St. Clair, MI

On Wednesday September 14, we stopped at the dump station, hooked up Thor and left Tee Pee Campground and headed for St. Clair at 8:30. Acey has 94,112.1 miles, Thor 106,125 miles and we have 2185.4 bicycle miles. We stopped to fill up Acey and made lunch, arriving at the Thousand Trails St. Clair RV Resort at 2pm. We got set up and took off for errands. Linda needed new glasses and we had made an appointment with the eye doctor at Costco and were able to order the glasses. Next stop was the Apple store. Our iPhone 8’s had been acting squirrely and Chris recommended we get the iPhone SE model 128 GB, so we did!

Thursday morning, we left early to visit The Henry Ford; we had bought an annual pass last year, and today was the day it expired! The museum and Greenfield Village are so interesting and there is so much to see!  We watched a couple of 3-D movies, included in the membership and explored the museum too. This steam locomotive is impressive – it is SO BIG!

So many things on display – and lots of cars! One of our favorites is this Ford Fusion driven by Trevor Bayne – the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 in 2011 – “in as-raced condition”!

This “Ferrari” was not here last year – one of the 3 cars used in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The car was not a Ferrari at all — and had parts from a Jaguar, Carmen Ghia, MG, VW Type 3, and more!

Modena Design put Ferrari badges on the replicas, without securing the rights from the automaker – Ferrari sued, and Modena was quickly put out of business due to the legal fees that piled up during litigation.

There was an interesting display about Indy racing; the rear engine and independent suspension was a new idea in 1965!

Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were lifelong friends, so we were not surprised to see a display featuring him! Ford rebuilt and recreated Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory at Greenfield Village; we visited that last year.

Edison had a bad opinion of Nikola Tesla – which likely was passed to Ford. Nikola Tesla is one of the greatest figures in the history of electrical power and telecommunications. He was key in the development of alternating current electricity, especially regarding the induction motor. The “War of the Currents” was a scientific battle fought between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla over the concepts and viability of alternating and direct currents. The museum included many brands and people, but very little about the genius Tesla. We saw this display; one of the few mentions of Tesla and the first one we had seen!

George Westinghouse was in “Tesla’s camp” and licensed Tesla’s motor patents enabling the Westinghouse AC lighting system to become a real competitor with direct current systems. That didn’t sit well with Edison!

So much to see, lots of which we covered last September in the Saint Clair blog, but we’ll close with another look at the Weinermobile! Have you ever seen one on the street? We saw one in Bellevue a few years back!

Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Weiner, that is what I’d truly like to be. ‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me… 🙂

Friday, we spent some time cleaning, doing laundry, etc. There is so much dirt from the terrible roads in Northwest Canada and Alaska – it’s everywhere!

Saturday afternoon, we went to Palmer Park in St. Clair to wait on a freighter.

Using the Marine Traffic App, we can see where the ships are!

The Kaministiqua, built in 1983, flies the Canadian flag. She is 223m (731.6 ft) long, 23 m (75 ft) beam.

We walked on the wooden boardwalk along the river, and then crossed the street to walk down along the canal. This fish was quite colorful, covered with ceramic tiles that were made by several people over a few years. No marker to tell about it, but here is a link to a news story!

There are a few metal sculptures in the area that were featured in last year’s St. Clair blog – but we didn’t notice this one across from Palmer Park: Cartwheel Kids!

We stopped by War Water Brewery, and they had an interesting sculpture/fountain running!

Sunday morning, we worshipped with Stephens Valley Church, watching the service from last week. (Bulletin) Pastor Jim preached on Exodus 3 where Moses encounters God in a burning bush. The church is doing a series on the “I AM” passages in the Bible, and this is the first one.

In the afternoon, we visited Candi & Mark in Novi and met their schnauzer Uno.

We had a delicious dinner on the patio and a fun evening! It’s always great to connect with old friends. Linda has known Candi since as long as she can remember – they grew up in the same neighborhood and Mark was an elementary schoolmate of Linda’s; she knew Mark a few years before Candi did!  

On Monday, we rode our bikes on the Wadhams to Avoca Trail; we rode this trail a couple of times last year. It is a rail-to-trail with lots of shade; part of the trail is asphalt, but most of it is crushed limestone.

St. Clair County Parks & Recreation Commission purchased the 12-mile abandoned railroad right-of-way from CSX in 1999 and converted it to this rail trail.

The Mill Creek Trestle is 640 feet long and 60 feet high built in the 1800’s.

We rode about 20 miles on a warm and humid day. After our ride, we drove over to Port Huron to see the Queen! At 1,013 feet, Paul R. Tregurtha is the “Queen of the Great Lakes”; a title she has held since she entered service in 1981. (The largest freighter on the Lakes) Here she is passing under the Blue Bay Bridge.

