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Last year, Barbara and I took a trip that was a clear contender for the "vacation of a lifetime." We sampled Lake Superior's grandeur, visited Canada's Rocky Mountains, saw the Dakota Badlands and the source of the mighty Mississippi River, and spent a little time in a 19th-century Iowa commune. How do you follow an act like that?

You don't. So we just planned a relatively short hop this year, to the Grumman fly-in at Dayton, Ohio. We took the flying club's Tiger N45278.

We visited these airports and places:

DuBois, Penna. - fuel
Cleveland, Ohio - overnight
Put-In-Bay, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio - the convention site
Ludington, Mich. - overnight
Fish Creek, Wis. - overnight
Mackinac Island, Mich.
Midland, Mich. - overnight
Akron, N.Y. - fuel
Milford, Conn. - home

This year's twist was a challenge for our weight and balance. We took two young travelling companions, Barbara's grandchildren Jessie and Josh. Part of the challenge was to find stops that would interest a 10- and a 12-year-old, but that turned out to be a fairly easy task. These kids will be ready for the Travel Channel before they're out of Middle School.

They're not weightless, so we had to make adjustments. We couldn't take off with the fuel tanks full, which limited the length of our flying legs. Realistically, we were limited to VFR flying, or to "gentleman's IFR." Mother Nature cooperated, and we were able to visit every place we wanted to.

We started our tour in Cleveland, where we visited the Tall Ships Festival. The ships were in a race that included stopovers in six ports on each of the five Great Lakes.

Our hotel was next door to the North Point Building, where the band is always playing.

Cleveland claims to be the birthplace of Rock-n-Roll. According to a sign near Willard park, DJ Alan Freed first used the term in 1951 on his nightly "Moon Dog House Rock and Roll Party" radio show. What's that red thing in the background?

Free Stamp
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, 1991
Painted steel and aluminum

There was also a harbor party in Voinovich Park, where we got a good look at the better side of downtown Cleveland and some of its waterfront attractions. In these pictures we can see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, including the steamship William G. Mather (Cleveland Cliffs).

We also caught our first glimpse of the tall ships, across the harbor in front of the Browns Stadium.

Jessie makes new friends everywhere. She's partial to people with dogs.

When we got to the Tall Ships Festival, it was hot and it was crowded. There were hour-long lines to board each boat, but we could walk up close enough to get a good look topsides.

The day's first order of business was body painting.

Pride of Baltimore II was one of the more popular exhibits. Like most of the ships here, Pride of Baltimore II is a modern reproduction. She is owned by the State of Maryland.

Some ships, like the Roseway (dark sails) and Denis Sullivan, offered short cruises on Lake Erie. The Roseway is original. Built in 1925, she was the last pilot schooner in the U.S. when she retired in 1973. The Denis Sullivan is the Flagship of Wisconsin, completed in 2000.

The Unicorn was built in 1947 using metals from German submarines. This is the only tall ship in the world with an all-female crew.

Europa, launched in 1911, was originally built to serve as a lightship. Completely refurbished in 1994, she sails worldwide.

, from Toronto, was completed in 1964 to be a youth sail training ship. The Great Lakes are her normal cruising grounds.

All of the ships were decorated for the celebration, but the crews still had their daily chores.

EAA's 1929 Ford Tri-Motor is on tour this year. It was hopping rides from Cleveland's Lakefront Airport during the Tall Ships Festival.

We had several encounters with Stikman. You can see this figure in many cities, wherever there is at least one guerilla artist who likes this kind of street art. Sometimes they're on buildings, but most of them are placed near crosswalks and manhole covers.

The tiger is Jeff Hulligan's Grandfather. The statue was commissioned for the Year of the Tiger; Josh was born in the Year of the Tiger.

Walking along the Cleveland Mall, Jessie found some interactable sculpture.

The Eternal Life Fountain is a memorial to veterans of World War II.

Back at the Browns Stadium, they're ready for anything.

So are we.


Barbara and I enjoyed a visit to Put-In-Bay on an earlier trip, so we decided to make it a lunch stop on our way from Cleveland to Dayton. We rented a golf cart, the preferred mode of transport on this small island, but ours didn't have a shark fin on top. While we waited for lunch, we saw that our patio was shared by a barn swallow family.

