Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Indiana Amish Country - Embrace the Pace!

From the hustle pace of Chicago to the heart of Amish country.  We all agreed, the transition was a welcome one. 
Team Breitmann landed at the Elkhart County  4-H Fairgrounds, which is just outside of the east side of Goshen, Indian. It offers full-hookup camping.  We were glad to see more familiar faces, as my parents decided to come meet up with us and camp here.  You can read a bit more about the facility here: Elkhart County Fairgrounds
"A" marks the spot!  This is where we camped.  As you can see, it is smack dab in the center of Amish country and within about 15 minutes of nearly every town with Amish presence like Nappanee, Middlebury, Elkhart, Shipshewana, etc...   A great website to introduce you to this area is here: Northern Indiana Amish Country

Our "assault vehicle" gains a family friend!  In the foreground is my parents 5th wheel, nestled next to our motor home at the fairgrounds campground.  In the background  is one of the many barns located on the grounds.  This particular barn, to the joy of the girls, housed about a half dozen harness racing horses.  
A reminder that we are NOT in the big city any more! 
While staying on the fairgrounds, we were treated to being able to watch a harness race.   Hailey enjoys a track side vantage point for her first horse race. 
Two different worlds!  I took this picture at the horse race track of an Amish girl and an "English" girl.  "English" is the name that the Amish give to those who are not Amish.  We found it very interesting how so vastly a different peoples live closely amongst each other, yet keep their own identities.  
Outside of Nappenee, Indiana, we took a tour of a place called Amish Acres.   You can see the history of Amish Acres, as documented on the sign above.  You can also, read a bit more about here: Amish Acres
Heidi and Hailey at the door of the Amish Acres barn.  This 40 x 80 Schweitzer bank barn was built in 1876 from hand hewn timber cut from this farm.  The threshing floors and mows are in the upper level.  The milking stalls, corn crib and wagon shed in the lower.
Heidi and Hailey enjoy the swing in the upper level of the bank barn! 
Heidi finds out how hard it is to catch a "yard bird!"
"Ewe lookin' at me?!"  
Hailey gets up close to a couple of peacocks on the Amish homestead. 
The gals get a lesson on what it takes to make apple butter.  Here they observe the mixture being stirred.  It must be continually stirred so that it doesn't stick or burn in the seamless copper kettle.  To make apple butter you'll need:  about 7 bushels of apples, water, 60 pounds of white sugar, 10 pounds brown sugar, 1 cup cinnamon, 1 cup white sugar, 3 ounces of whole cloves and a WHOLE lotta patience as you stir and stir and stir and stir.......!

The girls pose in front of an old Amish school bus.  The Amish no longer use these horse drawn buses because the Amish schools are generally within walking distance (approximately no more than 3 miles) for each family, within the particular Amish sect.
Stacey admires the apple orchard on the farm. 
Heidi checks out an Amish mint still. We learned that at the turn of the century, Indiana led all states in the production of mint.  Stills like this one, which was moved here from 1.5 miles south, were used to distill the potent oils from mint.  Much of the crop went to the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company in nearby Chicago. We also learned that Wrigley originally started out as a soap company and in a promotional stunt, sticks of chewing gum were attached to each soap bar.  Ironically, no one liked the soap but, loved the gum!  So, in a smart move, Wrigley dropped the soap idea and went with chewing gum.  The rest is history!
After our visit at Amish Acres, we wandered over to the nearby town of Nappanee, which was in the midst of celebrating their annual apple festival.  We enjoyed this all-American town celebration.  Like the sign says behind Hailey, we enjoyed and "embraced the pace" of this small town! 
We also took a trip to the town of Shipshewana, which is known as the center of the "Plain People".  This term is meant to describe the vast number of Mennonite and Amish people that call this town and surrounding farmlands as their home. 
I took this picture in the parking lot of a Shipshewana Amish grocery store.  
Hailey models an Amish lady's bonnet.  We learned that the bonnets and caps the Amish & Mennonite women wear are in respect to 1 Corinthians 11:15 which states; "And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved."
The girls admire a dapple colored Amish man's draft horse. 
Once again, if there is a tree that can be climbed,  Hailey will do it! 
Back at the campground, Hailey shows off her art work to her Granparents.  
I added this picture to show you that we will be in Amish country for a long time.  I was born and raised in Ohio, which you can see has the highest concentration of Amish in the country.  We are off to my home state of Ohio, to show the gals of Team Breitmann, "God's Country"!  Look out, Buckeye state!  The Red-headed regiment is coming your way!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chicago - The Windy City

