Oh, the Places We Went!
The central purpose of our long drive to Boston and back was to visit our sons and their families: John with his wife Kelsey in Saline, Michigan; and Phil with his wife Miranda and their young son, Griffin, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Long road trips are a lot more fun if we take time to visit some of the many interesting places that can always be found along the way, and we made quite a few stops on this trip. There were countless things we had to pass by due to time constraints, but we made many worthwhile stops.
Here's a chronology of notes, links and images from places we visited on our trip. Many of the images here are logos or pictures from respective web sites (with links to the sites), but their appearance here doesn't indicate any endorsement in either direction. Still, you'll see that we have good things to say about nearly every place we went on this wonderful excursion!
Friday, 10/20: Heading Out
We didn't really get rolling until shortly after noon. Once we were on our way down I-94, we soon decided to visit one of favorite Wisconsin restaurants for lunch. Norske Nook in Osseo, Wisconsin is especially well known in the area for its great pies, but they offer lots of other good food as well.
After lunch, we continued along I-94 to Madison, and then I-90 into the Chicago area. We didn't stop much, except when we were bogged down in heavy traffic near O'Hare Airport, after which we took I-294 south to I-80, headed through more slow traffic into Indiana, and followed I-94 into Michigan. We stopped for the night in Sawyer, Michigan, not far from the Indiana border.
Saturday, 10/21: Meeting John and Kelsey
Saturday morning we hit the road, planning to follow I-94 to Jackson, Michigan, but we got tied up in slow traffic within an hour. It seemed like a rerun of Friday's delays near Chicago, but with daylight. We travelled only a few miles in 45 minutes, and took the next opportunity to exit, near the town of Paw Paw. We decided to stay off the Interstate for a while, so we headed south on MI-40, took MI-216 to Three Rivers, and then MI-60 to Jackson. It all went pretty smoothly, and the Michigan countryside was enhanced by fall colors.
Once we got to Jackson, we had a little trouble navigating to Sandhill Crane Vineyards, but we arrived there around 3:30, about as planned. We had visited the vineyards on an earlier trip to taste and buy wines, and it was through their newsletter that we had learned that there would be an opportunity to see sandhill cranes that day. We stopped in to get details on where to meet with people gathering at a nearby wildlife sanctuary.
The crane field trip was organized by the Michigan Audubon Society at the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary. Many dozens of people came, and we had arranged to meet John and Kelsey there. The organizers led groups of cars out to see sandhill cranes in nearby farm fields, and we all returned to the sanctuary as dusk approached to watch cranes arrive in the marsh for the night. After leaving the sanctuary, we stayed the rest of the weekend with John and Kelsey at their home in Saline, a wonderful small town south of Ann Arbor. Our photos
Sunday, 10/22: In and Around Saline
On Sunday, John and Kelsey took us to the University of Michigan's fascinating Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor. We've long been interested in plants, so the beautiful flowers and unusual plants in this conservatory were great fun. Our photos
We also visited with some of John and Kelsey's neighbors, and helped John with some work on installing a new furnace.
Monday, 10/23: Into Ontario
From the Ann Arbor area, we drove through Detroit into Windsor, Ontario and on toward Niagara Falls. We ran into several brief snow and sleet squalls. At one point, there was ice built up on the road, and several vehicles were on the shoulder due to an accident. Driving was tense until we got beyond the bad road conditions a few miles farther on.
As we drove into the city of Brantford in the late afternoon, we decided to stop at the Brantford Visitor Center. When we walked in, we saw displayed above us the world's tallest stilts, 50 feet 9 inches long, and 137 pounds for the pair. We also learned that Brantford had been the home of hockey star Wayne Gretzky, that inventor Alexander Graham Bell's family had lived there, and that Brantford claimed the title of "Telephone City". We decided to stay for the night so we could visit the Bell homestead and other places in town.
After finding a hotel room, we noticed the restaurant Moose Winooski's across the street. It looked interesting, so we headed over and found it whimsically decorated in a moose-and-northwoods theme. We had a great dinner, took some pictures, and had a few pictures taken. Our photos
Tuesday, 10/24: Brantford and Niagara
The next morning, we headed down to the Bell Homestead and were the only visitors on an interesting guided tour. We saw both the house the Bell family lived in and another house that once served as the first telephone business office in Canada. Our photos
We made a brief visit to another Brantford site, Her Majesty's Royal Chapel of the Mohawks, the oldest Protestant church in Ontario, built in 1785.
From there, we went to the nearby Woodland Cultural Centre, a fine museum of Native American history, culture, and art. Then it was mid-afternoon, so we drove on to Hamilton, and followed Queen Elizabeth Way to the Niagara Falls area. Our photos
The first attraction we visited in the Niagara area was the Butterfly Conservatory, which houses large tropical plants and hundreds of colorful and very active butterflies belonging to dozens of species. Having so many big, bright butterflies around was instantly enchanting, and not at all like being in any other sort of insect swarm! We had trouble getting pictures of these busy creatures, but we do have some. Our photos
It was a cold, gray late afternoon when we visited the falls, but the sight and sound were still wonderful. We stayed on the Canadian side, which seemed to have generally better views than the U.S. side, partly because of a bend in the river just below the falls. There were hundreds of tourists in the falls area, so we were surprised to find closed restaurants shortly after 5:00 p.m. We walked along the river and took lots of pictures, and stayed in the area until after dark so that we could see the falls lighted, and we took more pictures. By about 8:00 p.m. we decided it was time to continue our journey. We drove down to Fort Erie, crossed the border into Buffalo, and headed east on I-90 to the Rochester area, where we stayed the night. Our photos
Wednesday, 10/25: Across New York
In the morning we went to the George Eastman House in Rochester, home of a huge photo archive, galleries displaying wonderful photo exhibits, and the interesting Eastman mansion. Ironically, we didn't take any pictures!
After lunch in the Eastman House cafe, we drove south on I-390 to the Mt. Morris area, then back up to US 20, and east through Canandaigua and on toward Seneca Falls. Most of this drive was quite scenic, but it seemed to get more densely developed as we proceeded. Near Seneca Falls we made the short hop north to I-90 so we could make better progress as dusk approached. We pushed on through the evening to Albany and found a convenient hotel for the night. Our photos
Thursday, 10/26: Children's Literature Day
We visited the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a bright, spacious and modern facility north of Springfield. The museum is devoted to the art of children's books by a huge range of writers and illustrators. We visited the galleries, library, theater, and book shop, and we had a good lunch in the cafe. The one picture we took was a shot of a large, colorful glass panel in the cafe, created by Massachusetts glass artist Thomas Patti. (The museum website has some nice photos of the museum.) Our photos
We next headed into downtown Springfield to visit the Springfield Museums, where the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden is located. There are five large bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and many of his best-known characters. Though we didn't have time to visit the museums, we liked the concept of combining museums of art, history, and science at one location. We did spend some time browsing in the fine museum gift shop before it was time to complete the out-bound leg of our journey. Our photos
The timing of our arrival in Cambridge was less than ideal, as the evening rush hour was not yet over. When I exited I-90 in Cambridge, I failed to find our next planned turn and ended up on an entrance ramp back onto I-90, which took us into Boston. We exited at the next opportunity, found ourselves in Boston's notorious traffic, and inched our way back into Cambridge. We headed toward Harvard, but had trouble finding our way to Phil and Miranda's place at nearby Episcopal Divinity School (EDS), where Miranda is studying. Peg called Phil on her cell phone, and he talked us in through the last half mile of our drive. We parked the car and resolved to stay out of the infamous Boston-area traffic until it was time to leave.
It was great to finally see Phil, Miranda, Griffin and their dog, Prize, now in their new home--a roomy apartment in EDS student housing. We all had dinner in the EDS cafeteria and then visited until the hour was late.
