Monday, October 31, 2016

Flashback Post–Happy Halloween!

This flashback post was triggered, not just by the fact that today is Halloween, but also by our recent stay at Sterling State Park in Monroe, MI.  We enjoyed many Halloween Camping weekends at Sterling State Park, as well as a few other campgrounds in lower Michigan.

When the boys were babies, though, we had not yet discovered Halloween camping . . . but we stilled dressed them up and took them out!

1996 - Nicolas’ First Halloween

I must have been very ambitious that year – I made costumes for all three of us . . . but then, I wasn’t back to work yet!

Nicolas' 1st Halloween

1998 -- Bryce’s First Halloween

The cow costume was just the first of many hand-me-downs!  Nicolas was quite a cute little pumpkin!

Bryce's 1st Halloween

I continued to make their costumes . . . I could be pretty creative with a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt!

1999 – Little Clowns

Little Clowns

The next year, we discovered Halloween camping. 

2000 was the first of several camping trips to Sterling State Park.  The hosts there were always really good at putting together lots of fun activities for the kids, and many campers really got into the holiday, with haunted houses and over-the-top decorations.

Pumpkin Bowling


I remember there was a local farmer that brought 2 wagon loads full of pumpkins – each child got a pumpkin to decorate, and we had pumpkin bowling.  It was a lot of fun!







Finished their pumpkins!

He didn't quite make it!



Bryce loved all the daytime activities, but didn’t quite make it through trick-or-treating!







2001 Brighton State Park

The next year was the first of several where we ventured out to other parks, and we continued to have wonderful, fun experiences!  All of the parks put so much effort into these weekends, and the boys had a blast!

Nicolas ready for trick-or-treating

Well, Nicolas had fun with some of the neighboring kids . . . Bryce was a little grumpy and didn’t want to go trick-or-treating (Go figure – he’s a freshman in college now, and he tells me he was going out tonight to get candy!)

Bryce wasn't interested!











I couldn’t locate pictures from the next couple of years, but I know we went to the local KOA one year, and another state park the next. 

2003 – Sterling State Park

We went back to Sterling State Park the next year, in the all-new campground, and this time our friends, Josh and Kylie, joined us.

Halloween with Josh & Kylie

Most years, we had really good weather for our Halloween camping weekend . . . the main reason being that parks in Michigan closed around October 15th, so Halloween camping was usually held in late September.

This also meant that the boys got another chance to go trick-or-treating on the real holiday, either with friends from school, or their cousins.

2005 – Trick-or-Treating with Kathleen

Trick-or-treating with Kathleen

(I think they were ghosts!)

2005 – Sterling State Park

We were back at Sterling again, and with our friends, Josh and Kylie, too.  Tom and Todd were getting into the holiday spirit!

Tom and Dittmann getting intp the act!

I don’t think Bryce was thrilled with his homemade costume,

I don't think Bryce liked his costume that year!

but it was good enough to get him candy!

With Josh and Kylie again











I think we might have taken a couple of years off from Halloween camping after that, but went back to Sterling one more time.

2008 – Our final Halloween Camping trip

Bryce and Hannah -- it almost looks like we coordinated their costumes!


It was birthday weekend, so in addition to our regular camping companions, Hannah and Jensen, Tom’s family also joined us for a birthday celebration and trick-or-treating.

Nicolas and Bryce came up with their own costumes that year, and both went with a sports theme!





Our last Halloween camping trip

Our Halloween camping trips were some of our favorites, and we made some great memories!  I miss those days!



Sunday, October 30, 2016

Enjoying Grandpa’s last couple of days with us–touring Charleston

Waiting fro our carriage tour

Grandpa was scheduled on a flight back to Michigan on Saturday, and Nicolas had Thursday and Friday off, so we planned our tour of Charleston for Thursday.  Nicolas and Casey came out to the refuge on Wednesday afternoon to stay with us for the next couple of nights, and we got an early start on Thursday morning.

We thought that a carriage tour would be fun,


and would alleviate some of the walking for Grandpa, so when we arrived downtown we signed up for a 12:45 tour.  That would give us time to wander through the City Market, and get a quick lunch at Subway before our tour.

City Market

Waling through the City Market










We also had time to wander through a few of the shops on Market Street.  Nicolas even got Grandpa and Tom to pose for a picture!



At the appointed time, we checked in for our tour (this wasn’t actually the company we went with, but they had a pretty stable and it was right across the street from where we were waiting). 

One of the carriage companies

I didn’t think there would be many people downtown on a Thursday afternoon, but it was pretty busy and there were lots of carriages lining up for their assigned routes.

Our ride, Carson, driven by Hal


Within a few minutes, our ride arrived and we loaded up, along with the rest of the passengers – we had a full carriage of 16.