Team Breitmann galloped into Illinois, the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln,  and settled in about an hour north of Chicago. Chicago is an interesting and bustling place as we were soon to find out!  
Here we are,  all set up at Illinois Beach State Park, located near Zion, IL.  The campground is located directly on Lake Michigan and seems a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Chicago.  You can read a bit more about this park at this link: Illinois Beach State Park
Hailey,  ever the tom-boy,  just can't resist a good climbin' tree! "Hey, dad!"  Me:  Looking around, bewildered.  "Hailey?!  Where are you?!"  Hailey:  "Dad!  Up here!"  Me: Looking up..."go figure!"  Why am I surprised?!
A first for the gals of Team Breitmann...on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the five Great Lakes.  Do you know the names of all five?  Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, Ontario.  Lake Michigan is the 5th largest lake in the world and the third largest of the Great Lakes.  It is the only one of the Great Lakes that lies entirely within the borders of the United States.  All the other Great Lakes are bisected by the borders of the US and Canada.  Lake Michigan is 307 miles long and 118 miles wide, giving it a dimension only slightly smaller than the state of West Virginia.  At it's deepest point it is 923 feet. 
Of course, the girls have to jump in the lake to get the "full experience!"  This ain't Florida, girls!  Kids...if only we as adults could be so open to the "full experience!" 
"Are ya cold?!"  Look at the red nose and fingers!  Hailey (teeth chattering): "Ddddaaaad, wwwwere issss the the tttttowells?" 
The sand isn't quite like the sands like back home on the Gulf of Mexico but,'s good for making mud volcano! 

Just up the road from our campground is the Zion Metra train station, which we use to get back and forth to Chicago.  This is definitely the way to go! It took us about an hour by train to get to the very downtown of Chicago.  The Metra dropped us off at the Ogilvie Train Station, where we could connect to subway, trains, or buses.  If your interested in maps, schedules and general info on the trains, you can see it at this link: Metra Rail - Chicago

