Friday, June 26, 2015

Ludington - A Childhood Destination

Last week I took a day trip to a favorite family destination from my childhood - Ludington, MI. My dad, mom, grandmother, and I use to drive up there every summer. My dad behind the wheel of my grandma's mint green, big as a boat, Chevy Impala. We would have packed a picnic for the day, filling it with homemade goodness or stopped for the fast food alternative, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Fast food was still a novelty back in the early 1970's so a picnic in the park with KFC was a real treat. The destination for our picnic was always the city park.

Very little has changed at this park since my childhood days, which I must confess brings me great comfort. The playground still has almost all the same equipment as when I was a kid.

Although the skate park is new within the last decade.

I arrived at the park about quarter to nine, so a little early for a picnic lunch. My first destination was the lighthouse whose pier is located right off the beach at the park.

I haven't walked out to the lighthouse since our daughter was a toddler, and she is twenty-one now, the walk was long overdue. The walk out there was a little windy and chilly, but worth it for the blue sky, the deep blue water and the stunning white lighthouse.

After the park, I drove to the downtown area to begin my walk down memory lane. I am still loving the "walking to discover" concept. I see so many more things than I would if I was driving around.

Many of the streets that I explored I had never been down before, but by taking the time to walk and explore, I found a treasure trove of photographic delights.

If I can find one empty, abandoned looking building per adventure, the whole trip was more than worth while, even if I don't get any other good shots for the day. I found this abandoned gas station a couple streets south of the main street. I never knew it was here...but now I do.

Around the back of the gas station was this grundy overhead service door. Chippy paint love!

This was the door to the left of the big overhead door in the photo above, more wonderful chippy paint and some worn, rusty lettering, double love!

I am still taking the self-portraiture class, so anywhere I find an opportunity to include myself in the frame, all the better. This window was on the back side of the gas station, lovely, unbroken glass panes in a rusty metal grid work frame.

I finally had to tear myself away from all that chippy paint and decay. I continued on with my walk.

Vintage sign love! This town is full of them.

This use to be the most adorable shop filled with cheap souvenirs, I use to get something every summer. A white leather, beaded drawstring purse with the words Ludington in shiny gold lettering stamped on it. A wooden tomahawk with a leather sheath. One year an Indian Chief's huge, feathery headdress. The quality of cheap souvenirs was so much better back in that era, before the introduction of plastic.

This Barber Shop was down some basement steps right on the main street. I never even knew it was there.

The sign for the Stearns Motor Inn is exactly the same as when I was a kid. This sign always greeted us coming into town and it was the last thing I saw leaving town. The Tiki Lounge intrigued me, it made me think of Hawaii Five O, a television series that was on in the 1970's and always came on after I was suppose to be in bed, but a trip to the bathroom could get me a few minutes of viewing. I would stand in the doorway of the bathroom and I had a perfect view of the television, this lasted until a commercial and my parents would catch me watching.

By this time, the sun was getting high in the sky, making photo taking a challenge, so I sought out a deli where I could get a sandwich or a wrap to take back to the city park with me for a picnic.

It wasn't quite the same as my childhood picnics.

On the way out of town I stopped to get a photo of this sign.

Of course, I had to follow the arrow and see if the motel was as cute as the sign.

If I had been braver, I would have walked up to the manager's office and asked if I could take some photos of the charming outside, but I think my brave had been all used up for the day. Maybe next time I will still have some brave left in me.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Kalamazoo - Urban Explore

Does Google Maps know the personality of the owner of the phone it is running the app. on? Does it look at the photos in the owner's camera roll and see this...

and instantly know that she would much prefer to travel a road like this...

Now if Google Maps was to look at my husband's camera roll it would see this...

Yes, that would be nothing. Google would know that he is definitely a destination person and it should get him there as fast as possible. Yet when we travel we usually use the Google Maps on my phone, and it always has us taking the back country roads way into our destination. I know it drives him crazy, but it makes me so happy.

I went urban exploring this week, but Google Maps was still kind enough to take me there via a few backroads.

I have just finished this book, The Idle Traveller - The Art of Slow Travel by Dan Kieran.

The author is a big fan of the slower modes of travel; train, car, bus. Transportation that will let you see the country. In particular he likes walking, you can't get much slower than that. I had already thought about doing more walking adventures before I read the book, but reading it completely convinced me. 

For my first adventure I chose the city of Kalamazoo, MI. Kalamazoo is a little over an hour from my house, depending if you take the expressway, or the backroads. Backroads, add another half hour, only because there are things to stop and photograph along the way. 