Every carriage in town had to go to a checkpoint to receive their route assignment (kindof like air traffic control for carriages).  The city does this to keep the carriages spread out and ease traffic congestion in the city.  We got route 3 . . . not that that meant much to us.




Our tour took us past many interesting historical sites in Charleston, as we travelled from the commercial district to the residential district.


Welcoming Alley


The gunpowder storage building from the Civil War,

Gunpowder Storage

the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist,

St. John the Baptist Cathedral

a corner store,

Corner Store

and lots of interesting gates and doorways.

Iron Gates


Beautiful Front Door

Then there were the homes . . . so many beautiful historic homes!

Charleston Houses 1

We spent much of our time south of Broad St., which is apparently the ridiculously expensive section of town . . . amazing that these old homes are priced in the MILLIONS!

Charleston Houses 2

We had hoped that our tour would take us through Battery Park, but it stopped just short of reaching the park, and turned back towards the stable. 

After unloading, we took a quick picture with Carson,



although he kindof got left out of the picture, so I took one more of him by himself, as well as the next horse waiting to go out on a tour.


We had parked in the direction of Battery Park, so we decided to go ahead and walk down there so Grandpa could see the Harbor and the cannons in the park, and then Nicolas would go back to get the car and pick us up at the park.

We passed by some more interesting sights, including cemeteries,


artistic alleyways,


and the French Huguenot Church.  It was open for visitors, so we stopped in to take a look at the oldest Huguenot Church in North America.

It was very beautiful!

French Heugonot Church

Cobblestone Street

We saw old cobblestone streets (Nicolas says those are brutal to drive on!), and beautiful fall flowers.

Pretty Fall Flowers

We reached Battery Park just as Grandpa was running out of steam! 

Battery Park

He took a seat on a bench in the shade while Tom and I walked along the seawall and Nicolas headed back to get the car.

Dad standing watch at the cannon

General Moultrie

General Moultrie

Tom and I watched several cargo ships make their way from the Cooper River out through Charleston Harbor and into the Atlantic Ocean.

Cargo Ship

Tour ships, too.

Old and New


As Tom and I were taking pictures on the seawall,

Charleston Harbor



a couple of police officers walked by and stopped to talk for a few minutes.  They were pretty funny, and took my camera right out of Tom’s hands so they could take a picture of the two of us!


We talked for a while, and they gave us a couple of suggestions for dinner . . . and we were glad we listened – they didn’t steer us wrong!

We walked back across to the park to see if Dad wanted to come over to the seawall for a look,



and we finally convinced him to move off the bench.

We watched a few carriage tours go by . . . apparently we needed to get Tour 1 to see Battery Park, although they only passed by the corner of the park.

Carriage Tours

Nicolas showed up then, and we drove up to the restaurant for an early dinner.  There were lines painted on the sidewalk around the corner of the restaurant, indicating where the line was to start . . . so we were pretty glad we were there for an early dinner.  We didn’t have to wait at all!  The service was really quick, and the food was delicious!  Definitely a good choice!

We enjoyed a great dinner at Jestine's Kitchen

From there, we headed back to the RV for a relaxing evening inside, away from the mosquitos that were really beginning to swarm . . . we need cooler temperatures!

On Friday, Tom and Nicolas washed the RV while I did laundry and made a batch of apple cider doughnuts for Nick.

Washing the RV

It was badly in need of a wash, and it looks so much better now!

For dinner, we decided to try the Lone Star BBQ in Santee.  It’s an interesting little place on the state park road, right across from St. Ann’s Church.

Lone Star BBQ

There are several connected buildings that are a collection of old stores from around the area.  They are very old and quaint!

Dining Rooms


The walls inside are covered with shelves, all of them lined with old merchandise that was in the various stores when the buildings were moved to this site.

Old merchandise on the shelves











The restaurant is only open Thursday – Sunday, and it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet of southern specialties . . . fried chicken, pulled pork, beans, black-eyed peas, etc..  The main entre on Fridays is BBQ ribs.  They were excellent, and so was the pulled pork and fried chicken.  Everything was really good, and we definitely left there full!  It was a pretty good deal at $12.95/person, which included iced tea or lemonade (and the lemonade was really good, too – it tasted like county fair lemonade!)

They also have live music – local performers who do this gig in order to raise a little money to allow them to perform at local nursing homes during the week.  Really nice guys, and we enjoyed their music!

Joel & Jerry -- Alive and Kicking

One last picture of Nick & Grandpa


We couldn’t stay too long, since Nicolas had to get back home after dinner.  He started back on days on Saturday, so he had to get up early in the morning.

He said good-bye to Grandpa, since he’d be leaving for Michigan in the morning.  I think they were both glad to have this extended visit . . . it was nice for them to spend time together, and for Grandpa to see where Nicolas is living and working.