Tag Archive | travel

Twin Tuesday – Key Image Photographers and Bertie the Bear

There’s a cute, reoccurring adventurer that graces the pages of Key Image Photography called Bertie.  He is just the most adorable bear and along with his friend Croc who joins him on some pretty crazy travels!

I also have a traveling friend that goes everywhere my convertible goes. His name is ‘Goatee’, clearly because he is a goat that sports a pretty rad goatee! He likes to ride in my passenger seat visor, high up so he can see all the sights. Making sure there’s no Smokies on my tail… Goatee and I really get along great as we’re both Capricorns! He also never complains about my driving. That’s key in this relationship.

    

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

A great visit to Oatland Island Wildlife Center of Savannah

A few weeks before our trip to Savannah, Georgia, I was looking through the things to do and came across the Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Sadly, when I went to their website, I learned that hurricane Mathew had been very mean to them. Many habitats were damaged. Thankfully, these were the animals day areas, and their nighttime digs were safe, as were all the animals.

Lucky for us, they opened the day after Christmas, with only the wolf exhibit being off limits. So, off we went!

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Many of these animals cannot be returned to the wild, for one reason or another.

Many of the birds cannot fly. On the cages, they have signs that inform you that birds that cannot fly like the security of the small space.

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It was almost low tide here, the water was slowly getting lower, exposing the oysters.

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Hey look! It’s BOB!

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Bob-Cat!

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Hello, hello, hello. Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there any one at home?

The red fox was supposed to be in here. Maybe in the little house.

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WHO!

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Thee were two bald eagles in here. There was a long tree trunk that went from the ground to this high roost.

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Bison bison.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Savannah Blooming Flowers 1-1-2017

Happy JANUARY blooming flowers!! 😉 I know, that you know, that I know nothing blooms in Illinois, in January… Well, maybe an occasional Lenten rose… Or a houseplant… However, I was in Savannah, Georgia recently and all of these colorful blooms were here to meet me! Of course, I took photos of everything that had any color in the landscape, so there are some berries and seeds also.

A technique I use to identify things is knowing when something is in bloom. Folks will ask, “What’s the beautiful, blue flower I see blooming now (say May).” I know that the  pulmonaria family blooms then, show them a photo and they gasp, “YES!” Here in Savannah, it’s 3 zones different that me (me = 5 – here = 7/8), things aren’t blooming at the same time they bloom up North. I had to go on my botany skills… that flowers have families and knowing their ‘shapes’, I could get close on identifying them. I’m not going to go crazy trying to identify them, but if you know one I don’t, give a shout out in the comments.

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I’m going to start off strong with one I should be able to ID in any situation! Ilex verticillata ~ Winterberry  || I’m not sure of this one, but it has a salvia type flower and was a bush.

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Camellia japonica ~ So beautiful!!   ||  Strawberries anyone?

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Tradescantia ohiensis ~ Spiderwort    ||   A Rudbeckia ~ Black Eyed Susan

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Pentas lanceolata ~ We use these in our flower displays (as an annual), not sure if it actually grows here, or is used as an annual also.   || Woohoo! Azaleas! There were some blooming, but not all. I hear coming here in March is the best time for blooms.

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More Azalea    ||   I know this in the oenothera family, because the 5 star stigma is a trait of that family.

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Beautiful moss

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An avens, perhaps?

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Liverleaf Hepatica ~ Hepatica americana

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I’m not sure at all about this first one   ||   This one is in the aster family

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Lantana camara ~ Invasive here.

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Agave bracteosa ~ Variegated Agave   ||  A Honeysuckle

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I had to look this up, as I did have a Sago palm (cycas revoluta) at my house in Florida. Mine must have never bloomed before. This one is a female and that center is called megasporophylls. In typical male fashion, he blooms with a large spike.

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Looks like an annual?    ||   Another beautiful Camellia

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Variegated ginger    ||    More Camellias!!

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A ligularia of some sort, very cool   ||  More azaleas

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Nice to have spice right outside the door!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Savannah Proper (Georgia)

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We spent about two days in ‘downtown’ Savannah. It is a small town, however my idea of small may be skewed, as I’m from Chicago. We walked most of it in those two days also. There are lots of overpriced shops, slushy bars, awesome restaurants and tourist traps to see. Mingled among those places are some true, local places. We had a lot of fun finding the REAL places of Savannah!

