OUR TRIP – JUNE 8-21, 2006

Oklahoma to North Dakota to Minnesota to Ontario to Michigan

Day 1 – to  Thayer, MO – 262 mi.

Day 2 – to Tulsa, OK – 314 mi.

Day 3 – Claxton Reunion

Day 4 – to Sioux City, IA – 560 mi.

Day 5 – to Fargo, N D (via Pipe-stone) 358 mi.

Day 6 – to Rugby, ND – 224 mi.

Day 7 – to Lake George, MN – 481 mi.

Day 8 – to Grand Portage, MN – 320 mi.

Day 9 – to Terrace Bay, ON, Canada – 179 mi.

Day 10 – to St. Ignace, MI – 354 mi.

Day 11 – to Brighton, MI – 267 mi.

Day 12 – to Hazel Crest, IL (Chicago) – 250 mi.

Day 13 – to HOME! – 417 mi.

Summary:  Stats and Daily Highlights


Day 1 – Thursday, June 8

     We took our time leaving – left Paris at 3:50, but had everything on our “to do” lists done, so we could relax and enjoy the trip.  Well everything except Mittens:  Kenneth’s cat had raced into the garage the second Tommy opened the door and then would not reveal her whereabouts after that, even after I rattled a cup of food around.  But we figure she will be thirsty by Saturday and she’ll come to whomever will open the door!

     We decided to take the most direct route to our first destination, so we headed for the Dyersburg bridge to get across the Mississippi River – since we were not sure if the Tiptonville Ferry was still operating.  This took us on the bypass around Union City – our first time on that section of road.

     Once across the river, we headed for Kennett, MO and from there along a series of state and local highways through northern AR to Thayer, MO – our first objective of the trip.

            It was a beautiful drive – the land in MO and AR is so incredibly flat, and crops were up enough you could tell whether it was corn or cotton.  But the rice!  The rice was BEAUTIFUL!  The fields were flooded and the late afternoon sun made the water silver between the rows of absolutely gorgeous green rice – so that rippling pattern that you get when you drive by the ends of the rows instead of being green and brown, it was green and silver – as if the green was sitting on a gigantic mirror!  Beautiful!

            Also, they were harvesting wheat, and so there were fields being burned off in various places (there would be rice fields next to wheat fields or cotton fields) and since the land is so flat, you could see the smoke miles and miles away.

            We drove the last few miles in the dark – it would have been a beautiful drive in daylight, I’m sure:  up and down hills and around turns – even around turns and up hills at the same time!  Nothing like the hairpin turns of the Smokies, but long, sweeping turns that would still put you 180 degrees from where you had started.  Several of the dips had warnings that they were impassable in high water, and then they had a gauge that had 3 ft. printed, but went higher than that; the water in those creeks was really swift; we could easily imagine the flood there after a rain.

            We asked at the police station about a place to stay (theirs were the first lights with people around that we thought might be reliable).  They recommended a place in Thayer.  It turned out to be where the railroad crews stayed and was full except a “Jacuzzi suite.”  We decided to follow the policeman’s other directions and go 2 miles further to Mammoth Springs and get a motel there.  We found a really nice motel – Riverview – with a nice view of the Spring River from our balcony and the railroad track between us and the river.


Day 2 – Friday, June 9, 2006

            We had come to Thayer because back in the 60’s Tommy had ridden the train from Memphis to Raton, NM to go to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch.  He remembered a river in AR which wound around the hills and ran right beside the railroad tracks.  Also, the train had stopped at a town and picked up some box lunches for passengers who wanted them (they came through the coaches earlier and took orders and radioed ahead so they’d be ready when the train arrived.)  Tommy and I had gone through the area several years ago and found that the river was the Spring River which starts at Mammoth Springs (absolutely incredible flow of water – constant – just hard to believe that much can flow from a spring for so long!).  We had driven along the road and found Thayer and gone in the library there without much success. The reason he thought it was Thayer was because from the train he could see a town with gravel streets going up the hillside form the railroad. 

Today Tommy talked to one of the older trainmen and he said there was Overstreet’s Café located on Front St., right at the railroad, and probably that was where the lunches were fixed.  He said “Red,” the owner, had been in a nursing home, but had recently died.  We went to the library again today, and I found a history of the county which had information about the railroad and the fact that the town had been built by the railroad as a division headquarters where they had a yard and a roundhouse and crews were changed.  The roundhouse is gone today, but crews still change there and the railroad still calls the yard there Division.

            While Tommy was looking for train history, I went to the computers and checked my e-mail (what else would you do in a library?).  I found that we had Donald Eugene Claxton’s DNA results back and that the 25 marker test matched exactly!  Exactly!  How excited we were about that!

            From Thayer we went cross-country on Hwy. 142 to Moody to find the cemetery where Hiram Madison Claxton and his family are buried.  We found it – Mt. Zion Cemetery on County Road 7400 – and got pictures of all the Claxton stones.  We also found Moody Cemetery – there were graves of many Wrights in both cemeteries, but the Claxtons were only in Mt. Zion.

            From Moody it was time to head for OK.  We chose to follow U.S. 412 all the way (I didn’t get to Eureka Springs AGAIN!!).  It was a beautiful drive – the road was up and down and somewhat curvy, but not as bad as the one coming into Thayer.  There were hay fields EVERYWHERE!!  Some not cut, some cut and not raked, some raked and not baled, and some with beautiful bales dotted all over the field.  The views were great – across valleys we could see row after row of mountains in the distance.  Absolutely beautiful views and dotted here and there would be green fields with white “dots” of hay below scattered around them.  BEAUTIFUL!

            In Bakerfield we pulled off the highway to call Wanda and tell her we were on the way (had to find a good place to pull off AND cell service, which was tricky).  Where we pulled off was a parking area beside a road that turned off the highway. Just as we pulled up, we saw two Road Runners, and, just as their name implies, they ran across the road and into a field. I got a few pictures, but, naturally, nothing very good after they got in the grass.  Still, they were fun to watch.  (Didn’t see Wile E. Coyote, though.)