All aboard!!  Look at these three lovelies getting on the train to Chicago!  "Going my way, girls?!" 
Okay, we made it to downtown what?!  Notice Stacey has a CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) map in her hand.  We are trying to decipher the bus schedule.  It took us three days to fully comprehend how things worked but, we "cracked the code" and by the third day, we were giving strangers directions!  You can view the CTA map at this link: (keep in mind, we did not have the "click able" version in hand!):  CTA Map
A familiar face!!!  Since Austin, Texas, we have not seen a familiar face but, we have now!  Stacey's friend, Donna, flew into Chicago to meet up with us!  How nice!  We all just love her!  Stacey and Donna stayed downtown and did a "girls" weekend, while me and my "two reds" hung out in Zion.  It was nice for all of us.  Stacey got to shop til she dropped with her friend and I got some quality time with just me and my girls.  
What is going to Chicago without some deep dish pizza-pie?!  Our first order of business, after meeting up with Donna was to go directly to Gino's East for pizza!  Good stuff!  Take a look at Gino's here:  Gino's East of Chicago
It isn't all fun, games and pizza!  Hailey works on here "final version" of writing assignment on President Andrew Jackson, while I do the laundry.  We are both thrilled!  (Sarcasm intended!) :)
With laundry and school assignments's back to the big city!  Well, you can take the country girl to the city but, you can't get the country out of the girl!  No, trees?!  Well, Hailey will climb whatever looks good to climb!  Here she scales her way up a monument on the Navy Pier in downtown Chicago.  Notice, she took her shoes off!  Gotta love that gal! 
Downtown doesn't compare to the good looks of these two!  
The gals of Team Breitmann seem to look very metropolitan as we make our way to the Museum Campus area.  The Museum Campus is a very cool place.   It is home to the Alder Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and Soldier Field.  You check out the a map of the Museum Campus here: Chicago Museum Campus
Hailey strikes a pose in front of the Chicago Field Museum.  You can check out the Field Museum here: The Chicago Field Museum
Here we are inside the Chicago Field Museum posing with "Sue" the T-Rex.  Sue is the world's most complete and well preserved T-Rex in the entire world.  We laughed when we saw "Sue" because this looked like something right out of the movie "Night at the Museum"!  We love that movie and the sequel.  If you haven't seen them, check them out. 
One of the museum staff members let the girls hold a casting of one of Sue's teeth.  It's as big as a large Bowie knife!  Yikes!   I gotta hand it to Heidi!  Just like in the Lowell Observatory, she held her own with one of the museum staff, as he tried to espouse evolution , along with stating that there were four "extinction" events in the Earth's history, as if it was a proven fact.  Heidi listened patiently and calmly and with a nonjudgmental statement,  replied; "Sir, I don't subscribe to that theory as fact.  I subscribe to creationism, as described in the Bible.  Thank you, for sharing!  Have a blessed day!" She asked me later, "Hey, dad.  If there were supposedly four distinct extinction events, then how did life supposedly start over four different times?!"  Good question, Heidi!  There are indeed a lot of holes in evolutionary theory that are claimed as fact.  I love her!
What museum would be complete without an ancient Egypt exhibit!  
Chicago is famous for it's huge buildings.  In fact, Chicago can claim the title of "home of the skyscraper".  The world's first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, was built in Chicago in 1885.  By today's standards it is not impressive.  It was ten stories high.  However, it's architectural design known as the "Chicago skeleton" form of construction, which consists of a load-bearing structural steel frame that supported the entire weight of the walls instead of  traditional load-bearing walls led the way to the massive structures like the one pictured above.  This particular skyscraper was designed to appear as a waterfall, complete with ripple glass to look like water. 
Stacey shares some of the things she learned on an architectural boat tour she took with her friend, Donna.  She is describing the building of the Civic Opera House and how the owner had it designed to look like a throne. On a side note, the water ways in Chicago, pictured here, are dyed green during the massive St. Patrick's Day celebration held here, yearly.  St. Patrick's Day is very big here due to the rich Irish heritage roots. 
Near the Navy Pier, the girls cool off in a water fountain!  It was fun to watch them frolic, care-free amidst the hustle & bustle of Chicago.  I watched as the faces of passersby changed from introspective blank faces to wide spread smiles as they noticed the Team Breitmann gals skipping about in the spray of the water! 
Lest you forget the fool-proof formula for fun....
Kids + Water = Fun! 
Here the gals pose on the Navy Pier, in downtown Chicago.  It is Chicago's number one attraction.  It was originally designed for commercial shipping use and also was used, later as a fully dedicated Navy Training center, during World War II. Now, it is a public gathering place and home to shops, restaurants and cruising boats.  The girls and I take a ride on a replica of George Washington Gale Ferris' Wheel, which he designed and had built for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.  The original Ferris Wheel.  It no longer exists but, this replica is a tribute to the original one. You can read a history of the Ferris Wheel here:  The Ferris Wheel 
A view from atop the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel, looking out towards Lake Michigan. You can read more about the modern day Navy Pier here: Chicago Navy Pier
A view from atop the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel looking toward downtown Chicago.
The world is our classroom!  Here Hailey catches up on her history reading on the Metra Train! She looks like a regular commuter!
Good bye, Chicago!  The girls prepare to board the Metra train back to Zion station!  
Oh, we know how you feel, Molly...we are "dog tired" after running around Chicago!  
We are off to Indiana Amish country!  C-ya there!