Making music outside-Charter Oak Park, Manchester, CT

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Entrance Sign to Park Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

It was a beautiful sunny day in Central Connecticut. Eileen was 10 weeks beyond her right hip surgery and two weeks beyond her left hip surgery. It was time to enjoy some fresh air and get outside! Because of COVID and Eileen’s struggling with high levels of chronic pain and mobility issues that lead to hip surgery we have found ourselves inside a lot until recently. We had an errand to run in Manchester and afterwards we were free.

“Hey Eileen do you remember the Harmony Music Park we went to a couple years ago?” I asked.

“Yes, the place with all the different xylophones!” she said

“Exactly, it’s not far from here according to the GPS, want to go?”

Rotary Pyramid Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

So, after plugging in the address to my phone GPS, off we went. The parking lot was a little more crowded on the right side, so we headed down left and found a spot right at the entrance to the harmony music park. Charter Oak park is in the town of Manchester, Connecticut. It is a really nice park that had its rebirth in 2017. It was 5 years in the making. There are of course bathrooms and further down soccer fields. The Charter Oak Greenway (bicycle path), also goes through the park. The park also includes tennis courts, basketball courts, a section with a nice children’s playground and separated by a beautiful picnic pavilion and a second playground but the second playground is super unique as it is a music playground. 

The Chimes Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

I stumbled across this concept a few years ago when I was researching Freenotes xylophones. The Rotary Club of Manchester financed the installation of the Rotary Music Garden. The garden consists of walking paths leading to 9 musical instrument stations. Along with a central patio area and multiple benches. Several of the instruments are double xylophones that allow two people to stand together and play (although not so much with COVID-19). There is also a set of really tall chimes that engulf you with sound as you play. Lastly there is a set of drums. Many of the xylophones appear they may be low enough for a wheelchair to pull up to.

Eileen playing Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Music gardens are the brainchild of Grammy award winning Richard Cooke starting back in 1995. Freenotes Harmony Parks is now a separate company from Freenotes, that makes percussion instruments. Eileen and I were first exposed to a Freenotes xylophones years ago at an Expressive Arts retreat we attended as part of a Women’s Writing Retreat. We fell in love with the simplicity of the instrument and its ability of allowing anyone to play beautiful music. So much so that I got Eileen one of the wing note xylophones. A couple of years ago while exploring the website I discovered the music garden section; I was so fascinated that I wanted to know about where these gardens were, and I discovered that one existed in Connecticut. 

Jelane playing Photo by Eileen McFerran

So, after a short walk, as Eileen continues to heal, short is the key word. We had a snack and then wandered the music garden. Taking turns playing the different xylophones, sometimes we played side-by-side other times we each were at a station. We had as much fun as the kids. My favorite is the huge chimes, when I stand next them and play, I can feel the music along with hear the music, it can be a total sensory experience (probably not so much with heavy winter clothes on). Plus, when we were just sitting in the sun on the benches it was great to see the little ones engaging with the instruments and making music, their excitement was contagious. I wish that every community would build a Harmony Park, we all need a little joy!

© Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen McFerran

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2020 Winter Solstice Photo Essay

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Bandana for 1st hike Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Traditionally this post has been mostly photos but this is an unusual year so this is a more wordy Photo Essay for Solstice. It has been in many ways the year that never was. We started out 2020 by going to a 1st day hike sponsored by New York State Parks, at Crown Point State Park in the Adirondacks  in Upstate New York. It was a fun morning walk where we learned about the birds in the area. A great way to start 2020.

For New Years resolutions we had decided we both were going to swim more and were excited to start swimming during the week at a local LA Fitness near where I work in Connecticut. We also planned to visit local museums in Connecticut and get to know the area more. In March we did so by visiting the Mark Twain House in Hartford, it was a great tour. We really enjoyed learning about the planned neighborhood where the Twain’s lived and learning more about his life. We even had plans to check out some of the writing workshops but of course that was all put on hold.

Mark Twain House Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

When COVID-19 struck my work moved to remote and we suddenly, like all of the US, found ourselves trying to figure out what that all meant. Eileen had found a new place for PT and was trying to get back her mobility but that all came to a full stop. She has committed herself to exercising each day and taught me stretches to help her so she would not totally lose what she had. This has continued to be a work in progress as she deals with chronic pain.