            We continued on through the same type scenery to Harrison and then into Springdale.  I remembered from when I was young that Cannon sheets and towels came from Springdale – so today I got to see where they were made (just in passing of course!).  We were looking for a restaurant for a late lunch/early supper, but all we seemed to see were fast food places and Mexican (with a few Oriental and one Thai place also).  We kept going and when we thought we wouldn’t find anything, we saw Venetian Inn:  Italian food and steaks since 1947.  The food was great, and you could tell the place had been there since ’47 – solid wood paneling, the original tables, and one inside restroom (men had to go outside and across the parking lot!).  The food was just great, though – well worth remembering and doing again.

            We were now on our way to Wanda’s – should be there in about half an hour (it is 8:10 now – sun is still up with maybe 30 minutes till setting – different from home now that we are toward the middle of the time zone!)


Day 3 – Saturday, June 10, 2006

            Up “early” (7-ish) to get to the reunion.  Wanda was finishing up the food to go to the reunion and getting last minute things together.  The reunion was at Shahan Freewill Baptist Church whose cemetery has several Claxton graves.

            Only the “Shoffner girls” and their parents – our connection with the church – were there and had things set up and ready for us to put things out.  There was a place for the silent auction and two tables where we spread our display out with our notebooks in front.  Les set up a video projector for his slide show display of pictures from past reunions.  Wanda put up the “family tree” poster for Hiram Madison.  The tables were already set up for the meal which was to start at noon.  A ping pong table in back had been set up for some albums and photos.  There was plenty of room for people to move around all of the displays and room to move between the food tables.

            We checked out our computer to make sure it would work with Les’ projector and then went around helping where we were needed.  People were coming constantly with food – a really good variety of meats, vegetables, potato salad, and desserts.

            Our display attracted a lot of attention and Tommy was very busy explaining what we had found through our DNA project, and what the different parts of the display showed.  We got to meet Merrell Claxton, whose summary of Hiram Madison’s family we had received many years ago from Marvin Claxton.  Merrell’s daughters, Stephanie and Kim, were there with him along with Spike, their four-footed friend.  Stephanie and Tommy had a long conversation about the DNA testing and the results and about what was on our display.  Tommy also got to do a lot of talking with Dwight Claxton whose DNA for the Hiram Madison line matches Tommy’s exactly.  It is always fun to finally meet face to face with people with whom you have been communicating electronically.

            Lunch was promptly at 12:00 and after everyone was pretty much finished, Wanda introduced me (and put a microphone in my hand!).  Of course my computer did not want to work with the projector (it had worked perfectly before I removed the video cable; lesson 1:  never mess with success).  I had been told to “keep it short” (yeah, right – talk about DNA and keep it short . . .).  I started and then Tommy and Les got the PowerPoint working.  I think I said just enough – and said it fast enough – to get them thoroughly lost, but at least they understood where the DNA was coming from and what it could do for us.  Some of them had questions after the presentation, so I know they were interested.

            I think one very positive result came from the presentation and the display:  John H. Claxton, Jr., descendant of David Claxton’s line, took one of the two DNA kits we had brought with us, filled out the paperwork, and did one sample (with Tommy’s direction) while he was there.  He will do the other two samples at home and get them sent off by Monday.  This is going to be interesting:  to compare his results with those of the David descendant that we already have, and with the other lines.

            When I finished, Les hooked his computer up to the projector (and had to do a reboot as had to be done to our computer), and started his slide show (with music!!!!  Very good!!!!) of pictures from past reunions (even had one of us from the first time we attended!).  That was VERY well done, and had people riveted to their spot, watching for their pictures to come up.

            Next they had bingo with prizes for that.  Several of the more than 70 people there, had to leave for other activities, so things began to break up about 2:30.  They had the drawing for door prizes (4 very nice clear “cookie jars” with etching on the side and filled with four different types of “goodies”).  One of our tickets was drawn, so I picked the one with the hot chocolate in it (I figured farther down the road on our trip it might come in handy!)  _____ etched a “C” on it (and, also, at the same time did initials for the other three people who won), so we got a really nice gift as well as meeting lots of really nice cousins.

            After the reunion we went back to Wanda & Les’ house and “crashed” – well, sort of:  Tommy and Wanda started comparing genealogy and copying pages from each other’s files.  I worked a little on our trip itinerary.  Having Wanda’s cable access on the computer made looking things up (and checking e-mail, of course!) really fast.


Day 4 – Sunday, June 11, 2006

            Up at 7:00 to get ready to go.  Wanda had breakfast ready, then it was some last minute genealogy and we left about 8:45, bound for Kansas City.

            We made Kansas City in short order and then set our sights on Council Bluffs, Iowa.  We found an Olive Garden Restaurant on the north side of Kansas City and had a good meal and break from the riding.

            Once we were back on the road, we really enjoyed seeing the varying terrain:  for quite a way, the bluffs were on our right and the flat farm land on our left.  After Council Bluffs, however, the bluffs were farther and farther away and huge expanses of farmland came between us and the hills.  Mostly corn; there had been a lot of wheat in OK and southern MO, but as we moved north it was more corn.  Here in Iowa we are seeing a lot of grain bins, but wonder if they are left from when dairy was the more dominant form of agriculture – the fields of corn we see now would never fit in the small grain bins we see:  a mystery we have not yet solved.

            We got to Sioux City about 8:00 p.m. and got a room at the Econo Lodge which had free Internet.  Of course we checked our e-mail, but then I took the opportunity to change some things on our Claxton DNA results page and get it uploaded to the web page.

            We spent a little time looking at our route around Lake Superior.  Tommy wanted to know some “wheres, whyfors” and prices for a couple of things, then we slept – and slept well!


Day 5 – Monday, June 12, 2006

            We woke up about 7:30 and thought we were going to eat at a little restaurant in sight of the motel.  But no, it was only a lunch and supper place (we guess – it had appeared closed the night before when we checked in and was closed now!)  So it was “go down the road” and look for a place.  Well, you’d think there would have been something besides the usual chains in a city with a Sam’s Club; and I’m sure there were some, but just not close to the interstate.  We tried the parallel street for a ways, but only found an I-Hop and a Perkins.  So we decided to move on a few exits.  Well, a “few exits” put us in South Dakota!  Finally . . . . found “The Choice Cut” at the exit for Jefferson.  The food was great, but I think they had to go find where the chicken had laid the eggs before they could cook them!

            10:30 – finally on the road to Fargo – corn fields to the right of us and corn fields to the left of us (with a lot of soybeans mixed in!).  Crops are not as tall here – wheat is not ready to harvest; interesting how the climate changes in such a short space (well, 550 miles; maybe not exactly “short.”).

