Last time I drove home from Michigan, I was with a friend; a friend who likes chocolate. So when we saw signs advertising The Chocolate Garden, we were intrigued. We got off the exit and headed down a country road. The place wasn’t too far off the highway, but the rural atmosphere of the location made us think we were in the wrong location.
Then we saw the house with the Chocolate Garden sign. So this time, knowing where I was going, I drove right to it. Also, there was a lot more activity on the road, with people picking fruit at the neighboring apple orchard.This isn’t just any chocolate shop – they only sell truffles (and a few home decor-type items). The truffles, however, are so good, they’ve been featured on Food Network, and the Chicago Tribune.
To discover which truffles you’d like to buy – for $2.99, they will allow you to taste test three different kinds. You read what’s in them and then list the three you’d like to try. So if you’re heading up #94 through Michigan, here’s another place to stop.
I knew before I left to travel north through Michigan earlier in the week, that I would have some extra time before meeting friends. So before I left, I checked out the web for some place I could hang out for awhile and take some pictures. I found the Historic Bridges County Park which highlighted — ahhh … historic bridges.
I knew it was off 94 near Battle Creek, but that’s all. My GPS led me down miles of bumpy roads greatly in need of repair. I thought about turning around, but kept thinking I had to come to the park behind the next bend or the next bend or maybe the next bend –
And then I was there – at a beautiful landscaped area next to the Kalamazoo River. The parking lot was full. People were there mostly to canoe and kayak down the river. The river itself was so clear, you could distinctly make out every rock on the bottom.
A boardwalk snaked off from the picnic area through fields of flowers and cattails. The afternoon was bright with sunshine enhancing the summer day.
I saw trails going back into the woods, but I stayed near the park area where four of the bridges were located.
If you’re traveling north on 94, and you want a place to hike, or picnic, or just sit and watch the lazy river go by, here’s your stop. And, I think there’s a playground area, too. I didn’t go in the restroom, but other reviewers say they are large and clean. I was glad I took the time to stop.
What do you do when the week has been hot and humid and suddenly you have a beautiful, breezy day before you?
You put aside the deadlines that are ticking and get in the car and head out for an adventure.
I had read about Graue Mill, but had not seen it and wasn’t sure what it was all about (other than a mill). Not super close, but not miles away, I went to discover a new place. (After all, I had done well with the Lizzadro Museum and the American Writers Museum – what could go wrong?)
The Graue Mill and Museum is in a park in Oak Brook. The mill is the only working water grist mill in the United States, in Illinois or maybe it’s one of only two in Illinois. Wait, the only working grist mill in the Chicago area. (Sorry, that’s what I’ve read in different places – so not sure what’s what not being super up on working mills.)- However, their brochure does say that they are listed on the Illinois HIstoric Mechanical Engineering Landmarks, the only gristmill so designated on a national or local level. So I do know that.
The mill was opened in 1852 by Frederik Graue, using water from nearby Salt Creek. One of the draws of the museum is that you can see the milling process in the process of milling … however, I did not see that. I’m sure it’s because I was there on a weekday and not that many people were around.. I did get an explanation of how it works. And I could’ve bought a bag of cornmeal or flour, but wasn’t sure I’d use it right away, so I didn’t. But it’s kind of great that you can.
The tour starts on the third floor where a lady explained the making-yarn-from-wool process which was very detailed and very interesting. I’ve seen demonstrations like this many times before, but she’s been doing it since 1992 (or something) and knew a lot of unique, informative details that I hadn’t heard before.
On the second floor, another lady showed me the loom which again, I’ve seen before, but the detail was interesting.
The basement of the building was an Underground Railroad stop. Hideaways would stay at the mill until it was safe, then they would leave by boat down the creek – a tributary on the Des Plaines River – and eventually make it to the Great Lakes and cross to safety in Canada.
Visting the mill costs a few dollars. The grounds are pretty and contain a bridge to get across the creek and to the other side of the road to Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center. For somewhere to go on a beautiful afternoon – I would recommend it.
We didn’t see any rattlesnakes as we were wandering through the park, but we did see a mule deer, and a mountain bluebird and a spotted towhee and a family of pigeons that lived inside one of the formations. We all laughed as we watched them crawl (wait, I don’t think pigeons crawl) out of the split in the rock – they just kept coming.
Anyhow, I think my favorite was the spotted towhee because as I was standing on the path taking pictures, a tiny little girl walked up and stood next to me. Quietly she watched me take pictures for awhile and then she turned to her father, “What’s she looking at, Dad?”
I told her there was a spotted towhee in the tree and her father lifted her up so she could see it. She reacted with quiet reverence. The dad then repeated the name to her and she giggled. Later the father asked me what another bird was – a pigeon/rock dove. (I didn’t even have to ask my brother to identify that one.) I don’t think the man was from the U.S. or maybe he just hadn’t been around a lot of birds, but he was friendly and inquisitive and his daughter was cute as she hopped along next to me waiting to see what other pictures I would take.
I’ve been gone for several days – was down in San Antonio doing a conference on Saturday and then took a couple extra days to hang around town with my brother (who went with me to the conference). As much as I fly, I still marvel at the quickness of air travel. I took this picture about eleven this morning at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens.