living farm. We took our time in the bathroom but Graham and Reagan did not. Robby had told them that they better be at the parking lot when he got there or he would leave them. They were standing at the edge of the parking lot waiting for us.

We then drove awhile and stopped at Walmart. Who doesn’t need a good Walmart stop in vacation? Actually, we didn’t really need anything for the trip since we were headed home. However, I did need to pick up a few things for the kids heading to camp (Reagan and Anderson) and a few things for tomorrow. What do the Dennie’s buy on vacation at Walmart-well, we bought travel size body washes and shampoo, a life jacket, a bathing suit, camp snacks, cokes and cookies.

From there I drove us on to Sikeston, Missouri. The kids love Lambert’s so Robby thought that we would top of the vacation with a stop there. The kids again loved it-huge cups full of coke and a man throwing delicious hot rolls at you. What could be better? (Well, the answer to that would be their cleanliness, the food and the service.)

Despite all of that, Whitman was so excited about catching the rolls, but each time he was thrown one, he would immediately let go because the roll was so hot. Anderson or I would do our best to catch it after he left go of it. Anderson and Graham went to town on the rolls. And once Campbell had the black eyed peas, she asked me if I could make them. I am pretty sure my can opener still works so she will be in luck.

We then picked up a few Red Box movies on New Madrid, Arkansas. While we were there, I read about the past New Madrid earthquake (so strong that the Mississippi River ran backwards for a few hours) and I also read about the future New Madrid earthquake (could wipe out the city of Memphis and devastate St. Louis.) I was glad that we were done crossing major bodies of water on bridges after reading all of that.

We ended up stopping at 2 different rest stops on the way home. The first movie that everyone started to watch must have been a bust because even though we left it on the whole time, no one was paying any attention to it. Then we did start the second movie, but by that time everyone was engrossed in their ipads.

It was around 9 when we rolled on home. The kids were pretty helpful, but Reagan and Anderson were stressed about trying to unpack and repack. I assured them that we would have plenty of time to do all of that tomorrow, and I also assured them that the laundry would be completed-I better get on that!

May 30, 2019-Great Lakes Day 12

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Hotel sleeping continues to suit the Dennies very well. Graham opted to sleep on the floor two nights in a row. He found a spot between the wall and the couch that fit the couch cushions just perfectly. Those cushions and his sleeping worked perfectly enough that he said that he wished had had a spot like that at home.

It was also Graham who lost his second tooth on the trip this morning while he was eating a bagel. He then declared that he was never going to eat a bagel again. I tried to explain that it wasn’t the bagel, but the loose tooth. It didn’t seem to matter, and I think that he has sworn off bagels forevermore.

The weather was again drizzly and cold this morning as we arrived at the Henry Ford. We started off touring the museum-it is massive, it is full of awesome things-but it was crowded and we were just there less than a year ago.

We did hit the highlights-first all of the kids helped build a Model T. They were all able to add some piece or screw in a nut and bolt. Right next to it is the assembly line where you can help make little Model T cars. Whitman walked over to it and saw that it was closed. He then promptly crumpled on the floor in disappointment.

I encouraged him to ask the workers in the Model T area and the told him that the workers would be there soon. Indeed they were and we were soon listening on instructions on how to work our own assembly line.

Now for this, Whitman so wanted to turn the crank at the end of the line. Whitman thought that this was job number 8 so he waited patiently as the others raised their hands for all of the other jobs (one through seven.) When the man asked who wanted to do job number 8, Whitman’s hand shot up and the man picked him. His arms flew up in the air in excitement!

Whitman then walked over to the crank and the man asked him if he wanted to do that job. Whitman said yes so the man said that he needed someone to do job number 8. Poor Whitman thought that his job had been taken a way from him and walked back to the seats almost in tears. It took a good minute for us to explain that he was indeed getting to do the crank. Being 6 is tough!

He was thrilled with his job and all of the kids were thrilled that they were able to make all 12 cars before the timer went off. From there, Anderson and Graham walked us to the math-y area. They had all kinds of math-y things to see and look at. This was one of the favorite stop last year and they delighted in it again this year.

We found our way to the new Star Trek exhibit. The kids enjoyed briefly walking through it even though we don’t know anything about Star Trek at all. There was one thing where they could pretend to be in a scene from Star Trek. That was fun, and they enjoyed doing that.

They had forecasted for rain all day long, but by 11 the rain had again cleared just as it had yesterday. So we used that opportunity to head out of the museum and towards the village. First we did have to stop to make paper airplanes in that exhibit. Then the kids always enjoy a little kids play car garage area.

And our last Henry Ford stop was one of the wax molds. You put 3 bucks in this machine, and then right in front of you it makes a wax mold. This time the mold that we made was of a train. They are pretty cool and I believe that I have about 4 others ones that already grace our Christmas tree.

Once outside, we were surprised at the difference in the temperature. It had considerably warmed up. We hightailed it to the back of the village so we could hear Huck Finn speak. He about some Tom Sawyer stories. ALl of the stories that he mentioned were ones that Anderson and I had read about this school year.

After Huck Finn left, Laura Ingalls came up and started talking to our group. Just like the Wright brothers, but every place Laura mentioned in her little skit, we have been. That’s just pretty cool. We had a few minutes to spare so we rode a horse and buggy across park and over the wooden bridge. We were also able to return to right where we started.

Of course, we would have liked to have rode the Model Ts again, but because of the many field trippers the line was just way too long. We did opt to listen to Henry Ford talk. He rode up in a Model T which was pretty cool.

It then started sprinkling-we had about 30 minutes before we really did want to be on the road. I would have liked to have made a tin candlestick, but you have to save something for next time. Though I bet it will be a little bit before we make it back up to this area.

We went to the restroom and then headed back towards home. Actually, the first goal as Blue Ash Chili in Blue Ash, Ohio for supper. The Heltz thought that sounded yummy as well, so they met us there.

We did stop for crackers on the way out of town. We were out of crackers and how could we live without crackers for our squirt cheese and sausage. Then it was on towards Ohio. My how it rained for a good 30 minutes. It was the kind of rain where you can barely see the road or make out the lines on the road. After the rain calmed down, the wind picked up.

We made it through the weather and stopped at a restroom for a potty break. The Heltz passed us then, but we quickly blew on by them. They have to go slower but we have a few more stops than they do.  

We actually had three stops before we made it to Blue Ash Chili in Blue Ash, Ohio. The first was the one for crackers, then once at a rest stop and finally at another gas stop which put us behind the Heltz. We still arrived a few minutes before they did.

It was not a probably at all to find seating at our restaurant. Michael and Whitman sat at a little booth right by the adults. The other kids were all at another table right nearby as well. Whitman was so excited about his hot dog with lots of cheese. All of the kids, except Reagan, had hot dogs or chili dogs with all of that cheese. Reagan had the 3 way (spaghetti, sauce, and cheese) while I had to four way (like the 3 way but with beans). Robby had chili dogs along with bottle caps (fried jalapeno slices).

After eating all of our food and especially all of that cheese, we headed on our way towards tonight’s stop. We toyed with pressing on and heading home, but Robby decided that there is no hurry so why not see a few more things tomorrow.

Once we were back in the car, we turned on the book. After having two large cups of water during supper, I was the one who had to go to the bathroom first. Unfortunately, we hadn’t gone very far at all. When we did stop, Campbell asked me, “Did you not go to the bathroom at the restaurant?” Hmm, wonder where she had heard that. Of course I did go to the bathroom at the hotel, but I was also trying to drink enough water that the jalapenos and chili wouldn’t upset my stomach.

From our supper stop, we just had 2 hours to go and my bathroom stop, which the girls did all join me, was our only stop.The kids were delighted to see that right besides tonight’s hotel is a huge theme park of some sorts. The best I can tell on my phone is that it is the Kentucky State Fair. I am not too sure, but it doesn’t matter too much anyway since that isn’t on tomorrow’s itinerary.

May 29, 2019-Great Lakes Day 11

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Everyone was sleeping peacefully at 2 this morning when I got up to go to the bathroom. That is they were sleeping peacefully UNTIL I got up to go to the bathroom. I turned to go into the bathroom and wasn’t quite at the bathroom door.  I walked right into the refrigerator which was fine. What was not fine was that when I did this, I knocked over all of our water bottles. It made a huge crash and people were moaning and sitting up all over the room.

Once I finally got back into bed, everyone did go back to sleep and we rested well until time to wake up. We had our breakfast here-Robby always says that hotel breakfast could be a little bit better. However, he never knows exactly what else he is wanting. I did try a different kind of bagel today so I did branch out from my normal hotel breakfast routine.

We arrived at Greenfield Village about 15 minutes before opening. We picked up our ride tickets and waited on the Heltz. While we waited, we saw group after group of school kids. We later heard that there were 4,000 field trippers at the Village today. I certainly believe that number, but it never affected us at all.

The day was supposed to be rainy all day but as we waited on the Heltz, the drizzle slowed and soon it had stopped. The day turned out to be absolutely gorgeous-weather wise and everything else wise as well.

My heart pitter pattered as we walked into the Village. We walked right on to the Model Ts and seemed to be the first group in line to ride them. After our ride around the village, we then headed towards the Porches and Parlors district of the Village.

The first highlight was watching Wilbur, Orville and Katherine Wright do a 15 minutes presentation. From there, it was on to see Elijah McCoy talk about his life-bet you haven’t heard of him. I do think that he was one of my favorite parts of the day. The old gentleman actor was so good-the kids were wide eyed through the entire thing.

We then explored some more houses including the plantation and windmill. At the plantation, an actress there was telling a story about a rabbit and wolf. Then she started singing old slave songs. Afterwards, she had some of the kids line up with her like they were escaping slavery. Whitman jumped up to help and stood there listening intently to everything that she said to do. Then as we went through the windmill, the workers were sitting down to eat their lunch that they had prepared in the fireplace. So, so neat.

Next up was a ride around the village on the old steam train. It is pretty amazing that all of the things at the museum still work despite being so very old. After the train, we walked through some more houses and ended up at the Taste of History cafe.

Robby ordered some mac and cheese along with chicken pot pie which was served in a baked potato. We devoured that-it was just a snack. We had already eaten a few packs of crackers and were about to head back to the car for our lunch.

We were headed to hear Huck Finn talk but missed him. However, we did walk past the round house to see when we would be able to push the turntable later in the day. It wasn’t too far to our car so we sat on the sidewalk and had our lunches-today we opened up the bean dip and cheese spread so it was a big day! It’s the little things!

Then we headed back inside the village after meeting back up with the Heltz. We went through more houses-my absolute favorite is the sharecroppers house. His walls are covered in newspaper and his ceiling is made of cardboard. The man there was so informative-actually all of the people today have been wonderful.

If you love history, Greenfield Village is the place to go. I was always a good student during school, but after one of trips years ago, Robby bought me a history for dummies type book. Seriously, I couldn’t keep anything straight. I am not that much better now, but since starting homeschooling, I have read more children’s history books and history textbooks out loud than I ever did in school. Now, I find all of this history stuff so fascinating. I am sure that the kids will eventually learn to appreciate it too. Hopefully all of our trips just wets their appetites to be lifelong learners.

Before we knew it, it was 3:40 and we had to dash to the train area and round house. The kids all had a turn pushing the incredibly heavy turntable. I think that will be a memory that Whitman will not soon forget.

It was already 4 by this time, so headed straight to the Model Ts for one last ride around the village. Then the kids headed off to play in the playground for the last 15 minutes that the park was open. It was again a spectacular day. Robby always leaves Greenfield Village trying to figure out a way to come back sooner rather than later.

From there, we had originally planned to head on the hotel room to eat our homemade pizzas or even hot dogs. However, Robby found the most popular restaurant in Dearborn and realized that we haven’t tried Detroit style pizza yet. So we stopped at Buddy’s Pizzas and since they had a huge group coming in, we opted for take out.

And since we had to wait on our take out, we thought that we might as well walk down the road to the shop called Cannolis and Pastries. We are still on vacation after all. Back in the hotel, we ate our pizza and lasagna in the breakfast area. Then we worked on our cannolis and cupcakes that we had bought at the pastry place.

The final big even of the night was laundry and swimming. Reagan opted to not swim tonight because she isn’t a huge fan of swimming, and she also knows that there will be lots of swimming coming up when we get home.

I’m going to post the blog a bit early tonight because in just a few minutes, the three Dennie’s that are left will be taking showers, and I will be folding laundry. We are getting a bit sad here because our vacation is all to quickly coming to an end.

May 28, 2019-Great Lakes Day 10

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It was a bit more difficult to wake up this morning. I was awake a little bit last night-Keaton kept talking in her sleep. I can’t remember what she was saying, but he would shout something out and then go on back to sleep.

Yesterday, when we ate in the breakfast area it was crowded, and they were running out of everything that we wanted. This morning we had the entire 100 seat breakfast area practically to ourselves. There was one other couple in the room with us.

We had loaded up the car before breakfast, so all we had to do was potty and load up. We spent the first hour finishing our audiobook. Then we told the kids that we would pass out their ipads when we bought gas. Then we slowly watched the miles to empty roll lower and lower. When we were at 20 miles until empty, Robby started searching on his phone since no gas stations had been at any of the exits.

We ended up having to go about 5 miles out of our way, but since we were done to 8 more miles, I think that it was worth the stop. We had about an hour to drive to make it to Frankenmuth, Michigan. It is a quaint little Bavarian town that has the World’s Largest Christmas Store.

We walked through the Bronner’s Christmas store. First, we found the Snow Village section and then we marveled that they really had every type of Christmas ornament possible. It was definitely something to see.  

Then we drove through the town and stopped at The Cheese Haus for some samples. Robby even bought some jalapeno spread. I will say that I have never tasted mint chocolate cheese before. It was definitely something different and definitely something that I don’t have to have again.

We then walked along the main street for a little bit. We stopped at one of the main Chicken restaurants and walked through the bakery. How could we go through a bakery without a little something to eat? I picked out a Bavarian Crisp for my snack, but we also tried a cinnamon roll, a cinnamon cobbler and pretzel. It was delicious!

Afterwards, we walked back towards our car. The kids really wanted ice cream again today, so Robby told them that we would just split our pastries and then we could find a Wendy’s for the fifty cent frosties. It was just a few miles down the road to Wendys after leaving Frankenmuth.

Robby ordered everyone frostys, and then I drove us on towards Dearborn. It was just about an hour and a half from there. I always somehow end up driving when the traffic gets a bit crazy and it definitely was. We were on a mission to get in at least one Model T ride today so we headed straight to Greenfield Village.

We love Greenfield Village-I get butterflies in my stomach when we walk through the gate just like I do at Disney World. It is like history Disney World. We climbed right on the old timey bus and rode to the Model Ts and jumped in the rather long line.