Friday, 10/27: Cambridge
Friday morning Phil had to work, so we walked over to Harvard with Miranda and Griffin to see the Harvard Museum of Natural History. We were especially interested in the exhibit of glass flowers, known formally as The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants. We had learned of these amazing works of glass craftsmanship when our niece, Beth, had been a graduate student at Harvard, and we were eager to see them. They were astonishingly realistic and detailed. Besides full-scale models of hundreds of species of plants, the exhibits included magnified models of small plant parts (including pollen grains) and cross sections. There were many other impressive exhibits in the museum as well, but we had time only to quickly browse through most areas.
In the afternoon, Miranda went to a church conference in Boston, but Phil was available, so we walked with him and Griffin down to the Charles River. Among other sights, we saw rowers practicing in racing shells. Our photos
Saturday, 10/28: A Rainy Day in Boston
The big plan for Saturday was to take the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority subway (known locally as "the T") into Boston to see the New England Aquarium. Equipped with umbrellas and raincoats, we hiked over to the Harvard T station and got on the train. Though we had to change trains twice to get to the aquarium, it was quite efficient. Unfortunately, the ticket windows for the aquarium were outside, with inadequate cover to keep customers dry, and it seemed that everyone in Boston had decided that this was the place to be on a rainy day! Once inside, we had a great time, despite the crowds. A special exhibit on jellyfish was a real treat, as were the several species of penguins. Our photos
After several hours at the aquarium, we walked through the rain back toward the T station, looking for lunch along the way. Just across the street from the station we found Sel de la Terre, a French restaurant that appeared to have a nice menu with reasonable prices. We had a great lunch, bought a loaf of the tasty fig-anise bread that my sandwich had been made with, and got our picture taken. Our photos
Sunday, 10/29: A Windy Day in Cambridge
The rain was gone on Sunday, so it was a more pleasant day, despite strong, gusty winds. We all walked over to Harvard Square to get coffee at Peet's Coffee and Tea, which is adjacent to a nice little park.
After coffee, Miranda left for her Sunday field education, and the rest of us took the subway over to St. James's Episcopal Church, where Phil and Griffin usually go to church. This is a fine old church, and we found the community friendly, thoughtful, and enthusiastic.
In the afternoon, the two of us took a short walk over to Longfellow House, which was the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for many years. Years before that, George Washington lived in the house for nine months during the Revolutionary War. We had an interesting guided tour on what was the last day of tours for the season.
In the evening, we all went for a pleasant walk through the Harvard Square area. We stopped for dinner at Grendel's Den, a pub that is known not only for its food, but for making legal history with a case that went to the Supreme Court and broke important ground in the separation of church and state. Grendel's was celebrating its thirty-fifth year in business, and it happens that we celebrate 35 years of marriage this year, so it seemed appropriate to buy a Grendel's Den 35th Anniversary shirt to mark the occasion.
Monday, 10/30: Starting Back Toward Home
On Monday morning, we packed our things and said goodbye to Phil, Miranda, Griffin and Prize. By the time we were ready to drive off, rush hour traffic had subsided, and we had detailed instructions that Miranda had carefully prepared to help us get off to a good start. Our plan was to take a more southerly route toward home, and our destination for Monday night was Corning, New York. As we drove back across Massachusetts on I-90, we decided to head south through Stockbridge and Great Barrington in the Berkshire Mountains, and then continue west along MA-23 into New York.
If you're familiar with Arlo Guthrie's hilarious story of the "Alice's Restaurant Massacree", you might recall that the restaurant was in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. But Alice didn't live in the restaurant; she lived in the church nearby the restaurant, in the bell tower, with her husband Ray, and Fasha the dog. The church is actually in Great Barrington. We didn't see the restaurant, which is no longer Alice's. The church is also no longer Alice's; it's now the home of the Guthrie Center, an interfaith church, but we didn't see it either. Nevertheless, lacking any other pictures that seemed suitable here, we decided to use this image of the Guthrie Center to represent the area.
As we drove into Great Barrington, we were looking for lunch, and Peg noticed Uncommon Grounds, a small coffee house and vegetarian cafe. We stopped in and enjoyed good soup and sandwiches. Adjacent to Uncommon Grounds was another vegetarian restaurant, Embree's at Home. It looked interesting, and was unusual in offering vegetarian take-out, but it was closed at the time.
