Bill Moor's Journal on visiting Bay City, Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland, Frankenmuth, Dow Gardens and more

By Charlie | November, 27, 2013

(Bill Moor hosted the Tall Ships group travel trip for Edgerton's this past is his Journal from the trip)

Thursday, July 11 -- Ahoy, mates. Eighteen of us – including tour manager Deni Worthen and bus driver Randy West – made up our hearty crew as we headed toward Bay City, Michigan for the Edgerton’s Travel Service Tall Ships Tour.              

On our ride up, we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little better and found out that seven in our group were teachers – with Marie Roose still at it as a first grade teacher in Elkhart. It also was good to know that we had a nurse on board in Ruby Seymour. Fortunately, nobody got sick – or homesick – on this great adventure.      

Nobody got seasick, either, when we went out on the Tall Ship Appledore. But more about that later. First, we arrived in Bay City in time to see the arrival of many of the ships as they fired their cannons while they sailed down the Saginaw River. Drawbridges were hoisted and cameras were clicked at this majestic event. Some of us stood just a few feet away as the ships, masts flapping in the breeze, docked in smooth fashion.  

Did anyone else feel a little like Long John Silver?

Those in our group who were particularly excited about the ships were Louann Yeater, who has been contemplating going on a multi-day sailboat trip, and Camille Smith, who makes her own beautiful models of ships.  

After admiring the Tall Ships, we headed for an afternoon at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland where you can buy just about anything that boasts a Christmas theme. Although some people thought the blue ‘C’ on my red baseball cap was for the Cubs, it was really my Christmas hat I donned to get in the holiday spirit.       

More than a few in our group were filling up shopping carts of gifts – including Bob and Linda Horvath, longtime Edgerton travelers.

After our gift getting, we headed to downtown Frankenmuth, the prettiest little town you will find anywhere, and made our own pretzels at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. Did anybody get a picture of Ed Cenkush wearing his hairnet? I’m sure that would be a big hit on the bulletin board at his place of employment, Indiana Carton Company in Bremen, where he met his wife Frances.  

We later did a little wine tasting before dining on a great family style German meal at the Bavarian Inn. How come nobody was passing me more mashed potatoes?     

Then if was off to the Bay Valley Resort, our home for the next three nights, after our very full day finished off with very full stomachs.  

Friday, July 12 – We were up early and back to the Bay City docks where we could tour the Tall Ships an hour before the general public got the chance. How neat were these ships? My favorite was the Sorlandet, a Norwegian-built ship almost 200 feet long.  

It was great to go below deck and see the crew’s quarters. Many of the crew members were students working as trainees for the summer and apparently enjoying every minute of it. They shared some of their stories with us.

And how amazing was it to see some of them unfurling the sails almost 100 feet in the air. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate high?   Deni bought a T-shirt that paid homage to the all-female crew of the Unicorn, another spiffy looking member of the Tall Ships. The Unicorn is called a floating platform for a leadership program designed exclusively for teenage girls. You obviously don’t have to be a man to be a mate on one of these boats. And did you notice that a Tall Ships is referred to as “she” anyway?  

After hours of enjoying all the ships, we could explore downtown Bay City before boarding our bus and taking the “Center Avenue “ tour of Bay City. We gazed at some very beautiful homes that were built when the lumber industry made this a bustling town. The Dows of nearby Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan, also left their architectural footprints on this town.  

Then it was what we had all been waiting for – setting sail on the Appledore out in the Saginaw Bay. Our “three-hour tour” was nothing like Gilligan’s. We had a great time. Some of us even had the opportunity to “jib the sails” as they say in sailor’s terms.  

Drawbridges opened just for us and we passed by a freighter that was nearly 1,000 feet long. We even ate our dinner on board although that proved a little tricky at times out in the wind.    

When we returned, you could hardly call any of us landlubbers.

Saturday, July 13 – We were able to enjoy the Tall Ships one more time before heading off to a tour of the Alden B. Dow Home & Studio, an architectural delight in nearby Midland. Alden Dow was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and you can certainly see the similarities when touring Dow’s former home and workplace.      

The pond on three sides of the house was magical. Dennis Seymour, a model train buff, was enamored by Dow’s collection, including the train that circled part of the house while we took our tour.    

The nearby Dow Gardens were next with its beautiful flowers and trees, works of sculpture and winding brooks. It is a popular place for weddings and we almost walked right into the middle of one ceremony. In the gift shop, Frances Cenkush bought a sun hat almost as big as she is.       