The architecture is beautiful here as the Yankees didn’t burn it down during the Civil War, like so many other Southern towns. The mayor at the time just said, “We give up, don’t trash the town!” General Sherman actually liked the town so much, he agreed and then gave it to President Lincoln as a Christmas present.

There are something like 34 ‘squares’ (little parks) within the city. They all have their own theme and are decorated differently. When they were first built, the homes surrounding them were responsible for the upkeep. They are all very beautiful, have nice places to sit and all have a different history about them. Often, there are sculptures and fountains within them. I highly recommend a walk through as many as you can.

We loved the open drinking policy here. I think it helps merchants sell more stuff to ‘loosened-up’ tourists! Ha!! We had a few good laughs at a bar down by the river, that touted it was a ‘Green Bay Packers’ bar. Perfect! That means I’ll get a side car of beer with my Bloody Mary! Nope. I then asked the bartender if they played dice here. In Wisconsin, it is a common practice to play a dice game called ‘Ship, Captain, Crew’, where you play dice for your drinks. I think he knew where we were going with this or maybe it was our Midwestern accents, however he owned up to not really being from Wisconsin. He was from Denver, and had just bought the bar the previous week. They did have one really awesome thing going for them, they had dill pickle shots! Vodka, pickle juice and a secret ingredient…. OMG, were those good. -+–*

Driving was a bit frustrating. Many streets had large medians and actually had a stop between directions. The tree lined streets are gorgeous, however all the Spanish moss hanging from the trees prevented you from seeing the traffic signal until the last moment. Toss in drunk pedestrians and it’s a party!!  Extreme care is needed when driving here.

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The tree lined streets are to die for! Love this entrance.

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We did go to the beach, or Tybee Island. I did put the toes in for posterity, but that’s all that was going in! Brrrrr!

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Tybee Island Lighthouse

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Half Police car, half Taxi!

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We don’t like the mainstream bars or the ‘flavored slushy’ bars. Here we found places to go that normally would scare tourists away. When I asked this tattooed and pierced bartender for a Mimosa (Orange juice and champagne) and Yes, I clearly did not think before ordering it at a bar like this, it’s just that it was before noon, and I wanted to have my OJ….  😉 He told me he was out of champagne, however, he could make me a Mimosa lite. “What’s that?”, I asked. He said, “Bud Light’. Ha! Fine. Kamikaze Shot it is!

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We could not believe how dog friendly they are here also. There were dogs everywhere, in stores, cafes, art galleries, parks… There were dog water bowls and poop bag stations at every square. many places offered treats when you came in. Way to win over the doggy parents!

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We don’t like big, crowded tours. We did enjoy a private horse tour of the area with Jenna (human tour guide) and Fabio (Horse cutie)

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I can’t remember the significance of the first house, however the orange one here is The Mercer House.

The Mercer House was designed by a New York architect John S. Norris for General Hugh W. Mercer, the great grandfather of Johnny Mercer (singer). Construction of the house began in 1860, was interrupted by the Civil War and was later completed, circa 1868, by the new owner, John Wilder. In 1969, Jim Williams, one of Savannah’s earliest and most dedicated private restorationists, bought the then vacant house and began a two-year restoration. This house is one of the more than 50 houses Mr. Williams saved during his thirty-year career in historic restoration in Savannah and the Lowcountry.

Since we had a load of driving to do, we decided to listen to an audio book: Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil by John Berendt. The book takes place in Savannah and I’m pretty sure its required reading if you are to live here. Ha! They call it “THE BOOK” down here. All the events are true in the book, however they are a tad bit mixed-up, chronologically. Small spoiler… there is a murder in the middle of the book. The lower room on the left is the room it happened in. After having listened to the book, it was very cool to see the actual houses in relation to one another.

We actually just watched the movie and feel it kinda sucked. Maybe if we hadn’t read the book, it would have been better.

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Here’s a weird story; It was about 9 PM, well past dark, and we were walking back to our truck. After cutting through a cemetery, we emerged about 2 blocks from the truck. A black gentleman on a bike said hello, we reciprocated. He then stopped, motioned across the street and asked us if we knew the cemetery originally went another 10 feet over? We stopped and said no, that it was interesting there is now a road over it. He told us he was born here and then continued to tell us about how they moved bodies and why one of the headstones is oddly on part of the sidewalk. We thought it was fascinating and continued to listen. I’m not sure what went wrong, however after about 7-8 minutes of talking with him, he blurted, “Well, I can tell when someone from Chicago doesn’t want to be talking to a black man like me” (We never mentioned where we were from). He then told us to have a good evening and rode off. What the heck just happened? We looked at each other with our mouths open. Did he just call us racists??