Campbell rode in the front of her car with Robby, Reagan and Graham. Whitman and Keaton both really wanted to ride in the front of our car so they squeezed in while Anderson and I rode in the back. The weather was completely different today than it had been for days-sunny and warm-almost hot.

After our Model T ride through the little town, we walked to the carousel. We rode the carousel one time, and Robby offered for the kids to ride again. However, they wanted to play on the playground for the last 5 minutes that Greenfield Village was open.

We then walked out soaking up the sights and sounds of the place. Tomorrow and Thursday there are huge rain chances so we may not be able to visit the Village too much. Whitman was so disappointed when we made it to the car and we didn’t go to the museum. He will get plenty of time at the museum over the next two rainy days.

On our way out, we stopped by the gift shop. I so love gift shops even though we never buy anything...except for an occasional ornament or two. At the Ford gift shops, I love looking at the books and then trying to see if they are at our library. Of course the kids hate all of this, but I just love the library. (Seriously, maybe I could get a job there when the kids are grown and gone.)

Our hotel was just about 10 minutes from the Village so we headed on to our hotel to unload. It was a bit chaotic, but we were soon back in the car. We met the Heltz at a local Culvers for supper. Today was Michael’s birthday so not only did we have hamburgers and ice cream, but we also had strawberry cake so he could blow out his candles.

After we ate, the adults sat outside while the kids played on the nearby parking lot. We were there long enough for most of my kids to have to go back in to the restaurant to use the bathroom. They had lot of fun tonight and once we were back at the hotel, Robby headed to get the car washed and vacuumed out.

Whitman, Keaton and Graham went with him while I stayed with the others. We changed into our pjs and caught up on some tv. When they returned, Graham had a shower and Whitman immediately wanted his bath. Hopefully the weather will change tomorrow, and we can play at Greenfield Village all day long.

May 27, 2019-Great Lakes Day 9

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I was surprised that I didn’t have dreams about bugs last night. This morning when we walked in front of our car on the way to breakfast, there must have been at least a million dead bugs on the front of the thing. Hopefully the steady sprinkling of rain that we received today washed some of them off.

We met for breakfast around 8:45. It felt like we were on a cruise because the hotel breakfast was huge-not huge food wise but huge people wise. By the time that Graham made it to the bagels, they were out so he spend most of breakfast waiting on his bagel and had to toast it as we were walking out. I had wanted cinnamon bread but that quickly disappeared before I made it to the front of the line. Either way, we all left with enough to eat and headed to the ferry.

We were slightly worried about today because of the weather. We knew that it was going to be chilly and we knew that the rain was coming. Going to Mackinac Island has been on my bucket list for years. It is actually still on there because I want to come back with Robby and stay for a day or two.

It didn’t seem that cold on our short walk to the ferry dock but that was probably because of my 3 shirts and light jacket that I had on. We were soon getting on the ferry and even though I usually agree with the kids and want to get on the top of the boat to see everything, today was not one of those days. Most everyone squeezed into the inside area of the ferry. There were benches and it was a nice 15 minute or so ferry ride to the island.

When we came to Mackinac Island it was pretty much all that we had imagined it being. The horses and buggies were everywhere and the town just looked so perfect. I had planned about a 2 mile walk for us, but since it was in the 40s I wasn’t sure how that walk would go over.

Of course the kids wanted to ride bicycles, but that just wasn’t possible. First, Whitman can’t ride his bicycle yet-he could have rode on one of those basket things, but the main thing was because we would have froze our hineys off! On a perfect weather day, we could have certainly figured out walking the trails or even renting bikes. The 8 mile loop around the island would have been spectacular to ride on.

The island carriage tour caught Robby’s attention. Even though it was a bit pricey, it was worth every penny today. We two different guides today on the carriages and they were both really great. The carriage tour started out driving through the main street area.

We then went to the stable area. There we walked through the Grand Hotel stables. We also found Keaton and Whitman tshirts-actually Keaton’s was a sweatshirt which she didn’t hesitate to put on.

Then there was the butterfly house that we went through. It was included in our ticket and was pretty neat. We tell the story to the kids every single time that we even see a butterfly house, but in Niagara Falls we went to a butterfly place. Reagan so wanted a butterfly to land on her and not a single one did. We had been there for such a long time that it was nearing time to go. Robby and I did the only thing that we knew how to do to get a butterfly to land on that girl-pray! And sure enough, she finally did have a butterfly land on her. Her eyes just lit up.

Now, today Reagan was the one scooping up the butterflies and placing them on everyone else. The butterflies were not flying to much but we sure did find enough to hold. It was really neat. Now, when it was time for us to go, Whitman took his butterfly and helped it crawl onto a little girl who was waiting for a butterfly to land on her.

From there, we boarded a larger carriage. It took us through the state park area to the thing that I really wanted to see-Arch Rock. We were able to walk around it for a few minutes and then get back on the carriage.

We then could have taken the carriage back around, but we opted to walk a short walk back down to the main street area. I wanted to stop at the oldest grocery store in America. It was really neat to walk around. Robby did see the pizza there and ordered us a large cheese pizza.