This American ship was launched in 1981 and has a beam of 105 feet. A crew of 23 on board and she has a capacity to carry 68,000 long tons (69,000 t) of Iron ore or 63,616 long tons (64,637 t) of coal. The Big Paul is so long, and so close, she doesn’t fit in the iPhone’s camera when she is front and center!

As big as these ships are, it’s amazing how little wake they create as they proceed at 9-10 knots. She’s carrying another load of coal to the power plant in St. Clair.

These freighters pass thru the Soo Locks to get to Lake Huron from Lake Superior. The Poe Lock is 1200 feet long and 110 feet wide and sees most of the commercial traffic; the MacArthur Lock is a little bit shorter and narrower at 800 feet long and 80 feet wide. Paul Tregurtha has only 5 feet to work with to fit in the Poe Lock! There are fourteen vessels that are restricted to the upper lakes because they are too large to travel through the Welland Canal (includes 8 80-foot-wide locks) that connects Lake Erie to the lowest lake, Lake Ontario.

While we were at the river, we saw a scuba diver in the water. He had been retrieving stuff from the river bottom over the past two summers – lots of sunglasses, electronic equipment, masks, snorkels, and fins. It was amazing how much he found!

He has a YouTube channel called Polka Dot Perch and will do a story about all the stuff he found in the river.

Tuesday morning, Linda posted the Marquette blog. After lunch, we headed back to Palmer Park to watch for freighters. Here is the CSL St. Laurent, built in 2014, she is 740 feet long and has a 78-foot beam.

The ship sports a mural depicting a Canada goose in flight, an unusual sight on a freighter! Read about The Sea Keeper mural here.

As The St. Laurent went upriver, the Baie Comeau was following her route! Another Canadian ship, built in 2013, she measures 738 feet long with a beam of 79 feet; about the same size, but the Baie Comeau is a Self-Discharging Bulk Carrier.

We walked along the boardwalk again and noticed some markers along the way, so we went to where they started. This boardwalk is where lots of folks come to watch the freighters, so it was a bonus to have these markers show just how long they are!

We found it ironic that there was a life ring right by the marker indicating the length of the Titanic!

There were several markers with names of ships, the year they were built and their length – the last one was for Paul R. Tregurtha.

Looking back to the starting point, just a few feet beyond the where the orange netting is, you can see how long these 2 ships are.

You can see the life ring and benches next to the Titanic marker.

We had one more ship to see before we left the river, and it was beginning to drizzle. Here is the Algoma Buffalo, built in 1978, this Canadian flagged ship is 635 feet long and 68 feet wide.

We had a special treat as she “saluted” us as she passed by! Captains use discretion about when they sound their horn – they have a lot to watch as they control their ship – and it can wake crew members; they will often salute family members and fans on shore – but you shouldn’t expect it to happen! This was the first time we had heard one!

Wednesday was Jim’s Birthday, and we went to the Franklin Cider Mill; Jim grew up just down the street from the Cider Mill on 14 Mile Road! (That house is hiding behind a LOT of trees, so we couldn’t get a photo.)

We enjoyed our visit the cider mill and had a cup of cider with some warm fresh donuts!

We drove around to see our former homes and places we remembered from our childhood – we both grew up in this area! Here is Linda’s former home, hiding behind some foliage…

The pine tree in the center of the cul-de-sac has gotten quite tall – Linda’s father used to put Christmas lights on it back in the 60’s!

We drove around Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham, passing by our old elementary schools – both buildings are still there but are no longer part of the Birmingham School District – but Linda’s Jr Hi building is now an elementary school. We both remember riding in the car down Maple into Birmingham and seeing this waterfall; we stopped by a park to look at it up close.

The water runs through Quarton Lake, down the waterfall and flows into the Rouge River.

We stopped by Costco and picked up Linda’s new glasses and went out for Birthday dinner at Marine City Fish Company. We were seated on the balcony and could see the St. Clair River, but no freighter traffic passed by. We both had the perch, and it was a delicious meal – no photos.

Friday was an interesting day; Ted was returning from London, and Chuck was flying to Manchester. They will be in the air at the same time! Linda’s brother had been in the UK, riding his bike from the southwest to the northeast in 18 days, riding 1,000 miles!

Ted (in red) with his fellow cyclists at the end of their ride

Chuck had been preparing to leave for the UK for over a month; clearing out his apartment and preparing to move for work in the Manchester office for the next year. His friends got together to say goodbye – for now!

Chuck in yellow – back row!

After we had lunch, we drove to Frankenmuth and met up with Nancy & Jan. When in Frankenmuth, Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland is a must see! The World’s largest Christmas store has been in business since 1945!