Put-In-Bay was Oliver Hazard Perry's headquarters in the War of 1812. Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial commemorates his 1813 victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, which eventually led to ending the war with the Treaty of Ghent. As the National Park Service considers this to be an International Memorial, the flags of the other treaty nations are flown at the same height as the U.S. flag. The tent has no special significance. It just shows how soldiers lived during the War of 1812.

In June 2006, a 500-pound facing block fell over 300 feet from the top of the monument, shattering the deck below. Several closures and inspections disrupted visitation for the rest of 2006 and most of 2007. Renovation is still underway – the Park Service hopes to reopen the tower to visitors by 2013. So, we couldn't ride the hundred-year-old elevator to the view at the top. But we could admire the engineering of the temporary hoist tower and the way it is built to leave no lasting marks on the monument.

Commodore Perry's flagship Lawrence was destroyed in the Battle of Lake Erie, so he resumed command aboard the Niagara. We saw the modern reproduction of the Niagara at the beginning of our trip in Cleveland, and we were to get another reminder just before we headed for home. This twelve-pounder cannon is from either the Niagara or the Lawrence. This gun, with other pieces used by Perry's squadron, was used to celebrate the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. Later, it was moved to Mackinac Island, Michigan, where we saw it. But I'm getting ahead of the story.

52 feet below the surface, Commodore Perry discovered a cave with an underground lake in 1813. The open area in the first photo is where this lake connects to Lake Erie. This cave and its water supply were very useful shelter in the War of 1812. Today, it's just a tourist attraction.


This year's AYA convention was held at Dayton's Wright Brothers Airport, home of the Wright B Flyer. This is one of many flying machines that were built to commemorate the centennial of Wilbur and Orville Wright's 1903 achievement at Kitty Hawk. The group that built this machine chose to duplicate the brothers' Model B Military Flyer, which they used in experiments at Dayton from 1904-1906. This was partly because this was the model flown at Dayton, and partly because the Model B was much more stable than the 1903 Flyer. If you join the museum, you can take a ride from one end of the airport's 5000-foot runway to the other in this airplane.

As usual, I don't have a lot of pictures of convention activities. There's a good daily coverage site here. We were well entertained, beginning with Anna and Milovan Beljin at the opening reception, and including the customary ice cream social in the hangar headquarters.

Roscoe and Luann ran the show. Here, Barbara caught them in a rare moment of relaxation. Luann isn't even wearing her trademark tiara!

We had the usual gamut of convention activities: air race, airplane judging, rigged preflight, spot landing, flour bombing, ... you name it. At the briefing for flour bombing, Ni Thomas introduced a few special bombs. They look remarkably like Ni's customary flying companion. These bombs were available for purchase, with the proceeds going to AYA's scholarship fund.

One of the special bombs was spared for the shuttle van.

Josh and Jessie volunteered for the Map Folding contest. The contestant is a Grumman pilot whose canopy has come open (a strong fan provides the wind). The volunteers simulate other problems, such as turbulence, rain and hail, unexpected instrument weather, and so on. In the face of all this adversity, the pilot must fold an aeronautical chart. These kids really enjoyed their role as official Annoyances.

The Wright Brothers were born into a family that was well off, but their airplane patents assured their wealth. With their sister Katharine, Orville and Wilbur Wright designed a family mansion on 17 acres in Oakwood, which was then a suburb of Dayton. Wilbur died before the house was finished, but Orville and Katharine moved there in 1914. They named the house Hawthorn Hill because there were so many hawthorn trees on the property. (There's one on each side of the front porch.) Wilbur designed many innovative features into his new home, including a storage tank to catch and reuse rainwater and a central vacuum cleaner. The housekeeper was afraid of the central vacuum, but used it when Orville was in the house. When he was out, she used more traditional tools.

After Orville died in 1948, the family sold the house to the NCR Corporation, which used it to house and entertain visiting executives and for corporate receptions. In 2006 NCR donated the property to the Wright Family Foundation, who allow limited access to the public. Our group took one of those guided tours. Our guides were descendants of Milton Wright, father of the famous brothers.