Jack Brainard used a little scooter to maneuver through the 110-acre Dow Gardens. He was quite the zoomer on it. He and his wife Dortha, still as pretty as any of the flowers we saw, have been married for 63 years. They also went to Alaska with me a couple of years ago and are delightful traveling companions.        

For dinner, we ate on the stage at the Temple Theatre in Saginaw, renovated back to its grandeur of 1927 – the year of its grand opening. And how about that organ recital we received?  

Speaking of music, we all were reminded that Madonna was born in Bay City. But we had our own group of sweet music makers as Ruby Seymour entertained us with ballads and ditties. She was later was joined by Marie Roose and they made a dynamic duo.          

If we could have fit instruments on the bus, we would have had a grand time since Everett and Camille Smith are both musicians and former music teachers. Jack Brainard was a band director for the Elkhart schools and his wife Dortha taught piano.             

One thing for certain: After our third day of traveling as a close-knit group, nobody was singing the blues.  

Sunday, July 14 – We left the Bay City area in our rearview mirror but not without a lot of fond memories. We were heading for Greenfield Village that was created by Henry Ford in his hometown of Dearborn.        

We did a lot of walking there. Larry Kegerreis was an old hand at that since he was a postal worker for 37 years with a lot of his time spent walking the routes as a friendly mail carrier.         

Larry often had his harem with him. That included his wife Mary Jane and fellow travelers Doris Vining and Louann Yeater. They had met on other vacation trips and became fast friends, often traveling together.        

Doris is a farm girl, who used to get up with the chickens, and she made traveling with her fun from sun-up to sundown. She’s from Etna Green, one of the coolest names I know for a town             

The Ragtime Street Fair was going on when we arrived at Greenfield Village and there were many great performances out in this make-believe town of an earlier time. I enjoyed visiting such spots as the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop, Thomas Edison’s laboratory and Noah Webster’s home where he penned the first dictionary. Many of the settings were part of the original structures.           

I also watched a baseball game that started after Teddy Roosevelt threw out the first pitch. The players fielded without gloves and to be honest, I think our group could have beaten the team dressed in blue. The game always came to an abrupt halt when Greenfield’s Weiser Railroad steam locomotive skirted the outfield and drew vigorous waves from both the players and spectators.             

Talking about transportation, I happened to see our bus driver, Randy West, being chauffeured around in a Model-T. I guess he was getting tired of doing all the driving himself.        

I actually had tea and scones at cute little Cotswold Cottage. These Edgerton trips are apparently making me quite civilized.

At the end of the day – one that turned hot and humid – we enjoyed a fantastic meal at the Dearborn Inn. What a nice place to lay our heads.           

Oh, yeah, we celebrated Everett Smith’s birthday. He was smiling ear to ear when his piece of cake arrived.  

Monday, July 15 – It was our trip’s last day but a busy day. We started out at the Henry Ford Museum.  I especially liked all the cars, including the Presidential limousines that were on display.  

Of course, Dennis Seymour was over looking at the locomotives, especially the 125-foot long Allegheny steam locomotive that could pull 160 loaded coal cars. Bob Horvath was pulling his wife Linda over to look at and old Ford pickup. He had restored his own truck, the very same model, several years ago.  

Personally, I was more interested in the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. Now that is one cool mode of transportation.  

We bid good-bye to the museum and headed for Jackson where we listened to a lecture and watched a film presentation on the history of the Jackson Correctional Facility. Then we actually had the opportunity to eat lunch at the prison in the now empty Cell Block 7.   We saw the prison cell where Jack Kevorkian -- Dr. Death -- spent his final years, learned of a helicopter escape from the prison and found out about two major movies filmed in this very cell block.  

Then a few of us – including Ed and Frances Cenkush – walked up on the narrow aisle outside of the cells on the fourth level. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted up there as I hung onto the bars as we shuffled down the aisle.  

As we headed home, we watched the British warship movie “Master and Commander, The Other Side of the World” starring Russell Crowe. It reminded us of our own voyage out on the Saginaw River.   What a nice trip – and great traveling companions. We’ll have to do that again sometime – by land or sea.   

- Bill Moor, Edgerton's group travel host

Bill worked for the South Bend Tribune for 38 years. He still writes a popular column in their Sunday edition. He hosts several group trips each year for Edgerton's. If you would like information on future group trips to see the Tall Ships, contact your local Edgerton's office

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