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Johnson Square

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I think this is where Oglethorpe was originally buried. It is right in the middle of a right-of-way.

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Oglethorpe Square   ||   The signs read: Historical steps, use at own risk. They were all different sizes of steps, you had to look down. We saw a lot of folks that should have walked down to the ramp. Public drinking is somewhat entertaining for the sober folks also!!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Old Savannah Ogeechee Canal

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A sample of a lock

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Savannah-Ogeechee Barge Canal is one of the prime relics in the history of southern canals. Beginning with the tidal lock at the Savannah River, the waterway continues through four lift locks as it traverses 16.5 miles before reaching another tidal lock at the Ogeechee River.

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Equipment needed to maintain the canal

The Savannah-Ogeechee Canal was constructed between 1826 and 1830 by African and Irish laborers who moved thousands of cubic yards of earth. A boon to Georgia’s economy, the canal moved cotton, rice, bricks, and natural fertilizer.

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Lock #5, or whats left of it, just before the Ogeechee River

A nearby historical marker reads:

THE 15TH CORPS AT THE SAVANNAH AND OGEECHEE CANAL

On Dec. 6 1864, the 15th Corps [US], Maj. Gen. P. J. Osterhaus, USA, the extreme right of Gen. Sherman’s army on its destructive March to the Sea, forced a crossing of Great Ogeechee River at Jenk’s Bridge (US 80 east of Blitchton) and drove the Confederate defenders toward Savannah. Corse’s division crossed and occupied Eden. Smith’s division remained on the west bank with the corps trains. With Hazen’s and Woods’ divisions, Osterhaus moved down the west bank, Hazen to take the bridge over Canoochee River east of Bryan Court House (Clyde), Woods to prepare crossings over the Ogeechee at Fort Argyle (1 mile W. across the river) and on the charred ruins of Dillon’s bridge, at the mouth of this canal.

On the 8th, Corse moved down the east bank to this point and found the bridge over the canal in flames. He rebuilt it, then camped here for the night. On the 9th, Smith arrived with the corps trains. Corse moved forward to the Darien road (US 17), defeated a small Confederate force entrenched astride both roads, and drove it toward Savannah. On the 10th, Corse moved north of Little Ogeechee River followed by Hazen who, having secured the bridge over the Canoochee, had crossed the Ogeechee at Dillon’s Bridge. Smith moved north along the canal, followed by Woods who had crossed the Ogeechee at Fort Argyle. That night, Corse, Woods and Smith were in line facing the strong Confederate works along Salt Creek, with Hazen in reserve at the Little Ogeechee.

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Ogeechee River

The lumber industry revived canal usage following a Civil War-era lull, but a yellow fever epidemic blamed on the canal caused a further decline. The canal closed in the early 1890s as the Central of Georgia Railroad served transportation needs. Beginning at the Savannah River, the canal comprises six locks and 16.5 miles, ending at the Ogeechee River.

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Oreo likes to be the leader. He often looks back at me, surely thinking this pink ape is ‘Givin it all she’s got”* when it comes to speed.

When it comes to size, this canal is not very large. Not with the size of canals built today.  I’d say it is about 12 feet wide here. The barges must have not been wide, however guessing they were just plentiful.

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Tree knees. What? Yup, tree knees. The little ant-hill like humps coming up from the water are called knees. These are produced by trees that grow in water filled areas. All tree roots need oxygen at varying levels. Water species compensate their water-logged roots with this special root growth that ‘comes up for air’ so to speak. And here you thought they were called knees because they are about that hieght and you bash your knees on them! HaHa!!

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True to it’s name, there was Holly on the trail!

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There was a small amount of damage from the recent hurricane that came through. The wooden path was busted-up a bit, however not impassible to a limber person.

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Edible Cladonia evansii: What’s not to lichen? Haha! Its common name is Deer Moss and deer love eating it. Its not exactly ready-to-eat for humans, it needs some preparation. It is very high in carbs tho!

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We walked from wetland forest to a sandy palm area. I’m not familiar with the geology here, however it was fascinating!

  • Star Trek – Scottie 😉 Didja get that Scifi?

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Kayaking Green Bay in Lake Michigan

We had a wonderful time in Door County, Wisconsin. We were able to explore Lake Michigan via our kayaks in the tranquil Green Bay. We disembarked from Gills Rock and paddled south.

