Saint Joseph, Michigan
My friend Karen Syverson introduced me to this lovely place when we were returning from a meeting of the Wild Ones board in Midland, Michigan, hosted by the Flint River Chapter in 2008.
Saint Joseph is on the east side of Lake Michigan, and we were there in May, before the tourist season began. We toured the lake side and saw residents sweeping off the sand from the sidewalks, just as we do with snow. The hotels were full, so we had to sleep outside the city. We ate at a great little pizza restaurant right on the beach. There was a carousel, which was closed, and a train along the lakeshore.
In the summer of September 2018, my friend, Kristin Kauth, and I went to the Wild Ones Gibson Woods Chapter Annual Conference in Indiana where I was a speaker. I suggested a ride around the east side of the lake and that we take the ferry across the lake. I knew she was in agreement to go to Saint Joseph.
We stopped along the way to look at things and took a long walk by the lake shore. The Indiana Dunes State Park is a primitive place, just beautiful, with its historic landscape. This is where Henry Cowles, known as the “Father of Ecology,” noted that the dunes hold the opportunity to explore an exciting and ever-changing landscape.
Surrounded by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, there is a wonderful lake view, marvelous dunes and the historic Maher Beach House. All are wonderful to behold.
Then we were at Saint Joseph. We got to the city right about dark, so we checked into the hotel where we booked a suite – just perfect for me to check out the train while Kristin slept. It was three floors from the lobby and facing the beach. The train came alongside the hotel and parallel to the streets below – and the carousel was right beside it and directly across from Silver Beach Park. It was heaven.
We left again to explore the city. There was a walking plaza, with the streets closed to traffic. It was too late in the summer, so everything was closed, but we toured the Tiscornia Park, with the decommissioned Saint Joseph North Pier Lighthouse and the Coast Guard Station at Saint Joseph, which was established in 1876.
We returned to the hotel and freshened up for dinner. The dining room was so elegant. We had Old Fashioned rye whiskies (or two – they were so good!), and for dinner, Kristin had walleye and I had catfish. The Tiramisu was so, so decadent! After we returned to the room, I stayed up all night listening to the trains.
The perfect way to go home was the ferry. The S.S. Badger, the Lake Michigan Car Ferry, is a holdout from the vanished era of steam-powered passenger ships. In the boat’s intended role, it no longer carries loaded railroad freight cars, but it does carry tourists, their cars, trucks, and buses across the lake. The S.S. Badger ferry is so extra special.
Fort Madison, Iowa
Another item on my bucket list was the time I spent at The Kinsley Inn at Fort Madison, Iowa, on the Mississippi River, in October 2019. We had a room on the second floor of The Kinsley Inn, facing the Mississippi below, with a train coming alongside the hotel and parallel to the streets below.
We were heading out of the parking lot of The Kingsley Inn and right before my eyes were two trains passing in opposite directions. Notice the Mississippi River across the way.
In addition to viewing the barges and trains, I watched the two-story swing-bridge, with the upper tier for cars and trucks, and the lower tier for the railroad. The kicker is, I read all through the night and watched the trains for five days as they were traveling back and forth, up and down the Mississippi. It was a very special time!
Note the barge crossing the swing-bridge at Fort Madison, Iowa – with its two tiers – the lower tier for trains, with the car lanes up above.
This is a very long barge train going through the open swing-bridge at Fort Madison, Iowa. The four-engine train led by diesel engine No. 6656 crosses the lower tier of the swing-bridge before Fort Madison, Iowa, with the upper tier being for cars.