By this time, the weather had turned colder. We were pretty much shivering anytime that we were outside. So we relished the time walking around the grocery store waiting on our pizza to cook. When it was ready, we had pizza and baked potato soup for our lunch. We ate on a bench outside of the grocery store-Robby, Whitman and I were shivering as we ate. The pizza and soup were hot and delicious but really anything that was hot would have been delicious.

After lunch, we walked on to one of the many, many fudge places. We bought us enough fudge to last a week-or maybe just one afternoon! Since we bought the fudge early on during our walk down the main street, we had to hide that bag every time we went into another fudge place to get a sample.

I did find an ornament for the tree but Robby was on the hunt for a knit hat while I was also kind of searching for a bag. We didn’t find either-though we did find a bathroom and a few more fudge samples.

From when we ate our pizza on, it was rainy. It was just a pretty good sprinkle most of the time. However, by the time that we made it back to the mainland it was almost a drizzle. After walking around a good bit, we did hop on board the ferry back. Our day on Mackinac was chilly, but it was still pretty great. The kids decided that they want to come back and so do I.

Once we left the ferry, it was only about a football field back to the hotel. We all went to Robby’s room and had us some fudge. The sea salt caramel was definitely the best that we bought while the macadamia not was not really the kids’ favorite.  

After the fudge was finished, we took off some of our layers for the wash. Then Graham, Campbell, Keaton and Whitman went swimming. Reagan and Anderson opted to stay in the warm room. The pool is in another building so it wa a chilly walk there and a super chilly walk back to the room.

While they swam, Robby put the laundry in the washing machine. Then we watched the kids-he looked at his phone and possibly snoozed while I worked on the blog. It was pretty dreary outside, but the kids had fun swimming. Whitman even worked on his swimming-he can’t do much at all above the water, but under the water he still remembers how to swim. That is great and hopefully, he will make great progress during his swimming lessons-which start just about as soon as we get home.

Graham was the first one finished with the pool. He headed back to the room while the clothes were in the dryer. The kids enjoyed playing in the hot tub more than even the swimming pool. It was warmer, and we actually stayed long enough that everyone who was swimming left. I was able to catch up on some of my computer work like signing Graham, Campbell and Keaton up for swim team.

After their bathing suits were dry, we loaded up the car to find something to eat. Robby would have liked to have tired a pasty-we can just guess but think that it is something like an empanada. Unfortunately for him, all of those places closed early.

We did end up eating at the Keyhole Bar and Grill which is where all of the locals eat. We split a few different things and it was all very good. Afterwards, we walked through the tshirt store next door. Graham found himself a sweatshirt there. As Robby was checking out, I realized that I should have never taught Whitman to read. He can read very well and read all of the shirts outloud. The shirts that he was reading where not the We Love Michigan shirts, but instead had more colorful language.

The more shirts he read, the harder I laughed along with Reagan, Anderson and Graham. We couldn’t get him out of the store fast enough because as soon as we started laughing he read more and more. As we walked out he kept quoting, “this guy needs a beer” over and over like one of the shirts said.

Since we have been going to bed at 11, there was no reason to head back to the hotel at 7:30. So we drove around the little town for a little bit. Yesterday, as we drove in over the bridge, I was able to see people walking around the lighthouse near our hotel. Tonight, there is nobody in this town. Our hotel probably has 300 rooms and there are maybe 20 cars in the parking lot. The only people at the restaurant tonight seemed to be locals. It was a bit like a ghost town.

Robby did find a little grocery store for some dessert. Anderson was really hoping that we would get ice cream-but since it is 45 degrees, he just had to settle for some Little Debbies. Once we were back in the rooms, the last few showered and everyone put on their pjs before digging into our oatmeal cream pies.

Tomorrow will be another big day-hopefully it will be a bit warmer. And I want all of the rain to come on through tomorrow so the rain won’t be around on our Henry Ford Days, which are looking pretty wet.

May 26, 2019-Great Lakes Day 8

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Robby made it back last night soon after I finished the blog. The kids were already laying down, but did stay up as I finished folding and putting a way the laundry. Then it was off to bed since this morning was an early morning.

We were in the car by 8, and since we even ate breakfast we were moving pretty quickly for us. Our first stop this morning was a quick run into Walmart-we needed ham for the kids. They have decided that they do not like turkey anymore. Who doesn’t like turkey? Anyway, Robby ran in for ham, but returned with waters, cokes, and cookies.

Then we drove through some pretty areas-I guess we spent the night in or near a ski town. It was a pretty drive as we listened to our book. Robby said that this drive reminded him of driving through New Hampshire.

We made it to Keneewah National Historic Park without having to stop.  We drive right on to the visitor’s center passing the mine which is part of the park and were surprised to see that the visitor’s center is closed on Sundays. So we then drove back to the mine area and were surprised again to see that the mine was but was not part of the National Park system.

They did have a bathroom which was what I really needed. We were able to walk around some and climb on some old trains. There was also a part of the mine building that we went in. They had the car that pulled the men up and down into the mine-9,000 feet deep.