To quote myself, from my Door County post:

“The geology of this area is pretty unique. In a seriously, small nutshell: About 425 million years ago, there was a shallow sea in the Lake Michigan area. After the sea dried up and deposited all the Limestone, it was covered in a glacier. All the pressure & chemical reactions turned it in to dolomite. Many years of erosion made all the beautiful bluffs we see here today.”

Goodness! I just summed-up 425 million years in 5 sentences =-O I don’t believe I shared the utter beauty of the place with you. Here’s just a bit more info on the area.

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The circular area in red is called the Niagara Escarpment, and stands taller than the surrounding areas. Green Bay and neighboring Door County run along the escarpment which extends in a wide arc from eastern Wisconsin through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Ontario, Canada, and through the Niagara Falls. I’ve not been to Niagara Falls, however now I know what to look forward to when I do visit.

While hiking, you get to enjoy the height of the cliffs looking out over the lake. However, while kayaking, you get to enjoy the cliffs looking up FROM the lake!

The trees have obviously been hanging onto the cliffs for years. It was so cool to look up into a tree’s roots.

The area was originally full of alder (Alnus), willow (Salix) and cedar (Juniperus) which has given way to forests dominated by spruce (Picea) and, then later, pine (Pinus). Mixed forests of eastern hemlock (Tsuga) and hardwoods such as beech (Fagus) and elm (Ulmus) became standard by about 7,500 years ago and have persisted. I saw many birch (Betula) and Eastern red cedar (Juniperus), like the ones in this photo.

There are many animals that rely on the cliffs for shelter and food. The gulls in the photos below soared just above the water looking for fish.

Although we did not see any, there are many bats that are indigenous to the area; little brown myotis, the northern myotis, the big brown bat, and the tri-colored bat. All four of these species are currently listed in Wisconsin as threatened. In addition, the forests above the escarpment provide summer homes for the migrating bat species, including the silver-haired, eastern red, and hoary.

    


Clean rocks among the dirty. It was only about 4′ (1.5M) deep here.

We were told by a bartender that there were Native American paintings on the cliffs near Gill’s Rock. We paddled south for about a mile, all the while staring at the walls. Finally! I don’t know what they used to paint the walls, however I’m really shocked me that it was still able to be seen. Doubly shocked that no one has desecrated it =-)

I did try to do some research into what tribe may have painted it, to no avail. The Potawatomi Indians are still around, however there were many other tribes in the area. I wasn’t even able to find these same paintings posted on-line. That’s strange. I can’t imagine I’m the first one to post these things. Either way, it was really cool to have seen them and experience them in a kayak, looking quite like them.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.* HeeHee!!

Washington Island

Rock slides are common.

There’s not really a beach where we were paddling. So much of the limestone has eroded and fallen into the lake. Although the lake works its magic quickly, the rocks were smooth and not too rough on the tootsi’s.


It is 25′ (8M) deep here. Scuba divers like to view the shipwrecks in this area. The small passage between the islands and Lake Michigan is called ‘Death’s Door’. Ironically, not because of all the shipwrecks (and there are many), but because of ancient Potawatomi legend. To learn more, click here!

Vessel Name: Fleetwing (1867)
National Register: Listed
Registry #:9883
Casualty: 10/26/1888, stranded
Vessel Type: Schooner
Built: 1867, Henry B. Burger, Manitowoc, WI
Owners: Andrew McGraw John Spry
Home Port: Chicago, IL
Cargo: Lumber (that is what you’re seeing in the above pix)

   

The photo of the tree was taken by me looking straight up the cliff.

I felt the water was a bit too chilly to swim in, although many folks were enjoying it.

The water was absolutely beautiful and clear.

I would highly recommend coming here for a paddle.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

*Gilligan’s Island

Door County, Wisconsin

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I write many of my camping posts while riding in the passenger seat. The star is Door County.

We decided to spend our long, Independence Day weekend in the quiet town of Rowley’s Bay in Door County, Wisconsin. It was magnificent! My husband used to come up here for his summer vacations as a child. I’ve never been.

He was tooootally holding out on me!

The area is called, The Cape Cod of the Midwest, however I liked the catchier, The Thumb the local radio station used. Cherries and apples orchards are everywhere around here. We were here for cherry season, and if you are a fan, you can enjoy cherries in too many forms for me to list here! Basically, from wine to cheese to pie, you name it, they can make it with cherries here!

