Our Michigan travelogue

Our week in Bay City, Michigan visiting with friends Al & Darlene was wonderful. Al, Darlene, Deb, and JimThe weather was cool and partly cloudy, with a few days getting to the high 60’s or low 70’s. The nights were cool and very pleasant, around 50 degrees. Everyone we met tells us, “This weather is unusually cool.” It was so nice we didn’t mind at all. Deb and I slept almost impossibly close to each other.

Al & Darlene provided us a great introduction to Bay City, Great day for the River Walk with visits to the river walks, downtown, a few special stores, and the casino. The River Walk and Rail Trail afford level, long, and scenic walking and before we knew it we had walked six miles. It was fun seeing this area so different from our North Carolina piedmont.F1 style tunnel hull racer A loud noise attracted our attention to the water and we saw a tiny orange blob zipping along. We watched this very cool F1-style speedboat racing back and forth on the Saginaw River, and a bunch of men fishing for catfish from the riverwalk, and enjoyed a day of fantastic weather.

Friday morning we visited a gaggle of rummage sales in the adjacent development. We found a whole lot of things worth the price but not worth their weight. And we found a few things worth their weight and price, like a dozen Titleist golf balls for $2 and three good paperback books for 75 cents. More interesting for me was seeing the landscapes — similar to areas of the Pacific northwest, I find the plantings and architecture very appealing. Of course, it helps a lot everything is springtime green.

Bay City lumbermen built fabulous houses

Bay City lumbermen built fabulous houses

Saturday morning we toured the old old money neighborhoods on Central, with houses from the late nineteenth century. Early days of Bay City found the lumbermen building gorgeous and grand mansions all heated, by the way, with fireplaces. Al and I decided the old-time fireplaces were designed for holding and radiating heat whereas the fireplaces now allowed by building codes are so deep and short as to reduce greatly the radiated heat. Hopefully these old houses had great heat from theirs.

We found, along one of the backstreets, an old-time baseball game between an Akron team and the Bay City team. The players were all catching and fielding balls bare-handed. Debbie and I were surprised at the great hands the infield and outfield players had to field the balls barehanded. The catcher’s backstop was a short stack of hay bales and the umpire did not stand behind the catcher. The ump did not call balls and strikes, and the fly-outs didn’t automatically force a player to tag up. Instead, any advancing base runner must return to, and stop at, his former base. Oh, and the uniforms — all the players were in authentic-looking old-time baseball team outfits. The game was fun to watch, even if the Akron team did defeat the home team.

Sunday we attended Mass with Al & Darlene, my first Catholic Mass except a niece’s wedding two years ago. I thought the church interior is pretty modern looking, for a Catholic church. And the worship service was really nice, with great voices and piano and with a short, sweet, and direct message from the priest. We liked the service and the church. Hmm, if we live here would we consider joining the Catholic church? After church we toured Tobico Beach and Tobico Lagoon areas and the Bay City State Park. Al showed us where, when he was a teenager, they would go to the shore and watch the submarine races. Lake Huron has since receded hundreds of yards and is separated from accessibility by marshy wetlands.

Monday was rainy and cool so we stayed close to home. Darlene trims Deb's hair very nicelyThe girls did a little shopping, read the paper, and Darlene cut Debbie’s and Al’s hair. Al and I rebuilt my ham radio stand and the capacitor clamp atop my radio’s power supply. The stand was fun because we drilled and tapped my thick aluminum plates, everything lined up very well, and the newly rebuilt stand works much better than before. The hinges formerly were two thicknesses of duct tape and were plainly floppy. The radio faceplate attached to the stand with two-face foam tape and was a little wobbly. And the bracket to hold the bracket at the correct viewing angle was also stuck with foam tape. Now the hinges and faceplate are attached directly with 4-40 or 8-32 machine bolts, and the tilt angle is adjustable with a pair of bolts in the hinge joint. Everything is drum-tight, looks good, and works great.

Then Al pulled an old Knight Star Roamer shortwave receiver radio from his shelf. We dusted off the radio and test-fired it — after decades on the shelf it warmed and sounded fine, if with a bit of static. So we took the radio to the front porch and attached to it a G5RVjr dipole antenna pulled between two maple trees. Immediately we had great results — we pulled in Radio Prague on 7 megacycles and a number of other recognizable stations on many other bands. Al built this Allied kit radio in 1963 as part of an electronics correspondence course. The radio is a five bander covering aviation (200 to 400 kilocycles) and broadcast bands (500 kilocycles to 1800 kilocycles) and 1.8 to 30 megacycles. Despite our less-than-ideal antenna configuration, his radio had no problem pulling in the stations. What will Al be able to hear when he attaches a 100 feet long wire antenna in his attic?

Tuesday I drilled a 7/16″ hole between the exterior refrigerator access and the back of our dinette bench. I fished a piece of coaxial cable through and coiled an end under the dinette bench. The other end has a UHF connector and will rest in the refrigerator access area. I’ll attach a UHF connector to the interior end and attach this coax cable to a Diamond switch we bought last month at Hamvention in Dayton, OH. My rooftop vertical antenna (High Sierra 1800pro) will attach to the other input. The switch output will attach to my radio. I can choose between either antenna with a twist of the switch without unscrewing and reattaching any connectors. Normally I will select the rooftop vertical for receiving and sending on amateur radio bands.

Most of the time I use our rooftop vertical antenna because I can raise it and in fifteen seconds be receving. But the dipole antenna generally will provide me much better transmitting and receiving. Sometimes (not often) I can hang my dipole antenna between poles or trees and will be able to connect the dipole antenna to the UHF connector in the refrigerator access. The Diamond switch allows me easy and quick selection of whichever antenna provides the best strength for a given signal. I’ll look forward to trying this out sometime soon.

We all piled into the van and Al drove us downtown to see Bay City. We visited St Laurens Brothers, Nuts since 1904, and enjoyed browsing their huge collection of chocolates and nuts they prepare on site. Frankenmuth's attractive shopping area We then walked downtown’s streets and river walk area for a couple of hours. After a quick trip home for lunch we again piled into the van and Al drove us to Frankenmuth. We walked the beautiful covered bridge, visited many shops in the little Bavarian shopping village, and walked the shops along the Cass Street. Sampling Frankenmuth's ice creams It was fun visiting and sampling among the cheese and ice cream shops. Good thing we had lunch or we would have snacked way too much. Did you know Frankenmuth was founded 1845 by fifteen German Lutheran monks from Bavaria? They reportedly immigrated to teach Christianity to the Chippewa Indians. The Frankenmuth Brewery started business in 1862, followed in 1894 by the Frankenmuth Woolen Mills. Gotta keep those priorities straight, eh?

A visit to Frankenmuth would not be complete without stopping Bronner's Christmas Wonderlandby Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, the size of 1.5 football fields and with more than 50,000 ornaments and pieces for decorating your Christmas. Our touring day was drawing to a close after walking downtown Bay City and shopping much of Frankenmuth so we almost skipped this. We parked in 15 Minute parking so we wouldn’t tarry and still spent a half-hour visiting beautiful displays and each picking our favorite decorated tree. Next time I’ll be more enthusiastic — I want to return to see what I missed.

It has been a lot of fun visiting with Al & Darlene. They are a very young-at-heart couple who like to play. and are good at, a wide variety of table games plus ladder golf, ping-pong, and walking. The visit has been wonderful. Now we head west to Lake Michigan then south toward Ramsey, Illinois.

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