The dining room shows how elegant living and visiting at Hawthorn Hill could be. The little room behind it is where children could eat, without having to put up with the formality of the "grown up table." Out of sight is another of Orville's modifications. He did not like refrigerators, so he built his house with an icebox. When he saw the housekeeper's frustration at the muddy footprints the iceman would leave in the kitchen, Orville had the icebox fitted with an exterior door. That way, the iceman could make his deliveries without walking through the kitchen.

The house has been remodelled through the years, except for one room. Orville would be right at home in the library, which has his original furniture and books. The original wallpaper and other colors have also been preserved here. It was the only room we couldn't walk through, but we were allowed to peer inside over the barriers.

During tests for the Army in 1908, Orville Wright was flying the "Flyer A" when its propeller broke. Despite his best effort, he could not keep it from crashing, a 75-foot fall. His passenger, Lt. Thomas Selfridge, became the first person killed in powered aviation that day. Orville survived, but he was badly injured and suffered for the rest of his life. This chair was one of his inventions to make daily life less painful. There are adjustments for the footstool, and he added bookstands to help when he was reading.

This sculpture is in the parlor. The Aero Club of Sarthe, France, presented it to Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1909 for their pioneering work in aviation. By Louis Carvin, the piece represents the Muse of Aviation.

By 1904, the Wrights had proven they could fly, but not that they could steer. They needed to demonstrate controlled flight before they could sell their idea to the Army, so they secured permission to conduct tests at Torrence Huffman's field. They used a triangular course there for over 150 flights in 1904-05, leading to the development of the "Flyer III," which they considered to be the first practical airplane. This is a replica of their hangar/workshop.

The brothers had selected Kitty Hawk for their first tests because of the constant, strong wind, as well as for the secluded location. Not having this advantage at Huffman Prairie, they used a catapult to help them get flying speed. A sign nearby shows how it works when little girls aren't climbing on it. A team of horses pulled the 1400-pound weight to the top of the derrick. When the weight is released, it accelerates the airplane quickly. This is basically the same system that is used on modern aircraft carriers, except the Navy uses steam rather than horses. The catapult reduced the Wrights' requirement from 240 feet of rail to only 60 feet.

Back at the airport, Roscoe and a couple of helpers have found a novel way to reposition Luann's Yankee.

One of the flying visitors pays homage to Sheb Wooley.

Several years ago, Roscoe did some aerial survey work that was instrumental in locating some historical sites on and near the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In large part because of this contribution, he was able to arrange for our group to have a private reception in the Air Force Museum, a privilege only rarely given to civilians.

"We who came home must never forget those who could not."
The Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association placed the Vietnam Memorial near the museum's entrance in 1988. The plaque explains,

Aircrews from all services of the United States military flying over the Red River Valley in North Vietnam encountered the most heavily defended airspace in the history of aerial combat. The Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (or River Rats as the members call themselves) was born in 1967 when aircrews of different organizations gathered to devise better tactics for use during airstrikes over North Vietnam. The organization was formally incorporated in 1969 to promote and preserve the unique bond of friendship between combat airmen from different organizations and services fostered in the air war over North Vietnam. ... The Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association has awarded numerous scholarships to the children of airmen who did not return from Vietnam. The River Rats have become surrogate fathers to these children helping with educational expenses when a missing father could not.

The Air Force doesn't want its visitors getting hurt, so they warn visitors away from the building's supports. Inside, we are greeted by the world's first successful flyer. (He did just fine, until he got too ambitious.)

One of our "assignments" was to bring home pictures of a P-47 for a friend.

The museum has two examples inside: one that has been modified for observation, and this conventional model.

I don't have many pictures from the reception or our private tour of the museum; that event is thoroughly covered in Roscoe's daily coverage. Like Josh, we were thrilled to be there. If you go to visit the Air Force Museum, allow at least a couple of days.

While we were in Dayton, we spent a few hours at the Aullwood Audubon Center. This is a pleasant place to walk around, and is usually very quiet. It's on the centerline of the main runway at Dayton's big airport. The Dayton Air Show was to be held the day after our convention ended; we were treated to occasional overflights by the US Navy's Blue Angels, who were practicing their show routine while we were there.

Halfway across the log bridge, Jessie decided she could balance well enough without help.

Before we said good-bye to Dayton, she had her own version of Luann's tiara.

Our next destination was Wisconsin's Door County, but our schedule made it impractical to get there on the same day the convention closed. So we spent a night in Ludington, Michigan.

We ended up wishing we had planned more time here. The beach is outstanding, the dunes offer some moonscape adventure, and there are a couple of lighthouses to explore.

They even suggest a walking tour of the town. You don't need a map.

About 9 PM, folks start gathering on the beach to wait for the sun to set over Lake Michigan. Some walk out to the lighthouse for a closer view.

The lake is a new experience for the kids, who are used to Long Island Sound. The waves are a bit bigger on Lake Michigan, and the water isn't salty.


The Niagara Escarpment is a geological structure that might well be described as a 750-mile-long cliff. One end is in southeastern Wisconsin; the other is near Rochester, New York. Along the way, the escarpment defines Wisconsin's Door County and Michigan's Garden Peninsula, which separate Green Bay from Lake Michigan; it is Manitoulin Island and the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, separating the Georgian Bay from Lake Huron; and it drops the Niagara River 167 feet between Lakes Erie and Ontario. This is not a fault line. The escarpment was formed by erosion, like the hoodoos we saw last year: hard rock on the surface protected the softer material beneath it.

The geology of the escarpment makes Door County an interesting place to explore, but our first requirement on arrival was lunch. We decided to surprise our young companions at the famous Al Johnson's restaurant, which features Swedish pancakes covered with lingonberries. It also features a sod roof. Every day, the proprietor trucks in three or four goats, who spend their day watching the crowds who come to watch them.

There's always a wait at Al Johnson's. When we got tired of goat-watching, we took advantage of the benches so we could help the troll watch the other goat-watchers. Jessie couldn't resist a little prank.

Door county has ten lighthouses, more than any other county in the United States. We've been to Cana Island Light before, but it's always good to go back there. First we had to make sure we were on the right road.

Then we drove past a sentry who reminded us to take time to savor the little things in life.

Two of us climbed the 102 steps to the top of the tower; two waited on the ground. This is what Moonlight Bay looks like from the top. Bailey's Harbor is in the distance.

Jessie stopped to examine a vent pipe.

Mostly, we just enjoyed the view on a picture-perfect day.

We took pictures of people taking pictures of us. Or was it the other way around?

Just wading in Lake Michigan.

This arrangement reminded us of a table set for tea.

Cana Island Light is the most photographed lighthouse in Wisconsin.

Leaving Cana Island and Bailey's Harbor, we passed the 45th Parallel, "Halfway to the North Pole." Josh is pointing toward the Equator; Jessie, to the North Pole.

We were on our way to Whitefish Dunes State Park, which Barbara and I had visited a few years ago. Unlike on the East Coast, these are mature dunes. There are abundant trees where one would expect only grass.

The beach has "singing sand," which makes little barking noises if you scuff your feet. But it was too crowded to hear this, so the kids just built some sand creatures.

Cave Point County Park is right next to Whitefish Dunes. There are some striking rocks here, impressive even if you only crawl around on them. Here are some more photos of this park, from our 2003 trip.

"Hold my beer!"
This fellow is jumping about 20 feet into chest-high water. If you look carefully, you'll see one of his buddies standing in the pool below him (bottom center).

The Ephraim Wetlands Preserve is near the airport. In 1990, a developer bought this 7½-acre parcel and tried to build a 50-unit motel on the site. He removed over 400 trees before the villagers realized what was happening. They sued him, and ended up acquiring the land for its assessed value. Then the Village Board established the wetland preserve.

With a little imagination, one of the twisted roots (second photo above) might resemble a deer. The piece at right might have come from Florida.

Al Johnson's has goats, trolls, and wooden benches. Julie's has big chairs.

We spent part of a day in Peninsula State Park. This is the view from the lightkeeper's house at Eagle Bluff.

Here Josh is looking for fossils in the limestone rocks. He found a few good ones.

The first car is in Ludington. The second one is in Fish Creek.

We talked the kids into trying a Door County tradition, the fish boil. They liked watching the preparation, but the eating was another story.

After dinner, we strolled down to Sunset Beach to take in the nightly show over Chambers Island and Green Bay. Since our last visit, building inuksuit seems to have become popular.

Photographing them, too.


We have tried before to get to Mackinac Island, but the weather never let us. We always seemed to be in the area when the island was covered with dense fog. This year we had better luck.

Among other things, the island is famous for good ice cream and fudge. It welcomes as many as 15,000 visitors daily in the summer, many of whom get off the ferry, buy fudge, and go back where they came from. Because of this, the islanders call day-trippers fudgies.

Mackinac Island became a popular tourist spot after the end of the Civil War, especially so toward the end of the 19th century. Wealthy visitors from Chicago and other Great Lakes cities built luxurious mansions, notably the Grand Hotel. In 1875, most of the island became our nation's second national park (Yellowstone was the first). Twenty years later, the Federal government ceded the land to Michigan, and today the entire island is a state park. It's also a National Historic Landmark.

After the automobile was invented, many communities banned motor vehicles because they were noisy and smelly, and they spooked horses. As time passed and cars got quieter, the bans were lifted. But the merchants of Mackinac Island noticed that tourists came here because of the feeling that they were "lost in time."

With very few exceptions, there are still no motor vehicles on Mackinac Island. People get around by walking, on bicycles, or by using horses. The first picture was our introduction to the island, as our taxi made its way down the airport road into town. M-185, which circles the island, is the nation's only state highway that doesn't allow cars.

Even the trash wagon runs on two horsepower.

If you don't fly to the island, you ride the ferry. There's no bridge.


We can see a bridge in the distance, though. It's the bridge over the Straits of Mackinac that connects Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas. When this bridge was completed in 1957, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The Golden Gate Bridge is longer between stanchions; advocates for "Big Mac" claimed the record by measuring between anchorages. That is, they measured the entire suspended part, not just the middle.

When the island isn't fogged in, it's windy. This is a kite flyer's paradise.

Fort Mackinac was built by the British in 1780, but it was never attacked because of its remote location. The British did not leave until Jay's Treaty affirmed American control in 1794. They re-captured the fort during the War of 1812 because Americans in the area didn't know there was a war on.

After the long climb up that ramp, the visitor is rewarded with this view of Marquette Park. Jean Nicolet was the first European to see Mackinac Island, and Claude Dablon founded a mission here in 1670. A year later, Jacques Marquette moved the mission off the island, so he got this park named after him. The land in the distance is Bois Blanc Island, pronounced "Bob Low."

Here's an expanded view of the harbor and Main Street, from a guard house at Ft. Mackinac. If you'd like to see a much larger version of it, it's here.


Every half hour, these people re-enact something at Ft. Mackinac. First, we see a Private at court-martial because he got drunk and fell asleep under a porch.

Then, some marching and musket firing.

Some historic buildings in town are open to visitors. This is the McGulpin House, first built in 1780 as a simple log dwelling. The sign shows how the building has evolved over time, beginning with the rooms William McGulpin added after he bought the house in 1817.

When clapboard siding was added, it made the house more suitable for year-round use. Winters here are very cold.

We also visited the Beaumont House, which doubled as a doctor's office and a general store. In 1822, Alexis St. Martin was shot in the stomach. The wound never healed properly, and St. Martin's stomach was open to the outside for the rest of his life. He allowed Dr. Beaumont to do experiments that laid the foundation for our understanding of human digestion.

Of course we bought fudge and ice cream. Here's the flavor "Super Girl," before and after.

Barbara got some good aerial shots on the way home the next day. We flew over Niagara Falls and the Rainbow Bridge.

Somewhere over western New York's Finger Lakes, she noticed this crop design, somewhat larger than a football field.

We're lucky people. Our travel experiment worked – Josh and Jessie had a ball. Like a few other vacations, we needed some instrument flying to get out of our home airport on the first leg of the trip. But the rest of it was all in good weather. And each stop left us wishing we'd stayed a little longer.

Trip Stats:
1815 nautical miles (about 2100 statute miles)
8 states and one Canadian province
Four the five Great Lakes
16:58 hours block-to-block
15:51 hours in the air
169.8 gallons of fuel