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Halfway to the North Pole

The geology of this area is pretty unique. In a seriously, small nutshell: About 425 million years ago, there was a shallow sea in the Lake Michigan area. After the sea dried up and deposited all the Limestone, it was covered in a glacier. All the pressure & chemical reactions turned it in to dolomite. Many years of erosion made all the beautiful bluffs we see here today. Click here if you’d like to read more about it. I think it’s fascinating. I really feel like a true Northerner when we stood at the halfway point between the equator and the North pole.

There are many bays on this peninsula and since the area is so skinny, there aren’t any cities in between the bays on the Green Bay side and the Lake Michigan side. The GB side is much calmer, better for us kayaks, swimmers and non-motor boaters. The LM side is rougher, requiring a larger boat, however that’s where the good fishing is. Many folks at our campground had both campers and boats.

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Actually not sure which Green Bay side bay I’m in here, however they are all equally exquisite!

The area is also known for its concentration of artists. Every craft is represented via signs along the roadways. Aside from the beauty of the area (which would make anyone want to stay), I’m not sure what draws them all here. Is it the camaraderie?

There are many workshops available to attend. The Clearing, a folk school founded by Jens Jensen, a famous landscape architect of this area, is a future destination of learning for me. We visited, however only went on the 2 hour walking tour of the grounds. I’ll have a post to link to this soon.

Otherwise, living here year-round can be tough. There are no Walmarts or big box stores nearby. I think the nearest larger town is Sturgeon’s Bay, which was an hour away from our campsite. The winters can get really hash here and there are no tourists at that time. I could see it being a good time to be immersed in a project. A bit of ‘alone time’.

The towns are all very conscious of the natural beauty around them and try to keep Mother Nature happy. Many shops had beautiful gardens and well chosen natives for the area. I think these gardens gave me about 6 posts of Blooming Flowers alone!! Hmmm, I wonder if I could make it as a garden designer up here?

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Many little nooks contained fountains and other artwork. Modern technology is not abandon here, however it does get its artistic touches, like this cell tower currently getting spruced-up to resemble a spruce!

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These folks spend many hours putting together their summer flower displays. So pretty!

Sadly, we felt that the shopkeepers were all pretty rude. It seriously amazed me. The shops here are all somewhat upscale and expensive, not exactly touristy. Most of the time we were not acknowledged at all. We went into a kaleidoscope shop. I love them! Many were over a grand, however there were some for as low as $50. The ‘Do Not Touch!’ signs outnumbered the kaleidoscopes. Had one of the two clerks just said HELLO, I would have promptly bought the $80 one that I thought would produce some cool photos via my camerone. I’ve got principals, tho. I felt like I was looked-over and dubbed too poor to buy and no energy was going to be exhausted on us. They lost a sale because of their attitude.

Like I said, there are not many average places to buy a shot glass with Sister Bay on it or a T-Shirt, seems those places were off the beaten path. If you did find a T-shirt location, it was an astonishing $35 for a thin shirt. I always feel you have to go to a ‘locals bar’ for good T-shirts. Now those are our homes away from home. We love hanging with the natives and getting the inside scoops to places they go, away from the hustle and bustle. My advice is, always tip heavy and respect that you’re in their hood. They’ll be flapping their gums about the best spots in less than 10 minutes.  We bought our commemorative, vacation glass from a bar in Gills Bay that was being sold for charity, with all the proceeds going to the local dog shelter. Duh, that was a no-brainer!!

As with any area here in ‘Merica, there seems to be a concentration of one culture or another. Here it’s Nordic. We saw many examples of this, such as the Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik, “The place with the goats on the roof”. in Sister Bay. You can click those words for the ‘Goat Cam’… Yes folks, there is a goat cam!!! (It’s a still shot, so repetitively click your ‘refresh’ button to make it a video).

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Clearly not something you see on a daily basis….

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Aside from the horns, they almost resemble Breck!

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Horns are great for getting those back itches!

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Another bay where I don’t know where I am….

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There was only one night of rain, but it was a doosey. Many weak tornadoes around, but little damage. This was Rowley’s Bay.

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More examples of the artistic flair of this county.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip, and we’re so coming back to this area next year. Among so many other pluses, there is little light pollution at night, which makes star gazing and spotting constellations cake. Fishing is great, along with the fish being offered at the restaurants. It is very quiet here, no big box stores, large highways or airports. If you pick a strategic location, you can see a water-based sunrise and a water-based sunset!

 

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl