Thursday, June 30, 2011

Frankenmuth, MI

Frankenmuth is a small town of German Lutheran Heritage. In the 1840s some German Lutheran missionaries came here to convert the Chippewa Indians to the Lutheran faith. Following this, German immigrants starting arriving and the settlement thrived. Today, 2 places have made this a prime tourist stop, Zehnders All You Can Eat, Family Style, Chicken Dinners, and the Bavarian Inn and Lodge with its traditional German menu. And of course, there are the fudge shops and gift stores and anywhere there are Germans you will find a brewery.

The Glockenspeil rings its carrollon bells every hour, but at noon, 3, 6 and 9, you get 10 minutes of music and and short play on the legend of the pied piper. The play is using moving, mechanical figures on the clock/carrollon tower with narration.

We had a traditional German lunch here. It was OK, but in my opinion, all done for the tourist trade. If you want good German food, go to Fredericksburg, TX.

This is Zehners Chicken House Restaurant. It seats 1700 and is said to be the largest restaurant in America. Both places did not start on this grand of scale. They were both built back in the 1880s as hotels. Zehnders was originally the Exchange Hotel and Bavarian Inn was the Union Hotel. Theodore Fischer, a bartender at the Exchange Hotel, built the Union Hotel in 1888. It is said his son and wife started the tradition of the family style chicken dinners. In the 1950s distant relatives of Fischer, the Zehnders, bought the chicken restuarant and continued the tradition of family style dinners. In 1959 they extensively enlarged, renovated and redocorated with the Bavarian style architecture.

They try to make you feel like you are in the 'old world' with the waitstaff dressing in traditional German garb.

Many of the shops which have sprung up in the area also hold to the Bavarian style.

And we always find ways to have fun. Her Max, the pied piper, is leading myself, Maynard and Nancy away to the forest.

We watched some fudge being made.

The murals on the museum were quite informative, showing the history of the area in pictures.

The Fischer Platz, or Fisher Place, is the outdoor summer beer garden at the Bavarian Inn. For the summer they have live entertainment, mostly polka style music, nightly. They also serve German beer and brats.

They even have a small dance floor in front of the stage.

It sits right under the Glockenspeil, so when it is time you just turn your chairs around and watch the show.

Frankenmuth is also famous for The Christmas Store. Said to be the largest in the U.S., it has every kind of ornament or Christmas decoration you can imagine.

I walked through the entire store and it didn't seem like 8 acres. But it was so much stuff, it was overwhelming. I didn't buy a thing.

Frankenmuth Brewery has been in operation since 1862, making it Michigan's oldest breweries. They also brew homemade root beer. Yum.....

We also biked a local rail to trail. The trailhead was blocked off because of some asphalt work being done, but we just went down the road a ways and and started further down the trail. Instead of a 19 mi RT, we only got to do 15 mi of the trail.

But I did miss out riding over the old wooden railroad bridge.

Later today is the Frankenmuth Brewery Tour, then we leave for Jackson, MI, and the next gathering.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Downtown Detroit, River Days and the Moose Lodge

We got to visit with some friends while in the area. Linda is working at Campingworld this summer so she joined us for a day downtown, as well as coming out to the Moose Lodge in the evenings. Joanne was here visiting her family, and she joined us on Saturday for River Days.

Just one of the many events along the new, redisigned riverfront in downtown Detroit.

The Rennaissance Complex, home of GM. It houses the Marriott Hotel, shops, restaurants and many businesses in addition to GM. There is even a GM auto showcase with several dozen cars inside.

This beautiful, old building is next door. But it is abandoned and for sale. How sad. We saw a lot of older buildings lying in ruin and boarded up, while only a few are being renovated. I don't think I have ever seen a town with so many boarded up buildings, both business, as well as residential.

They do have a fully automated light rail system, which goes around the downtown area for about 3 miles. Only 50 cents to ride.