Outside there were two nearly life-size nativity scenes in front of the store.

Several banners were posted showing “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” in many languages.

Many Nativity sets for sale inside the store.

Ornaments were plentiful and so many different themes; snowmen, angels, movie themed, story book characters, butterflies, birds, dogs, cats, lots of other animals, you name it — even turtles!

Any Christmas decoration you want – they have it! Trees, garlands, light sets, figures, “yard art” – whatever!

Back outside again, there was Santa – and we said goodbye to Bronner’s.

We stopped in for a beer at Frankenmuth Brewery, Michigan’s Oldest Microbrewery!

We had a tasty family-style chicken dinner at Zehnder’s.

We didn’t get a photo of the food served a dinner – it was a lot! And ice cream for dessert!

Afterwards, Nancy got Jack out of her car, and we walked around Frankenmuth.

We went over the Covered Bridge – this one has a pedestrian walkway on both sides

The Bavarian Inn Lodge

We were hoping to see the glockenspiel, but it played at 6 and wouldn’t go again until 9, and we all had an hour or so to get back to where we were staying.

On Saturday, Jan & Nancy are attending a funeral for a friend, so we’ll meet up later in the day. We went up to Port Huron to see the Huron Lightship. A Lightship is basically a floating lighthouse that is anchored in an area where it is too deep, expensive, or impractical to construct a lighthouse. In 1925, there were ten lightships on the Great Lakes. Fifteen years later, only Huron remained. The Huron was stationed at Corsica Shoals for 36 of its 50 years of service. She was retired in 1970 and was basically replaced by a lighted buoy.

The ship is now a museum and had a lot to see and learn about lightships! Here’s a list of the “Last Lightships”.

There were several models of ships – made by Herman Chapman.

LIGHTSHIP #61, FIRST HURON, 1893-1920, By H Chapman

Here is a link to a 2-minute video on Facebook about the ship models!

Jim enjoyed looking at the engine room, here are the two 500 or 600 HP diesel engines that powered the ship. There were 2 compressors to run the foghorn – one as a spare. Lots to see in the engine room!  

Back outside again, we saw the “mushroom” anchor and a solar powered buoy like the one that floats in place of the Huron.

A couple of black squirrels were on the hill as we walked along the river.

We checked the Marine Traffic App and saw that a freighter was due momentarily to head down the St. Clair River – the CSL Tadoussac. Launched in 1969, she was the last freighter built for CSL with her bridge up in the ship’s bow.

She is 730 ft long with a beam of 75 feet.

The Thomas Edison Depot Museum is in the historic Fort Gratiot Depot, right by the Blue Water Bridge.

It was still open for another 45 minutes, so we went to take a look. Young Tom worked in this very depot.

 His family moved to Port Huron when Edison was seven years old.

Thomas Alva “Al” Edison, age 4
Thomas Alva Edison, age 10

Here’s young Al doing experiments in the basement and his mother has fixed him something to eat.

He sold goods, including a newspaper he published, on the train to Detroit and did experiments in a boxcar; what could go wrong?!

Al Edison, newsbutcher; he sold Detroit newspapers and began printing his own newspaper that focused on news of the train, its crew and passengers. He printed the Herald on a press in a baggage car, similar to the one outside this depot.

This boxcar was totally renovated to sit here at the museum – it was in bad shape!

Edison often came back to Port Huron; between job destinations, visiting his mother, helping his father buy a farm, his mother’s funeral, helped his brother launch a horse-drawn streetcar business, brings an early phonograph to his now ill brother, again for the brother’s funeral – then his father’s, and more visits.

Thomas Alva Edison

We left the museum just in time to see the Barge Ashtabula and Tug Defiance head downriver. This is an Articulated Tug Barge. Combined, they are 705 feet long with a beam of 78 feet with an average crew of 13 on board.

Both vessels were built in 1982, and the pair worked mostly on a route between Tampa Bay and the Lower Mississippi River, carrying phosphate westbound and coal was hauled eastbound for the power plants run by Tampa Electric. The barge ran aground several times in the Gulf of Mexico. Rand Logistics purchased the pair in 2011 and arrived in the Great Lakes in the Spring of 2012.

Another CSL freighter was heading down the river, the Baie St. Paul. Built in 2012, she is 740 ft long with a beam of 78 feet. The vessel has a crew of 15–18.

We checked the Marine Traffic App and saw that another ship was due in about 35 minutes, so we waited to see the Isadora. Registered in Cyprus, this bulk carrier was built in 1999 and is 656 feet long with a beam of 78 feet.

She is a “salty” as you can tell by the lifeboat pod on the back – the Great Lakes freighters do not have an escape pod like that!