Thanks to Goggle Maps I drove into the city without a hitch. All the streets have parking meters, so instead of being tied to coming back to the meter every hour, I chose a parking lot in the Haymarket Historic District, received my parking ticket from the delightful parking assistant, who kindly pointed out that I could dispense the ticket myself from the machine just by pushing the button marked TICKET. Feeling slightly dumb after that, I found an empty spot far from her booth to call mine for the next few hours. 

 I grabbed my gear from the backseat; small daypack with wallet, tissues, hand sanitizer, tripod for iPhone and remote shutter release for iPhone. I also threw in the latest Bella Grace Magazine to read at lunch. I have no problem eating lunch alone, as long as, I have something to read. I also slung my Canon dslr across me with the wide angle 17-55mm f/2.8 lens on it. Such a great all purpose lens. Geared up, I set off.

My first destination was the train station.

The original depot was built in 1887 by the Central Michigan Railroad, replacing an earlier structure. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. The inside is filled with gorgeous vintage details, there were too many people to get photos though, without being completely obvious. I still like to keep a low profile in places like that. No need to draw attention.

After leaving the train station, I noticed this building across the street, such lovely detail and those windows, be still my heart.

Kalamazoo abounds with beautiful old buildings like this, all the easier to stop and appreciate if you are doing a walking tour of the downtown.

I saw this mural on the back of one of the downtown buildings and it reminded me that there were a couple of highly praised coffee shops in the area that I wanted to scout out.

On the way to the first coffee shop I got distracted by this though...

I felt that excited, fluttering feeling inside me the second I laid eyes on it. An empty, for sale warehouse on the edge of downtown with outstanding grunge factor. I will come back here on an overcast day, more photos need to be taken. I was limited to where I could stand and what I could include due to bright sunshine.

I was reluctant to leave the warehouse but the sun was only getting higher in the sky and I was starting to feel some hunger pains, breakfast had long worn off. As I looked around I realized I knew exactly where I was, having been over here on a brief explore last fall. The desired coffee shop should be just on the other side of this warehouse. Granted I had to walk back around the block to get there, but I was right.

Water Street Coffee Joint, the place was quaintly adorable. I was so happy to secure a table by the windows, natural window light is a photographer's best friend. Lunch of a Prosciutto Panini and a coke was delightful.

After lunch, I set off to explore the Architectural Salvage store I had seen earlier in the morning, but it hadn't been open yet. These places don't open until 11 a.m., so no need to be an early bird, or you can go to the Coffee Shop first.

A bounty of treasures lived here. I want to go back someday when I have more time and when I am not carrying my big DSLR around, having to be careful not to bang it on anything. 

After the salvage store and the antique store next to it, I set off to wander more of the main downtown area. I wandered for blocks but always kept my starting point fixed in my mind. If I did get lost, I did have Google Maps to get me back to the car since I knew where I parked. 

I was starting to get thirsty again, so I happened to notice another coffee shop on the way to a block long park. Coffee shops are like a magnet to me, so in I went. Since it was pleasantly warm out, I decided on an iced latte (my first ever) Vanilla and Brown Sugar. It was delightful! 

Iced latte in hand, I set off for the park. I noticed as I got closer that churches pretty much lined the perimeter of the park. Beautiful old church buildings made of stone, with huge, detail rich wooden doors. I noticed one church that had huge, red wooden doors and front steps that were in full shade. A perfect spot to set up my iPhone on it's tripod and take some self-portraits for the photography class I was taking at the moment. A momentous occasion, me drinking my first iced latte. 

Of course, nothing in life is that simple. I noticed a lady sitting in her car at the curb watching me. I didn't think too much of it, doing self-portraiture tends to gain some attention. I got the focus set on my iced latte and then positioned myself just beyond it. Just as I pressed my remote shutter release, two of the enormous red, wooden doors of the church swung open and stayed open. I tried to act casual and carry on with my photo session. Then the lady that had been sitting in the car got out and came up the steps, giving me a questionable glance as she walked past. I still act casual and carry on. After getting some shots I stand up to go check my phone to see how they have turned out. I glance up at the open church doors and see that people are gathering for a funeral. I decide it would be best to move on before more people start showing up, as I took my phone off the tripod mount it slipped out of my grasp and tumbled down the steps, an "oh s**t" may have inadvertenly escaped my lips. Needless to say I quickly gathered up my gear and scurried away.

I did find some more awesome church doors, but this time I refrained from taking any selfies.

After finishing wandering around church square it was time to set off for the car. Scout was at the groomer's getting a bath and haircut, and it was time to go pick him up. 

I loved wandering the city on foot. I felt like I really saw things and enjoyed them traveling at a slower pace, and I never felt lost, but I do feel like I know the city a lot better now.