It was elevated so you got a great view of the downtown area.

Guess who we're impersonating?

The Marinar's Church, built in the 1800s. Detroit is right on the river connecting Lake Huron and Lake Erie, making it an important port, especially when the country was first being explored and developed.

The Coast Guard had one of the ships open to tour down at River Days.

There were also a couple of Tall Ships. This one is the small one, only 65 feet long and can only sleep 13.

The sand castles were fun to look at.

The River Days Festival was up and down the waterfront park.

We took a river cruise. What was once the laboratory of Lilly Pharmacutecal, is now an upscale hotel.

The view of one of the older churches in downtown.

The Belle Isle Bridge connects the island of Belle Isle to the mainland. Belle Isle is a park and picnic area. Most of the area is closed back in the late 1800s and early 1900s boasted an aquarium, planetarium, zoo as well as a Yacht Club. Now only the yacht club and a small zoo remain along with the picnic area. Most buildings are closed and boarded up.

The National Square Dance Convention was going on downtown. We stopped by so Joanne could try and catch up with a friend who was there. We never found Joanne's friend, but did run into several people we knew, Orval and Jim M. They were having a good time.

Found at the side of the dance floor.

Outside of the YMCA in downtown Detroit.

The old abandoned Depot. It was in use until 1975, when the depot was relocated away from the downtown area. There is a move to try and save this building. It was designed by the same man who designed Grand Central Station in NYC.

This graffiti looks pretty good.

Each evening we would visit at the Moose, looking out on the Little Huron River.

The Henry Ford Museum and Ford Estate

We spent an entire day going through Greenfield Village, so we came back the next day for the inside part of the museum. Usually it has a complete history of transportation, but its under construction, only 115 cars were on display. But again, this museum has lots of other stuff. Here are only a few examples.

Henry Ford's first horse-less carriage. He called it a quadricycle.

These were some of the first passenger cars for trains. They literally took carriages and made them capable of rolling down the railroad tracks, attached behind an engine, circa 1831.

This Model T is broken down into the pieces which were assembled on Henry Ford's moving assembly line.

This is the actual plane Admiral Byrd used to fly over the south pole in 1926.

Max, working as hard as he can, only lights 15 40-watt light bulbs.

Whereas, I was lucky to light 5. The early steam engines could generate enough power to light 300, where today's power plants can power millions.

This early steam powered pump was used in England in the late 1700s to pump out water from mine shafts. This is not a replica, but the real thing.

The original 1957 Oscar Mayer Weiner Car.

"Sweepstakes" was built in 1901 by Henry Ford and a few assistants. He drove this car to victory in the only race he was in. It also brought him the fame and financial backing to start his auto business and the founding of Ford Motor Company in 1903.

It really would be fun to have a Model T.

The Dymaxion House. The brainchild of a Wichita man, Buckmaster Fuller, who designed and built the house in 1929. Made of aluminum, it was completely portable, efficient, and made to be built on site. The idea never caught on and in the 1940s invester William Graham bought the 2 prototypes and combined them into a single home, which his family did live in until the 1970s, although it was an extension to his regular home and never a stand alone as originally intended. He donated the home to The Henry Ford museum in the 1990s, where it is now on display.

Henry and Clara Ford, with son Edsel in 1929.

A few miles away is the Henry Ford Estate. It was owned by the University of Michigan, Dearborn, but is in the process of being transferred to the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House. Donated to the University from the Ford Motor Company in 1957, it was open for tours until recently. It is now undergoing restoration and will be open again in 2013. But the grounds are open for people to enjoy.

The 56 room residence on 1300 acres, named Fair Lane, was built in 1915 for a total cost of over $1 million dollars. It also included it's own power plant, making it a totally self-sufficient estate at the time it was built.

It is still used for special events. I saw a window that I thought I might be able to see in. I couldn't.

The back of the house faces the Rouge River.

The garage, greenhouse and power plant.