It is amazing that people still mine today because after our quick stop there, I had already had enough of it! We could have taken a tour but it would have been in an hour so we opted to press on to our next stop….

….which was also closed. So apparently, National Park sites close up here in the UP on Sundays. Who knew? We intended to stop at Isle Royale National Park’s visitor’s center. We knew that we couldn’t actually get to Isle Royale this trip since the boat ride is 6 hours! Can you imagine being in the middle of Lake Superior for 6 hours on a little boat? I can not, but that might be a better option than the seaplane which Robby said that we would take when we come back here.

We did make it all worthwhile with pizza from Little Ceasar’s for lunch. It took us an hour and a half to make it to our next stop and really, we are kind of striking out today. Ha! It was on the way so it did work out to be a great bathroom stop and ornament stop but wasn’t exactly what I was thinking it was going to be.

We stopped at Da Yooper’s Tourist Trap which had been loosely compared to Wall Drug of the Upper Peninsula-that it was not. But it did have lots of things to see and even a see saw for the kids to play on for a minute. We thran ran to get gas and Robby saw a vacuum. He tried to vacuum out the car. Everyone unloaded and the boys started playing football. By the time we could throw it a few times, Robby had given up on the vacuum because it really wasn’t working well enough to bother. We passed out ipads and were then back on the road towards Mackinaw City which is tonight’s hotel along with tomorrow’s hotel.

Our next stop was not a bust-Pictured Lakes National Seashore. We had already printed out and finished our Jr. Ranger books. As we turned the in, the lady said “are you a homeschooling family?” And we weren’t even wearing our denim skirts!

She was good and very thorough. Now, she was speaking mostly on Whitman’s level, and he loved every minute of what she was saying. However, Reagan was dying! After they were given their Jr. Ranger badges, Robby asked the lady about what trail we should do. She talked and talked and talked until the place almost closed. When Robby left, he said that he now knew enough about Pictured Lakes that he could be a park ranger.

We first walked down a short little trail to see a waterfall. The waterfall was pretty, but it was no match to the next waterfall that we hiked to. We had to drive a little ways to see this waterfall and then we had to hike ,6 miles to get there. It was pretty impressive.

However, more impressive was the Miner’s Castle. It was further down the road but a very short walk to the edge of the cliff. From there you could see the beautiful cliffs and rock formations on the shore of Lake Superior.

Once we made it back in the car, we headed to our hotel. The GPS first said 3 hours which definitely surprised Robby and I. However, in just a few minutes it corrected itself and showed our expected 2 more hours to the hotel.

We listened to some of the book and then the kids watched their second Redbox movie. As I studied up on the Northern Lights. We read that in this area you can see the Northern Lights, and that would just be awesome to see. They aren’t out all of the time and seeing them would blow Whitman’s mind.

Now fixing supper in the car is always a challenge especially when everyone has a different order. Tonight’s options were sandwiches or wraps or crackers, sliced cheese, sliced sausage and even squirt cheese. That was certainly the hit with tonight’s supper.

As we were eating, we passed our second great lake of the day-Lake Michigan. We had already seen that one while we were in Chicago but it was a different view than Lake Superior which we had followed the coastline much of the day.

We did have to stop for Graham to go to the bathroom at ne point, and that is when we first saw the gnats or whatever they are. We could see swarms of these bugs near the tree tops. It was kind of eerie. When we did get near the Mackinaw bridge connecting the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan we stopped at a viewpoint. We discovered that the view was magnificent but that the bugs were crazy.  

We paid our toll and then crossed over the huge suspension bridge. As we drove across the bridge, there was our third Great Lake of the day-Lake Huron. It didn’t take long to spot our hotel right by tomorrow’s ferry dock.

We actually have two rooms tonight so even though we are next door to each other, we are all spread out. We just came back from a walk around the hotel complex and to the ferry dock. Right now, we are all in the boys’ room quietly on our devices...even though it is quickly approaching 11. I am not sure when we started staying up so late on trip, but hopefully tomorrow doesn’t come to early.

May 25, 2019-Great Lakes Day 7

(click here for today's pictures)

Somethings are just wonderful-like hotel sleeping and thunderstorms. Last night, we had both, I am not sure what our motel was made of but it was the loudest thunderstorm I had ever heard. It was absolutely great. Keaton fell off the bed sometime during the thunderstorm and even commented on how loud it was.

Despite Keaton having trouble staying on that bed (she fell off twice) and the thunderstorm, we all slept very well. We slept in a little bit this morning so when my clock woke me up, I was up fairly quickly. I think that my room was ready before the boys and soon we had loaded up and were heading to breakfast.

Yesterday, at the Mall of America Graham really wanted to go to Tim Hortons. While the girls were shopping at Claire’s, Robby had decided that maybe they would stop in. Unfortunately, it was closed! So today was the Tim Horton’s day. We had seen one in the US before crossing the border, but did drive a bit further so we could eat at Tim Horton’s in Canada.

We all had our fill of doughnuts-the big boys and Reagan had Oreo, Campbell and Keaton had chocolate covered, Whitman had plain while Robby had a sausage biscuit and I had a bagel. Afterwards, we headed back into the US.