After lunch, we followed MA-23 into New York, where it conveniently becomes NY-23, approaching the Catskills. When I first saw a sign for the Rip Van Winkle Bridge I somehow imagined one of those old covered wooden bridges. As we drove on, it became clear that this was actually a major bridge across the Hudson River. It was completed in 1935, and is nearly a mile long. There is a toll for east-bound traffic, but we were headed west, so we didn't have to pay. We continued on Route 23, which passes through the northern part of the Catskills. We then connected with I-88, drove to Binghamton, New York, and then took NY-17 west through Elmira to Corning.
In Corning, we got a room at the Comfort Inn, where the manager recommended a couple of restaurants. We decided to try Sorge's, an Italian restaurant in the heart of town. We had a fine dinner, and spent some time walking around to look at some of the shops and galleries, though it was too late for anything to be open.
Tuesday, 10/31: The Corning Museum and Back to Saline
We were well into our trip when we started planning to visit the Corning Museum of Glass, but it turned out to be the high point of our many museum visits. It contains many galleries of glass sculpture, ancient glass, modern glass, and everything in between. We saw a glass-blowing demonstration and exhibits on the technology of glass and its production. The four hours we were there didn't give us time to see everything, but we sampled a lot of it, and decided we'd like to come back some other time. But for this trip, we needed to move on toward home, driving the rest of the afternoon and all evening, through Cleveland and Toledo, and arriving in Saline, Michigan after 10 p.m. to stay with John and Kelsey one more day. Our photos
Wednesday, 11/1: Another Fine Saline Visit
After visiting with us Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning, John had to get back to the University of Michigan campus, and Kelsey spent some time preparing to teach beading classes at the nearby Two Twelve Arts Center. Peg had fun helping Kelsey organize jewelry and made plans to attend the evening class. In the afternoon, we walked over to Two Twelve with Kelsey to see the paintings, photographs, sculpture and other art and craft items. Kelsey then stayed at Two Twelve to teach a class, while we went for a walk around downtown Saline, and looked for a late lunch.
We decided to eat at one of our favorite Saline spots, The Drowsy Parrot. This coffee shop and cafe is located in the former home of Saline's public library, and the walls are still lined with book shelves.
Later, after dinner with John and Kelsey, Peg went over to Two Twelve for Kelsey's beading class. I stayed home and visited with John, organized photos, and made some plans for the last two days of our trip.
Thursday, 11/2: Leaving Michigan
On Thursday morning I drove John to Ann Arbor, and we packed the car again. We left Saline around 9:30 a.m., just after picking up coffee at the Drowsy Parrot. Our plan was to drive west on US 12 until we were close to the Indiana border, and then go south to I-80. As we drove, we ran into a series of snow squalls, but all were brief, and the snow ended when we moved south of Lake Michigan. We drove to Valparaiso, Indiana and then followed US 30 into Illinois and on to Joliet, avoiding most of the Chicago-area traffic. From Joliet, we took I-80 west to I-39, headed north to Rockford, took I-90 into Wisconsin, and drove on to Tomah.
In Tomah we got a room at the Cranberry Country Lodge, where we had stayed on an earlier trip. We like the hotel, and it has rooms and suites with several nice floor plans. We got a smaller room than on our previous stay, but it was adequate for our brief overnight visit.
Friday, 11/3: Discovering Cranberries and Heading Home
The area around Tomah is one of Wisconsin's major cranberry farming regions, and about ten or twelve miles north of Tomah is the town of Warrens, where the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center can be found. We arrived shortly after their 9:00 a.m. opening time, and browsed through the museum in the basement, which has plenty of interesting exhibits on the history of the Wisconsin cranberry industry, cranberry agriculture, and cranberry products. Upstairs is an extensive gift shop where we did some Christmas shopping, and an ice cream parlor where we got some cranberry pie to go.
Then it was time to get back on the road, following I-94 to the Twin Cities in time to let Nancy, our house-and-pet sitter, and her visiting friend, Jennifer, head off to their homes in Duluth.
It was a great trip, and we hope to make more like it in the coming years. There are lots more interesting places to go, in all directions!
Last update: 2006-12-03