            At 12:28 p.m. we entered Minnesota – had not particularly planned on it, but saw Pipestone National Monument sign and wanted to go there.  Fascinating!  The pipestone (Catlinite) is a soft red stone that was laid down as mud on top of the quartzite(compressed sand) bedrock and then later overlaid with quartzite so it is actually “sandwiched” between the quartzite layers, all about 1.7 to 1.6 billion years ago.  The Native Americans prized the stone because it is soft and could be carved with simple tools to make their peace pipes and other items.  The stone layer began as an outcrop thousands of years ago.  Quarrying of the rock has removed the easily found surface rock and made quarrying beneath the overlying Sioux Quartzite layer necessary.  So now yards of the top layer are being removed in several small quarries on the site.  Why does this take so long?  Because, by tradition, the rock can only be removed by hand using hand tools (shovels to remove the soil on top, then sledge hammer, wedges, etc.).  Luckily the quartz layer has splits where they can drive the wedges and take off large, thin layers at a time.  It is still very hard work, though, as the pipestone layer is 10-15 ft. down.

            Inside the interpretative center, they had sculptors set up to demonstrate pipestone sculpting.  They were out to lunch (of course), so we could only observe what they had been working on.  And of course they had pieces there for sale – incredibly beautiful work!

            There were also some petroglyphs in the interpretive center.  They had been found on the site close to three large boulders (The Three Sisters) which had apparently been a huge erratic left by glacial action 800,000-500,000 years agoand then split apart by weathering of the eons.  There had once been several thousand petroglyphs, but many had been removed over the years before the area became protected as a park.  These in the interpretive center had been removed to the building to protect them.

            Now we are back in North Dakota and watching the crops turn again.  Still corn and wheat, and some beans, but a LOT of alfalfa – and more cows, mostly in areas which could not be “row cropped” and had access to water.  The terrain could be called “gently rolling” though it is very flat between the “rolls.”  We can still see much farther to the west than we can to the east.

            And there is some VERY interesting road construction going on.  We just went through 12 miles of two lanes while they were constructing – actually de-structing the road.  They had machines to break up the concrete.  Then they were taking the concrete, crushing it, and using it to put down the base of the road.  They then came along with water and rollers to pack it down.  Then they put new concrete down (you would not believe the MOUNTAINS of sand we’ve seen that were conveyored from huge trucks!), “extruded” in long sections, apparently requiring fewer expansion joints, and these joints only being cut half-way down the concrete layer.  Fascinating!  And riding on the already completed part gave us a real appreciation of how much better road this process creates.

            Glacial moraines!  We had been going through these short rolling hills and remarking about how different it was from what we’d been seeing.  Suddenly I said, “Oh – glacial moraines!” and Tommy said just as I said “oh” that glacial moraines popped into his head!  There were rocks everywhere, and no row crops; grass and cows (where there was water), but no long flat fields as we’d been seeing.  We stopped at a rest stop which was built right on the edge of an “escarpment” beyond which we could see for miles and miles (actually into MN, we found out!)  The ladies inside said we were right about the moraines and gave us a paper telling about Lake Agassiz (ancient glacial lake in Canada and northern U.S.) and the last glacial period.  Where we are driving now (85 miles south of Fargo) is very flat, but looks high.  There are glacial “lakes” (kettle lakes) on both sides of the road.

            5:38 p.m. – North Dakota!  Our 49th state to visit.  We are seeing virga (rain that doesn’t hit the ground) in the distance.  But we just noticed that we missed the Continental Divide where waters flow either to Hudson Bay or Gulf of Mexico – had really wanted to stop there; don’t remember seeing any signs, but it is marked on the maps, so must have been something we missed; maybe through a construction zone.  Area here is more sparsely settled than SD – a lot more seemingly abandoned farms.  Still the same crops pretty much, but more grassland and hay than we saw in SD.

            We got into Fargo at 6:30 p.m.  We got some gas and then located the Econo Lodge here as it also had the Internet connection (which Tommy is still trying to get to hit as I write – at least half an hour after he started trying!).  After we got our room, we went looking for a place to eat.  Found all the major chains, of course, but were looking for something different.  Then I looked up and saw a Johnny Carinno’s – we had eaten at one in Raleigh, NC once and the food was GREAT – so we decided to give it a go.  Again the food was delicious:  stuffed mushrooms and then Tommy had Chicken Milano and I had a seafood and pasta in alfredo sauce (had shrimp and mussels, and a couple of other meats – very good!).


Day 6 – Tuesday, June 13, 2006

            I worked a little last night and got a few reunion pictures put up on the web site and Tommy sent out an e-mail today (I think) to say the pictures were up.

            We decided to pay a visit to an acquaintance here in Fargo:  at one of the computer companies that supplied computers to the Henry County School System.  John Tupa is one of the partners in Byte Speed Computers and we had met him for many years at TETC and TETA conferences.  He was, of course, surprised to see us, and we had a really nice visit.  While we were there, he had one of his tech people look at our laptop to see if we could add any more memory to it, but the technician said it is maxed out and none could be added.

            After our visit with John, we decided to eat, but since it was 11:30, we decided on lunch instead of breakfast (a real red-letter day for us:  don’t remember the time, except for illness or medical tests, that we didn’t have SOME kind of breakfast), so we wound up eating at Northtown Grill.  On our way now toward Grand Forks and then to International Peace Garden (by way of  “North America’s tallest structure” and Devil’s Lake).

            We found the “North America’s tallest structure” – the KVLY-TV tower, 2,063 ft high, at Preston, just east of the Elm River, off ND highway 18 (from State Hwy. 18, turn west on County Rd. 3, go 6 intersections and  turn right  - of course you can see the tower long before you get to Hwy 18!).  It took some “eyeballing” and comparing roads to get exactly to the driveway – no signs. BUT – it was VERY tall and worth the effort to find it!!!

            After that, we found Devil’s Lake, but did not go across it.  It is like MANY much smaller water areas that we saw on both sides of the highway.  These are glacial in origin and the whole area is covered with glacial moraines, so there are these rolling hills (piled up stones from the end of the ice age glaciers) interspersed with these low areas, filled with water.  These are full of a variety of waterfowl and birds, especially Red-winged Blackbirds – they are almost as common as sparrows back home.

            We also saw a huge set of what we thought were grain storage bins, but the sign on them said “Crystal Sugar.”  Then it occurred to us that sugar beets were one of the main crops in the area; that explained the different, lighter-color green crop we had been seeing and not identifying.  As we moved more north, we saw more sugar beets – and very few cows; in fact, we saw no livestock until we got almost to Rugby.

            Rugby – no, not TN, ND – location of the geographical center of North America.  An obelisk marks the spot, but you can’t STAND on the spot like you can at Four Corners in the Southwest.  We did the picture thing and then went across the street to The Hub Restaurant for supper.

            About 10:30 we remembered we had said we were going to the Dairy Queen across the street for some dessert.  When we got there, the seating area was closed, but the drive-through was open.  We got our ice cream and left, noticing there was STILL light in the northwest sky!  We figured this was because we were so far north – had not thought about that change.

            We also got a look at a sculpture in town that was supposed to resemble the aurora.  It was interesting, but the display was not very effective; maybe it would have been better without street lights and on a dark night, or maybe if we could have been farther away?


Day 7 – Wednesday, June 14, 2006

            Happy Birthday, Chris!  We left Rugby and headed north for the International Peace Gardens.  The IPG was really great!  It is built right on the border and celebrates the long-standing peace between Canada and the United States.  There is a huge 4-panel monument and the gardens that straddle the border, and from the monument you can see a LONG way in the distance where they keep the border cleared.  I had seen a picture of IPG on a Viewmaster slide when I was a very small child, and I had always wanted to go there – really wanted to see the floral clock that was there.  When I did see it, they had just planted it, so it was not as colorful as I had expected, but impressive anyway.  An unexpected part of the gardens was a monument to the World Trade Center – some actual steel-and-concrete girders from the building.  Incredible the size and weight of the pieces and to know how quickly they were reduced to what we saw here.  At one spot where the bolts were close enough to the walk that people had been touching them, the metal was worn smooth:  here these nations still remember.

            From there we headed south and now east going through Rolla (where we got gas and ate lunch at the North 40 Restaurant) and then St. John and Rock Lake and on toward I-29.  The terrain is still rather rolling, but becoming more flat as we move east.  There are still small ponds and lakes occasionally, but not as many when we got up on this higher level.  Farmland EVERYWHERE!  And every lake/pond has birds and ducks.  We are on state highway 5, and there are few houses – only in the distance.  The “towns” on the map are clusters of grain bins, often beside the railroad.

            We finally crossed into Minnesota after 6:00.  We were headed for Bemidji, but decided to turn south and go to Lake Itasca and the headwaters of the Mississippi River first.  We headed for Lake Itasca State Park’s historic Douglas Lodge.  There was only one room available, but it was a little out of our price range.  The lady was very helpful, however, and found a motel in Lake George (where she lives) and we are staying in the Lake George Pines Motel – very nice with refrigerator and microwave even!

            On the way to Lake George, we saw something move quickly across the road in front of the car in front of us.  Suddenly it turned and started back across and we realized it was a Bald Eagle!  We stopped and watched it fly to the top of a tree where it ate whatever it had caught on its flight across the road.  I got pictures – from a distance, so not as good as they could have been – but it was my first real encounter with an Eagle in the wild like that.  We saw a “release box” back in the woods beyond where the bird stopped to eat, so we figure he had either just been released or had returned to (or remained in) the area of his release.


Day 8 – Thursday, June 15, 2006

            We got up and had a nice conversation with the motel owner, then back to Lake Itasca State Park for breakfast at Douglas Lodge (build 1904-1907).  After that we headed for the headwaters of the  Mississippi River.  The rocks where you walk across the river (we did that, of course – WALKED across the “Mighty Mississippi” about 12:50 p.m.) is a CCC construction project of the 1930’s – originally the area was more swampy due to some logging in the area which had muddled the actual beginning of the river.  This is a beautiful park with many wild flowers – we saw Lady’s Slipper and Columbine, among others.

            From Itasca we headed for Bemidji and Paul Bunyan country via the Great River Road.  There is a huge statue of Paul and Babe the Blue Ox right on the shore of Lake Bemidji, close to where the Mississippi River enters the lake.  The visitor center there had a neat collection of Paul Bunyan “items”:  a huge walking stick, a huge fishing pole and landing net, a huge rifle with “PB” on the stock, and – really great – a huge curling broom signed by the 2006 Olympic curling team!  Also, the fireplace there was very interesting:  it was composed of stones from all over, most of which were labeled with who gave them or where they came from (like a stone from the original capitol in Washington, D.C.).

            Moving on down the road, we had been watching for rocks on the road right-of-way or some place where it was obvious they would not mind our getting a few:  I wanted some rocks from actual glacial moraines.  So we were driving along and saw a couple of places which were being cleared, probably for building a house.  Anyway, we stopped and got some rocks – some for me and one for Donna.

            No other “points of interest stops” before Duluth.  In Duluth, we got our first view of Lake Superior and a VERY busy harbor.  We also got gas, did some stocking up on groceries, and grabbed sandwiches at Subway before setting out on our marathon drive up the shore of Lake  Superior to Grand Portage.  We made one stop – at the Split Rock Lighthouse.  Absolutely beautiful - and up HIGH!  The rocks below were a LONG way down!  Yet there were pictures inside the museum building of a storm with waves that had put spray all the way up to the buildings on the top of the rocks!

            We made our way to Grand Portage, MN – inside the Grand Portage Indian Reservation where the only place to stay was at the Grand Portage Lodge and Casino.  We thus had coupons to go to the casino, but were too tired for gambling and had to get up early to catch the ferry to Isle Royale National Park.


Day 9 – Friday, June 16, 2006

            Well, of course the ferry to Isle Royale will make its first run this season TOMORROW!!  So we had breakfast at the lodge and then just walked around the Grand Portage National Monument which had some excellent interpreters for the buildings and we even got to see a real birch bark canoe in the last stages of being built, pieces of bark were sewn together with tree roots, (part of a “class” that had been taught, and the instructor and a class member were there working, so we got to see some design instruction and got to ask questions).

            Since we could not go out to Isle Royale, we cancelled our reservation we had made at the hotel for the second night and made our way to the border crossing into Canada.  Our crossing into Canada was interesting.  I had joked to Bobbi Estes before we left home that our crossing would be interesting with all of our genealogy.  Yep – it was interesting all right.  They apparently had x-ray technology and were scanning what we had in the trunk – so could not figure out the genealogy display nor the boxes of books underneath.  The questions were like, “Do you have any firearms or knives or other weapons?”  Of course we didn’t – answer was no.  “Do you have any potatoes?”  Potatoes???  No . . . then a few other “how long will you be here” and “what are you doing here” kinds of questions as he was busy writing and obviously intent on the monitor in front of him.  So he then asked us to pull over and park and someone would be with us.  We were to stand 5 feet in front of the vehicle while they searched it.  Sure, no problem.  Tommy asked that – if they needed to get into the trunk – he be allowed to remove the display as it had a “combination” to getting it out without damaging it.

            So they consulted the yellow piece of paper  - the list from the guy inside telling them what he couldn’t figure out – and started searching the car.  Found the “potatoes” inside the car (mine and Donna’s rocks).  I asked one of them if they could get a vacuum and clean while they were at it because they were getting into some places that I knew were pretty dirty since we rarely cleaned under the seats!  He laughed, but didn’t get a vacuum.

            When the other man opened the trunk, he immediately motioned for Tommy to come and take the display out, which he did (it was kind of “iffy” looking when the trunk came open, I’m sure).  The officer then did a good bit of looking as everything was slightly rearranged when we looked at it later. But they did finally find our “gun” – the monopod for the camera!  I’m sure on the x-ray it looked VERY suspicious!

            Satisfied that we were not dangerous terrorists, they waved us on. The one who had been working the inside made a move to repack the display, but the other man stopped him and explained that Tommy would repack that. Then we took our “gun” and our “potatoes” and moved on into Canada.

            From there we moved on along the highway (CA11 and 17) along the north shore of Lake Superior.  We stopped at the Terry Fox lookout.  Terry Fox was the young man who, in 1982, had lost a leg to cancer and wanted to walk across Canada to raise funds for cancer research.  The cancer struck him again and near the lookout he was forced to stop.  There is a monument there to him and what he did.  At that point we were supposed to be able to see “The Sleeping Giant” – a land formation on a peninsula out in Lake Superior, but the haze was too thick and we could barely make out the fact that there was land there much less what its shape was.

            So back on the road.  At the information stop just across the border, the young lady told us about several “must see” places along our route, and the first was Kakabeka Falls.  She was right – it was BEAUTIUFL!!!  Very similar to Cumberland Falls in KY.  The rocks it was falling over were black shale, and the white water and black rocks were a beautiful contrast – and the roar of the water made conversation difficult.

            We left Kakabeka heading for Amethyst Mines Panorama – a working amethyst mine where you could dig for you own stones.  Sounded like fun – and was, sort of – the ground was littered with pieces of amethyst – you just picked it up and put it in your bucket.  Of course you’d have to be there more than the 1 hour I had to dig to find anything very valuable.  They charged $3.00/lb., and I got 2 lbs. (they had some nice pieces on a table that you could get, and I got one of those)  They had some really nice things in the gift shop, but, of course, no time to look.  But amethyst is everywhere in Ontario – only 3 places on Earth to get it, and Ontario is one of them.

            Back on the road we headed for another attraction the information girl had told us about:  Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park, and, particularly, Eagle Canyon Adventures.  This is an area before the park that is commercial – they have two suspension bridges across the canyon – one 300 ft. long and one 600 ft. long; the long one is Canada’s longest suspension bridge over a canyon.  REALLY beautiful – a lake below the bridges and beautiful rock walls on either side.  In winter, they run water over one of the rock walls (vegetation has been cleared from it) and make an ice climbing wall!

            From there we went to Rainbow Falls Provincial Park.  This was even more spectacular than Kakabeka – it started in a lake and fell in a wide falls at the top, but then continued down . . . and down . . . and down . . . , part of it through a very narrow space in the rock which made a spectacular (and noisy!) run of white water.  There is a great board walk and steps system all the way down beside the falls and just spectacular views all the way down!  The walk made it easy to get down and up, and reduced impact of visitors on the environment.  No way to describe how beautiful this falls is, and no way to get just one picture of the whole falls.

            Only drawback at Rainbow?  The mosquitoes found us almost before we opened our doors!  I had put my polartec jacket on because I figured it would be cool, so could pull my hood up tight around my face.  Tommy had started out toward the falls, but before we got there, he was RUNNING back to the car for his polartec!  He then had it pulled up around his mouth – looked like he was freezing, but he was just trying to keep the ‘skeeters away!

            From Rainbow Falls we had planned to go to Marathon, but we encountered MAJOR fog at Terrace Bay and decided to stay the night there.  Had a very nice room with “window air” – 2 windows open and electric table fan in the room; but we were totally comfortable.  We had supper at Wah’s Chinese restaurant as the girl at the information center had suggested, and she was right again – the food was very good.


Day 10 – Saturday, June 17, 2006

            Fog is still with us.  We didn’t see any place to eat with local cars around it, so decided to head on toward Marathon again.  We came to Neys Provincial Park before we found food, but had to stop and check out the park (another on the list the girl had given us at the border).  This had been the site of a Prisoner of War camp in WWII.  Today it is a beautiful access to lake Superior – great beach and huge, smooth rocks.  A small creek came through the park and emptied into Lake Superior at the beach.  While we were there, we watched the river first with a strong current emptying into the lake, and then, in just a few minutes, the lake was pushing the river back – the lake level was actually rising like a tide!  Then, just as suddenly, the lake began to recede and the river again pushed its way back out.  Very, very interesting to watch!

            This is where I got to “dabble” my fingers in Lake Superior (Tommy had done his earlier).  The water was COLD and VERY clear (it is the coldest and clearest of the 5 Great Lakes).  We had put our “mosquito pins” on our clothes, and they seemed to work as we were not bothered by mosquitoes even though they were around.

            Back on the road, our route took us up in elevation and away from Lake Superior and thus into the fog.  There were beautiful lakes on both sides, I’m sure, but they were invisible in the fog.  We had planned on stopping at White Lake Provincial Park, but were afraid the fog would make viewing impossible.  But White Lake was lower!  No fog, but sunshine and a much warmer temperature – and a warmer lake!  Here we found people swimming and found two things we’d never seen:  a rock-hunting dog and a man building a dock by himself (and finished as we watched)!

            The dog belonged to the man building the dock.  The dog was a big, fluffy dog, and he would wade in the shallow water, feeling the bottom with his front paws.  When he would feel a rock, he would put his head under and get the rock and bring it up.  He’d then bring it up on the shore, over to a spot he’d picked out, gnaw on it a little and then go back for more!  Once Tommy threw a rock in for him and he went through the same procedure and didn’t bring it to Tommy, but stopped a little way in front of him and barked at the rock; then he took it over behind Tommy and gnawed on it a little and then went back to his “diving” expedition.  The man sitting near there (turned out to be the father of the man putting in the dock) said the dog barked because he wanted you to throw the rock for him.  That took some real intelligence on the part of the dog to figure out how to feel for the rock and then how to find it once he had located it with his paws.

            The guy with the dock:  Tommy went over and sat down beside the father who was watching his son put up the dock.  Tommy said the man explained that they rented a lot for $1300/season.  With the lot they got to put up a temporary dock.  His son had developed this process for putting up the dock by himself; he said now other people were copying the process.  He had the dock already built and he floated it out to the end of his “walk” and then drove his metal posts through holes in the corners of the dock.  He then took a heavy metal bar and put it across from pole to pole at one end, put a winch on top of the bar, hooked the winch to a metal loop on the dock, winched it up to where he wanted it, and then hooked chains from the dock to holes in the posts and “hung” the dock.  Then did that at the other end, then he put 2 poles in the middle and secured the dock ther with chains, and his dock was ready to use!  Ingenious!

            After we left White Lake, we began going through beautiful hills with “kettle lakes” between them.  The hills became rounder, not as sharp – evidence of past glaciation, I think.  The lakes would have spruce(?) and fir trees down to the water’s edge and white granite rocks showing right at the edge below the trees.  Beautiful!  And some of the lakes had little rocky islands in the middle also covered with trees.  Every one would be a photographer’s heaven!  And we just kept seeing one after another after another.

            Finally we got to WaWa which was where we were going to get our last gas before going back into the states.  We stopped at Young’s General Store – an old building with all kinds of souvenirs and containing the original counter, floors, shelves, drawers, etc from when it was built (really interesting).  I got some souvenirs (naturally) while Tommy got gas.  Now we are on the last leg of the Lake Superior run from WaWa to Sault Ste. Marie.  We are in Lake Superior Provincial Park.

            An interesting sight has been the “art” of the “cairn builders” – small piles of rocks set up by people along the road, some shaped like people, others just in whatever shape the rocks they found would make.  I don’t know the story of the rocks, but hope to find out eventually (see note at end).

            One of our favorite signs is the “Moose Night Danger” signs.  They are like our deer crossing signs back home, but have the picture of a moose and a sign below saying “Night Danger” meaning they are a problem only at night(?).  Since we did not drive at night, we’ve not seen any.  Just as well:  I figure they would be a much more serious hazard than our deer.

            Just stopped at the Montreal River where it empties into Lake Superior.  A very narrow gorge went far up the hill and the road crossed over the gorge.  There was a power generating station (we think) to the side of the river.  This river is where I got my Canadian rocks (and one for Donna).  Absolutely beautiful cliffs and the water was clear and running fast.

            The rest of our trip was along the last of the Lake Superior shore before Sault Ste. Marie.  We stopped once to let me drive and then on to S.S.M.  Customs was uneventful as we had not purchased the items for declaration and so were waved on (THEY didn’t want to check everything as the Canadians had done at our entry at Grand Portage – so our “gun” and “potatoes” went unnoticed).

            We went on down I-75 to St. Ignace and then finally got a room at the Rodeway Inn there (with Internet so I could answer some genealogy questions we’d seen at the library earlier today).  Also called Bobbi Estes after checking e-mail at the motel.  Will go to see her in southern Michigan tomorrow.  Went to eat at the truck stop next to the BP (only place nearby that was open after 10:00 p.m.!).

            Have answered e-mails and am ready for bed.  Ordered tickets for Tut, so we will be at Tut in Chicago 9:00 Tuesday morning.


Day 11 – Sunday, June 18, 2006

            Got up as usual, about 7:30 and had breakfast at the truck stop where we ate last night.  Went down to the dock and got a ferry ride to Mackinac Island – really wonderful historic island:  original buildings from late 1700’s and 1800’s then more modern ones in early 1900’s.  No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island (except a fire truck, an ambulance, and one police SUV).  Everything is done walking, riding bikes, on horseback, or horse-drawn carriages and wagons.  We took a carriage ride to some of the points of interest and to get a feel for the history of the island.  Saw a tamarack tree – a deciduous conifer – only one still living on the island (their seeds require high temperatures to germinate – like with forest fires – so they do not reproduce well when fires are controlled; fire has been controlled on the island because it is estimated that the whole island would burn to the ground in a couple of days if a large fire ever got started).  These trees were used for many things in building the town, but especially for pipes in the early town construction due to the oil in their bark.  Recent excavations and renovations have found some of these “pipes” still functioning!  Macinac Island was very interesting – and VERY beautiful. 

And shops!  Every place was a shop on the main street.  And fudge!  I think the driver of our carriage said there were 15 fudge shops!  So of course we had to get some fudge, and I got some cups and saucers, etc.  It started to sprinkle rain on us at Arch Rock – a rock formation which has been hollowed out by wind and water:  Very beautiful. 

With the sprinkles of rain, we decided to come on back to the mainland.  It began to rain seriously as we came back, but we were on the bottom of the ferry where the windows kept us dry. 

We ate lunch in St. Ignace at Clyde’s Drive In and then set off for our trip down Michigan, heading for Bobbi Estes’ house in Brighton, just west of Detroit to do some serious Claxton DNA project talk (and have a pleasant visit with friends).

We first found a place where we could go to the edge of Lake Huron – I dabbled my fingers in it (Tommy “waded” in it), picked up a few rocks and a shell and now we are back in the car getting ready to go across the Straits of Mackinac Bridge (the whole reason for coming this direction in the first place:  a bridge I had heard about “always” and wanted to go across).  It is truly a long and impressive bridge, but of course the rain and fog made visibility lousy for seeing much of the water below with Lake Huron on our left and Lake Superior on our right.

At Bobbi & Jim’s house.  It is BEAUTIFUL!  With a gorgeous yard and deck on the back looking out over a lake (where there were egrets).  The family (Bobbi’s daughter and friend were also there) had a late supper and then we all had dessert:  Jim’s homemade strawberry shortcake – absolutely delicious!!!  And we got to meet two of the cats and the dog (we met the third cat later), who were all very sweet and absolutely starved for attention (or at least that was THEIR opinion!)  After supper, we moved to the living room to look at our genealogy display and talk DNA and research needs and theories.  (Actually, we pulled the chart out before supper and Bobbi almost missed the meal because she got interested in the chart!).  We finally (reluctantly) wound the conversation down and headed for bed.


Day 12 – Monday, June 19, 2006

            Up about 7:00 and downstairs to fix my tea.  Bobbi and Jim wanted to take us to one of their favorite breakfast places – Cheryl’s – so we relaxed with the cats and enjoyed the view (and checked e-mail, of course!).  When Bobbi and Jim came out, we talked more DNA – got some good answers to some questions we had – and got to talk some more about their house and its construction.  We then went to breakfast. 

It was, indeed, as good as they had said – well worth repeating if we are that way again.  More genealogy talk through breakfast and after, then outside we were still talking on all kinds of topics – Bobbi and I and Tommy and Jim (theirs was computers, of course!).  It was hard to say goodbye, we were enjoying the company so much.  But we had to hit the road for one more marathon run.

            Heading for Chicago.  We stopped at Chesterton at the Econo Lodge to find out about trains into Chicago.  We have tickets for Tut at 9:00 a.m. and did not think driving in and parking would be a good idea at that time of day.  So we went to the nearby train station and got timetables and then headed for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

            We had been to Indiana Dunes with Chris and Kenneth years ago on our trip to Baraboo and Chicago.  We had climbed the dunes (specifically “Mt. Baldy”) and gone down to the water of Lake Michigan.  Today we found the same place we had been before and climbed the dune, but decided that we were older than before and that going down to the water wasn’t really that important.  The view from the top was spectacular – the lake was deep blue and so was the sky.  Some shade trees on top made a great place to rest and clean out our shoes.  I decided to go down the hill barefooted (I had worn my “outdoor” shoes and no socks going up because I didn’t mind getting sand in them).  Going down was easier than going up (of course!).  It is amazing that the lake keeps producing the sand and it keeps moving, overtaking trees in its path.  I think it had also covered an area that had a boardwalk and steps on it last time we were there (or maybe those were off to the left – we didn’t go there to look).

            After the dunes, we headed for Chicago.  We knew from the schedule we had that we wanted one of two motels close to the train stations that would be close to I-57 – our route out of town after Tut.  We found an Econo Lodge about 10 min. from the Metro line (the “El”) that would take us to the museum area.  We went to the station to look it over, see what we needed to do about tickets and where we could park.  We found two lots (one for $1.00/day and one for $1.50/day) which may fill up rather early, so we are going to try to get an early start, take our breakfast with us and get an early train.  We’ll see how it works out.


Day 13 – Tuesday, June 20, 2006

            In Chicago.  We left a wake-up call for 5:00 (which never came:  he had put it in for 7:00!), and were awake and up on schedule and got out with no problems.  Traffic was VERY light – absolutely no hint of the back-ups we had experienced yesterday.  Our $1.00 parking had a nice selection of parking spaces, so we took one next to the street in view of the quick mart across the street.  We walked the block to the train station, got our tickets from the electronic vending machine, and went up on the platform to await our train.

            The ride into town was smooth with several stops.  We got off at our planned stop, Roosevelt Rd.  I saw the museum right away and we found a walkway across the el tracks and then a tunnel under the highway to put us on “the museum campus,” and we walked on up to Field Museum. I took some pictures in front of the museum and then we moved to the east side of the building where we were to enter for the Tut exhibit.  There were picnic tables there and we found one in the shade and stated to eat our “breakfast” of Lunchables and bananas.

            While we were sitting there, a metro police car drove up and the policeman asked what we were doing, where we’d parked, where we were from, etc.  Then we got into quite a conversation.  He stayed in the car and talked the whole time we were eating our Lunchables, then got out of the car and came over and sat down at the table with us!  We talked about a lot of things, and he mentioned he had property he had bought in FL – a condo – which he hoped to live in when he retired; until then, he rented it out to his friends at work.  He gave us a business card and said if we wanted to rent a condo on the water, to let him know!).  He was VERY nice – about 4 years from retirement – we talked on a variety of topics; had a VERY pleasant wait for the museum to open.

            We saw people going in and lining up, so bid our policeman goodbye and went in to await the opening.  Our tickets were there and were for 9:00, so we went to the main floor and saw “Sue” the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found.  “She” (they don’t know the sex, just named her for the archaeologist who first found “her”) is in the main hall along with the elephants and totem poles that we saw on our previous visit.  We went through the nature exhibit while we waited; it was really beautiful and clearly labeled so you could tell what was in each case. Some were very old, but still very beautiful specimens, a great variety of birds and animals.

            About 8:30 we went back down to Tut and they let us in.  It was REALLY well laid out, but was a little disappointing, having seen the earlier Tut exhibit in New Orleans.  There were a LOT of pieces from the tomb of Tjuya and Yuya, very high class couple in the reign of Amenhotep III and Tuthmosis IV; their tomb was plundered early, but still held many treasures when located in 1905.  There were several rooms of things that showed what was probably Tut’s family circumstances and things that would have been familiar to Tut, but many came from the tomb of Tjuya and Yuya.  You did not actually get to any Tut items until the last 3 rooms, but what you saw told a very clear story of their beliefs and the mummification process and ceremonies.

            It began with the familiar carved wood statue of Tut’s upper torso with a yellow-painted flat-topped crown with Uraeus on front.  One room was set up as “the burial chamber” and had a National Geographic video of what the nested shrines which housed Tut’s coffins would look like if you could remove each one by lifting it from the others; this was followed by the same “removal” of the coffins down to the last, solid gold, coffin and then to the mummy with its gold and jewel mask.  The video was very good and gave a real sense of how the assemblage was actually put together.  In the middle of the floor was a diagram of the nested shrines, and in the center was a case with a gilded coffin, but it was not Tut’s coffin – it was the coffin of Tjyua.  Still, it gave you the impression of what Carter saw as the last of the shrines was removed.  Breath-taking!

            The last room had 5 pieces from Tut’s mummy (no, not the mask; that was in the previous exhibit).  There were two gold collars – both familiar pieces – but they also had a small gold “coffin” that held Tut’s internal organs.  It was open enough you could see the inside and see all the writing and pictures on it.  It was truly a very, very beautiful piece.

            There was also a video and a series of displays about things that had been done to examine Tut’s mummy:  x-rays in 1968 and 1978, and in 2005 a CT scan  The x-rays had revealed a hole at the base of Tut’s skull, so it was thought that he had met with foul play.  The CT scan, however, showed that the hole had happened after he died and was probably part of the embalming process.  The CT scan also revealed a break in his left leg, just above the knee that had happened only a few days before he died.  It is now THOUGHT – though still not definite – that he died from complications from the broken bone.  All the theories about his death are explained, and, in the end, it is left up to the viewers to make their own determination.

            Of course, on exiting the exhibit you enter the gift shop.  I HAD to have a magnet, and I wanted a paper version of the exhibition book – but of course they didn’t’ have one – only a hard-back at $49.95!!  That hurt!  So I didn’t buy a lot of souvenirs – the book cost enough!

            Once out of the exhibit, we went to the information desk to enquire about Marta service back to Hazel Crest (we didn’t take time to get the tickets and info in the morning).  The lady had a lot of time-tables, but none that seemed to do what we wanted it to do.  We finally found one that looked promising and had a number to call for information.  So Tommy called the number and got a totally automated information center which gave us the train number, time schedule and fare .

            And, based on that schedule – there would be a train for us at the Roosevelt station at 11:35; it was already after 11:00, but I wanted to go to the restroom, so I went back in the building.  But . . . like all women’s restrooms everywhere, there was a line; I waited a couple of minutes and it didn’t move, so I decided to head out; I’d rather catch the 11:35 train (and not have to wait for the 12:07 train) than go to the restroom – I’d just do that later.

            Our train was # 119, and it was right on time.  We had found the electronic ticket vendor, but it wasn’t working (of course).  Tommy called to report it (because they charge $2.00 extra if you buy your ticket on the train when there was a vending machine at the station).  Tommy then explained this to the conductor, and he understood and didn’t charge us the extra $4.00.

            Again the ride was smooth and we were back at our car in half an hour – much faster than if we had been driving, and a lot less hassle.  Back at the car, everything was as we had left it, so we found our way to I-57 and started on the last leg of our journey:  homeward bound.

            As we got down around Effingham, Tommy voiced something that had occurred to me earlier, but I had not yet said:  maybe we could stop in Benton and look up Betty Claxton Beard’s daughter and maybe get a lead on the other line of Claxtons in Franklin Co. – to see if we could get one of them to participate in the DNA project.  So here we are at 8:30 in West Frankfort having met with Ellen, Betty’s daughter, in Benton; gone to Betty’s house; and looked in the phone book for Claxtons.  FOUND!  The Claxton family who ran the boat company are VERY successful.  The man we contacted years ago has died, but the son and daughter run the business now (and it is doing so well, they only come in half a day or so and then leave!).  So Tommy is going to call and see if they would be interested in learning about the family and contributing a DNA sample.

            We stopped to get gas in Paducah and I drove from there home.  We also stopped in Murray and got groceries.  Got home at 11:25 p.m.  (I only had 73 e-mails on my Hughes account and 87 on my Direcway!)



3336 miles round trip direct – not including “in-site driving” at parks and other stops along the way

$$ (lots and lots, especially for gas!)



            Buchanan, TN to Dyersburg bridge through MO and northern AR to Thayer, MO:  Farmland observations


            Thayer, MO to Moody, MO to Tulsa, OK:  Thayer railroading connection, Spring River and Mammoth Springs, Mt. Zion cemetery in Moody where Hiram Madison Claxton and family are buried


            Claxton Reunion at Shahan Freewill Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, OK


            Tulsa, OK to Sioux City, IA:  Farms and terrain observations


            Sioux City, IA to Fargo, ND:  Pipestone National Monument, interesting road construction, and more terrain observations including glacial moraines


            Visit with John Tupa in Fargo, “North America’s Tallest Structure,” Devil’s Lake, sugar beets, geog. Center of N. America at Rugby, ND, late evening light


            International Peace Garden, terrain descriptions, Eagle at Itasca.


            Itasca Lake/Mississippi River headwaters (Douglas Lodge), Bemidji/Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, our first rocks, Split Rock Lighthouse, Grand Portage, MN.


            Isle Royale National Park (NOT!), Grand Portage National Monument (birch bark canoe), border crossing into Canada (our “gun” and “potatoes” story), Terry Fox Lookout, Kakabeka Falls, amethyst mine, Eagle Adventures (two swinging bridges), Rainbow Falls and mosquitoes, Terrace Bay “air conditioning.”

DAY 10

            Neys Provincial Park/Lake Superior (reversing river flow), White Lake Provincial Park (rock-diving dog and dock construction), “kettle lakes,”  Young’s General Store, “cairn builders,” Lake Superior Provincial Park, “Night Danger” signs, Montreal River (gorge and more rocky “potatoes” for the car), U.S. customs, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, St. Ignace, MI

DAY 11

            Mackinac Island (no motorized vehicles, etc.), Lake Huron (more “potatoes”), Straits of Mackinac bridge (Lakes Huron and Superior), Bobbi and Jim’s house in Brighton, MI, GENEALOGY AGAIN (naturally), and more DNA talk!

DAY 12

            Breakfast with Bobbi and Jim, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, IN (climbing Mt. Baldy), “scoping out” the Hazel Crest area of South Chicago (trains and parking).

DAY 13

            Our train “adventure” and the policeman at the museum, Field Museum, “King Tut and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” exhibit, our return train “adventure,” one more genealogy quest:  Benton and West Frankfort, IL, home at last!


Note about the cairns along CA Hwy. 17 on the northern shore of Lake Superior:

            I looked on the Internet and found the following comment by Barb and Scott at the “Movin’ On” web site <http://www.movinon.net/Newsletter/NL2-9.htm>: 


“Cairns are a grouping of rocks placed on top of each other pointing the way on a trail. This was no trail; this was a highway. It puzzled me why I was seeing them quite regularly. We were watching the Canadian National news later that night and they told about a movement started by an artist who has a shop in Toronto and sells cairns. They are not sure who started placing them on the highways but they are there. I guess people put them along the highways just for


Thanks to Barb and Scott for recording their finding so others could learn from it.


Return to text