Border crossing was a bit more strict this time. The guy wanted to see the kids when he called their name. Poor Campbell and Keaton had to crawl from the very back of the van to wave at the man. Once back in International Falls, we headed to Voyageurs National Park.

Robby did lean that International Falls, Minnesota is nicknamed “the icebox of the nation.” They have an average of 110 days a year below freezing. Brrsy. Thankfully, the weather was misty today, but it didn’t seem as cold as it was yesterday.

We were soon at Voyageurs National Park. It was a pretty drive in and the visitor’s center was nice. We watched the movie, stamped our passport books and then headed out on a hike. We hiked on the Oberholtzer trail which was almost 2 miles.

The trail was pretty-almost like walking through a Christmas tree farm. We came upon the lake a few different times. The kids enjoyed running ahead of us until on the way back, they ran a way that we didn’t want to go. We called them back and bless they were almost back to the visitor’s center when we made them return to where we were.

We eventually all made it back to the visitor’s center. We used that opportunity to go to the restroom again and fill up our water bottles. The kids also turned in their Jr. Ranger books and collected their second badge on the trip for a total of 47 Jr. Ranger badges.

Back in the car, we zoomed on towards Duluth. As we drove, we listened to our book-when we finish I am not too sure what we will do since this will be the last one that I have. Maybe Robby can download one for us to listen to.

We did stop at another visitor’s center at Voyageurs that was called at Lake Kabetogama. This visitor’s center had an area where you could crawl and put your head in a beaver dam exhibit. The ranger showed it to Whitman and his eyes just lit up.

Back in the car, we headed towards Duluth while I made our lunches. Today’s menu consisted of wraps or sandwiches. The kids like ham better than turkey so our next grocery stop will be for some ham. Robby and I did sneak a rice krispy treat for a dessert after our meal. We commented that we were surprised that our rice krispy treats always stay fresh so long-these are currently one week old.

The weather would alternate between spitting rain and partly sunny for most of the morning. I wasn’t sure if I needed my jacket or if I needed to take it off most of the drive. We stopped in Duluth, home of Mr. Tony’s underwear-well, that is how we spoke of Duluth. Unfortunately, we didn’t find the underwear store.

We did however find the Aerial Lift Bridge in their riverwalk area. It was a happening place. They had a little maritime museum that we walked around in. Then we walked to the little lighthouse by the canal followed by a long walk on the shore of Lake Superior.

We made it back to the bridge right as two large ships crossed under the raised bridge. It was pretty neat to see, but Whitman and Campbell were more interested in the seagulls behind us that were eating people’s popcorn.

We didn’t have any popcorn, but we did split 3 huge ice cream cones. They didn’t last very long! After viewing the shops, we were soon headed on our way to our hotel. We had about a 2 hour drive putting us in the hotel around 8:30.

On the way we did eat our supper-crackers, cheese and sausage. I didn’t have too many sausage takers and Reagan even opted for another sandwich. Whitman is rather excited about my pulling out the “squirt cheese” but I am waiting for when we grow a bit more tired of sandwiches. Though Whitman is probably growing tired of cheese and crackers since that is what he chooses each time we have our picnics.

When we made it to the hotel, the kids were delighted to see that there was a pool but we were not delighted to see that there was no laundry. We debated and could have made it another day (If we go more than 2 days then laundry just begins to be a hassle and turns into multiple loads. With just one load, it often takes us two dry cycles to get it all dried.)

We let the kids swim some after we unloaded the car and as soon as everyone was in their clean pjs, Robby headed off to the laundromat. Tomorrow is going to be a long driving day so we will try not to laundry tomorrow night and Robby toyed with going in the morning, but we finally decided that we would need to be moving fairly early not folding laundry.

It is nearly 10, and Robby has a few more minutes left drying clothes and the kids are about to go to bed after my shower. Today was a pretty nice weather day so hopefully tomorrow will be the same.

May 24, 2019-Great Lakes Day 6

(click here for today's pictures)

Aww, there is nothing like hotel sleeping though when I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I almost did step on Keaton’s head. She had moved far from where she started in the middle of the night. I thought about moving her back but she was sleeping soundly so I didn’t want to disturb her. Later when Robby went to the bathroom, he saw that the covers from Reagan and Anderson’s bed were completely on the floor. He did cover them back up but they didn’t seem to notice.

Breakfast this morning was one of the best. They did have flavored cream cheese which makes me happy, but the best part of breakfast was the cinnamon rolls. We were in a Holiday Inn Express so the cinnamon rolls were Cinnabon. We can remember when he cinnamon rolls were the absolute best and the Holiday Inn Express’ but since they have changed them to Cinnabon they aren’t as great-still delicious but not as great.

We took our picture of our time a bit later this morning. We had forgotten when we loaded the car-it was sprinkling and chilly so we were in a hurry. We had a card to mail so first we had to find a stamp, and then surprisingly it was difficult to find a gas station.

After those tasks were finished, we headed to the Mall of America for a little bit. We had said that we wouldn’t ride any rides, but we put on the red dress and rode a few-and they aren’t cheap!  