We headed back to Acey – Nancy and Jan were going to join us for dinner! We fixed Salmon burgers with cole slaw and sweet potato fries with strawberry shortcake for dessert. We played a few rounds of Tri-ominos after dinner. Jack made himself at home on the couch!

He came to see what was going on too!

Jack is a Moyen Poodle; Moyen is the French word for the fourth size of Poodle in France; their size falls between the Miniature and Standard Poodle; Toy being the smallest size. (“Moyen” means medium in French) He liked to dance with Linda!

Sunday morning, we met Jan & Nancy in St. Clair and watched for traffic on the river.

Then came James R Barker; this freighter has a fun salute, but we were not fortunate enough to hear it! Thanks to YouTube, here it is! (starts at about 1:30)

The American bulk carrier was built in 1976 and is 1,004 feet long, 50 feet high and 105 feet wide.

After the Barker passed by, we walked down the boardwalk to the canal and saw the drawbridge go up – and back down again.

We had a delicious lunch at The Anchor Point Bistro and came back to the boardwalk to wait for another freighter to pass. Jack was glad to be out of the car again!

Soon the CSL Assiniboine was coming upriver. Sailing since 1977, this Canadian ship is 736 feet long and 75 feet wide.

The girls had to head out – so glad we got to spend some time together over the weekend!

Monday, we returned early to Palmer Park again to see more freighters – its “THE thing to do” in St. Clair! This statue is on perpetual watch at the riverside.

The G3 Marquis soon came downriver. This Canadian Bulk Carrier, built in 2014, is 740 feet long and has a beam of 78 feet. The ship was named in recognition of Marquis wheat, which is a high-quality variety of spring wheat.

Another “salty”!

Following close behind, just a few minutes later, the Queen was heading downriver toward us, and it began to rain.

The Paul R. Tregurtha makes frequent runs to St Clair, so we got to see her again!

Another sculpture by the park.

We picked up a carpet cleaner and headed back to Acey. Linda vacuumed the carpet and while Jim used the carpet cleaner, she finished the Mackinaw City blog and started on this one!

On Tuesday, we got caught up on laundry, ran errands and made some preparation for our move in the morning. Later in the afternoon, we went back into St. Clair to see more ships!

American Century, built in 1981, was originally named the Columbia Star after the brig Columbia that sailed through the St. Mary’s Falls Canal (now the Soo Locks) in August 1855 carrying the first load of iron ore (120 tons) that was shipped through the canal. American Steamship Company acquired the ship in 2006 and renamed her. American Century is 1,000 feet long and 105 feet wide and carries either iron ore or coal. She has a carrying capacity of 80,900 tons!

She saluted as she passed by; there was a little girl with her mother a bit further down the boardwalk waving at the ship, so that may have been the reason!

As she was nearly out of sight, going downriver, the Manitowoc was heading upriver. This US flagged ship was built in 1973, is 630 feet long and has a beam of 68 feet. She also saluted as she passed by!

It began to drizzle again, but another ship was on its way, so we waited!

As she headed upriver, she passed the Herbert C, Jackson coming downriver!

The Herbert C. Jackson, built in 1959 was converted to a self-unloader in 1975 and is 690 feet long with a beam of 75 feet.

Fun fact:  In Dec. 1970, she transported 57 12-foot Christmas trees destined for a national display in Washington, D.C. She transported the trees from Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota to Cleveland.

We saw 3 ships in 30 minutes with 2 salutes and saw 2 ships pass each other nearly in front of us; it was a good show! We headed back to Acey to have dinner and pack up for our move tomorrow. It’s been really nice to be parked in one place with full hook ups for 2 weeks! We will be making our way to Nashville, arriving on October7.


4 thoughts on “St. Clair, MI”

    1. It kind of seemed funny to get so interested in the ships, but they are so big and it’s fun to watch them go up and down the river. Something different to do! We’ll be in NAshville for Most of October and November – hope we can meet up!

  1. Your coverage of Edison reminds me of the book: Last Days of Night; all about the rivalry between Edison and Westinghouse. Have you read it? So many freighters passed in the time you were there. All bound for Ohio? Thanks for posting.

    1. Have not read Last Days of Night but it sounds like an interesting book! The ships have many destinations – Paul Tregurtha frequently brings coal just a bit further downriver to the power plant in St. Clair, other ships go to ports such as Quebec, Montreal, Picton (CA), Buffalo, Cleveland, Dearborn, Windsor or even overseas! You can look at the Marine Traffic App and see ships WORLDWIDE – where they are now, speed, flag, length and breadth, and where they are headed – you have to Google to find much more information than that. Really handy app!

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