Originally, we said that everyone could ride 2-Reagan and Campbell rode this super scary roller coaster. Then Graham and Anderson rode the first car of the log ride. Robby, Whitman and Reagan were the next ones on the log ride. Whitman left soaked! There was a certainly height limit on most of the rides where the child would need chaperone who could also ride free. That worked out well for Robby and I who were then able to ride a couple of rides.

The next stop was a slowish roller coaster that went all the way around the mall amusement park area. Graham, Anderson, Keaton, Whitman and I all rode that. It is not a scary roller coaster, but you are very high in the sky which kind of bothers me.  Keaton and Whitman did the little kid bumper cars.

By this time the tickets had  almost run out, but Robby did let everyone ride one more ride. Anderson and Keaton had their real second rides on the log ride with Whitman who I went that time. Keaton and I left soaked-she was so soaked that when we got back in the car, she had to change her shirt. We were splashed not even when we were going down a hill so it was completely unexpected.

The final ride was a spinny roller coaster-it was the same one that Robby and I rode on while we were on a layover flying to Hawaii in 2004. Everyone but Robby did do that roller coaster. I was not too pleased that he “let” me do it-I am not a huge spinny ride fan, but I can handle them better than he can.

And if you are counting, Whitman did do more rides than anyone else. We told the kids it was because he couldn’t really ride rides that last time we were here. However, it was because the way for Robby had to buy the tickets, left him with a few extras that we needed to use.

We had looked last night and couldn’t really find any activities to do on our drive today to Canada. We had about a 5 hour drive (or it should have been), so we opted to stay in Minneapolis/St. Paul area this morning and drive in the afternoon/evening time.

Before our long drive though, we needed a little bit to eat. We went to the 7th Street Truck Park for lunch. It is a building with a bunch of food trucks in it. We had spicy mac and cheese (very spicy), huge slices of pizza, chicken and waffles, and street tacos. It was all yummy.

But the best part of the meal was the cookie that we all shared. It was about 6 inches in diameter and fed all of us. Now, we had originally heard about the cookies at this restaurant but they were a bit bigger than 6 inches. The large cookies cost 50 dollars and was probably 24 inches across.  What I really wanted was the ice cream cookie sandwich made with the large cookies. Since it did cost 100 dollars, I didn’t push it but I did promise the boys that we would make one when we got home.

Later when we were in the car, Robby and I laughed at me making a huge cookie like that. We have had problems lately making the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I guess that even if I mess up and have to try a few times, it still won’t cost me 50 dollars. I could probably make 5 huge ice cream cookie sandwiches for 50 dollars.

The weather was still spitting rain and still chilly-I guess that it will at least until Dearborn. I drove us out of town and before I could get too far, we were sitting in traffic. Lots of traffic-probably about an hour of traffic. We had drive for about an hour and a half total when Keaton said that she needed to potty. We didn’t need gas, but topped it off since the price was decent, and we all needed to potty.

After the potty stop, Robby drove. Earlier he had been doing some of his work. We have figured out that when he is trying to work, the kids can’t really be on their ipads, because it slows his internet down too much so he can’t really accomplish anything.

We listened to our book, we ate some snacks, we played on ipads, we stopped and pottied. The first 3 hours went by fairly quickly. I was the one that had to request the bathroom stop even though Whitman and Anderson cashed in their free slushies from yesterday’s bingo game. On another trip, maybe even a few trips ago, Keaton won a “free upsize” coupon so Robby upsized her no slushie to a small slushie. Even with all of those slushie drinkers, I was the one who had to potty first. Though who knows how much of Whitman’s slushie actually made it in his mouth. At one point, Graham shouted, “Whitman’s hands are blue.”

Once we were in upper Minnesota, the landscape changed. I am not sure exactly what it was like-possibly it reminded me of Washington state or Oregon. And the lakes, gracious, they really are the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.

It was a pretty and desolate drive until we made it almost to Canada. Graham and I needed to potty again before we crossed the border. Robby had read that border crossing at this spot could take up to 3 hours, but thankfully it was just a few minutes tonight. I do always get tickled at all of the questions the border people ask and how serious Robby gets when talking to them.

We made it over the border and headed off to find tonight’s motel. When we drove up, we were relieved that it looks really nice-it is has been recently renovated. Right across the street is the bay-well, honestly, I don’t know if it is a bay or not, but our hotel is called the Bay View Motel.

We have two rooms tonight which makes things easier but also more complicated. For example, we only have one tube of toothpaste so when we left the boys’ room tonight I carried 4 toothbrushes topped with toothpaste.

Once we unloaded the van, we started working on supper. Tonight we had sausage pizzas made with pita bread and for dessert we had Oreos. Whitman opted for just cheese and crackers. We have brought so much food but haven’t really eaten very much yet. Though options would have been limited in this little town-we did see a Tim Hortons on the other side of the border that we may hit up for breakfast.

Tomorrow’s agenda includes Voyageur’s National Park and a pretty long haul to our next stop for the evening. Who knows where we will end up and what we will see.