Our second bedroom became my office and teaching studio. Luckily I had run out to the Apple Store the day school closed and grabbed an Ipad as I would try teaching that night my first remote class. I was in the office at school in the morning and had begun to pack some things as there was an inkling we would at least be out a week. I grabbed a skelton of what I would need for the rest of the semester, just in case. Which ended up being a life saver. Since that day I have been on-campus three times.

Fall in MI along Rogue River bike trail. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Thankfully a few years earlier I had taken a class on the principles of online teaching. So I had some idea/confidence on how I might figure it all out. But it would be the first time and four classes at once (usually a teacher has a year of planning per class). The good news is video conferencing gave me hope. The rest of March through May is a blur in many ways as I worked long hours on end to figure out the technology and did class planning. June I did a lot of training to had to my knowledge. I worked to have my students get the most we could out of a bad situation. (It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. ~ Epictetus/Greek Philosopher). In the end I have been recognized by my students for my work both in the Spring and again this Fall.

We have walked pretty much everyday weather permitting. And over that time found several great little nature trails that I blogged about in the spring (3 walks in Central Connecticut Part 13 walks in Central Connecticut Part 2). Sometimes our walks have just in the complex. Each weekend I would try to find a new place to try or we would go back to our new haunts, just to have variety. Travel was very local.

Churchill pool, Eileen swimming. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Over the spring we made the decision to look for a new condo that was all on one floor since two steep flights of stairs were not working for Eileen. Our summer was spent buying , selling, and downsizing. We also took advantage of the local pool and swam as often as we could schedule a time block – they did an amazing job making it safe. The pool became a refuge and a way to feel normal in not normal summer. When possible, between me still working way beyond school year being done, we made a couple of trips to the Adirondacks. Again finding time in the woods and on the beach the most sense of normal in a new normal none of us wanted. Our little van took only day trips as camping the first part of the summer was restricted. Once the restrictions were sort of lifted we heard that most campgrounds were like the wild west so we stuck to our day trips.

COVID has also meant that I have done a lot of reading. I think I have read close to 50 books since COVID started, this is a record for me. I began with biographies but soon found I needed the escapism of fiction. I did read some non-fiction but my mainstay has been fiction especially on those nights when I was restless. It was a good way to unplug from my worries.

The rallies this summer for racial justice brought me hope. As a Diversity Educator for over 20 years, to see the mix of people marching and to hear what has seemed like more open discussions has made me feel like the work myself and others have been doing for a long time, might actually be having an impact. There is still much to be done and it will still remain to be seen what will come of the unrest, but I have hope.

Rockford Dam in Michigan. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The day after we moved into the condo in August, we made an emergency trip to Michigan. We spent the first 6 weeks of the school semester helping my Mom recover from a fall. I never thought I would be teaching out of my Mom’s basement family room but it was the gift of COVID that made it possible for us to be their to help Mom.

During all of this we saw a lot of signs that local areas used to express the need to mask up, social distance and wash your hands. The signs in the Adirondacks were the most fun!


This holiday season has also meant we have not gotten to do some of the fun things that break up the end of the year. We missed going to see the Gingerbread Houses at Wood Library that we have seen the last two years in South Windsor. But next year we look forward to that opportunity (2019 displays)

In many ways it is been a time for Sisu (a Finnish word we learned during our summer 2019 great bike adventure in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Sisu means in many ways grit, perseverance in adversity, sustained courage. Keep safe ~ wear a mask!

(c) 2020 Jelane A. Kennedy

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3 walks in Central Connecticut – COVID 19 Part 2

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Eileen walking – Fastrak Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The last couple weeks have marked phase three of opening in Connecticut. At this point it appears that the slow reopening has been keeping the virus manageable. We have seen the roads become busy again and more people out and about. But with all that we have also seen more recklessness, people not wearing masks and not keeping the 6 feet of social distance. Which worries us both. But on whole we have found most people especially in the Newington area to be very respectful and wearing masks.

But with this in mind we have continued to walk and try to keep to places where we have not felt overrun by people. This week we went to one of our favorite walks to only drive away. We went at a different time than we have in the past and found the parking lot crowded. We feel fortunate though that we could move on and that we have now gathered a bit of a repertoire. We have also been starting to bike again which has been really nice. Again, this year Eileen jokes that she rides so much better than she walks. Hopefully soon she will be able to get back to PT, recovering from the bicycle accident in July 2018 has been a larger challenge than either of us would have thought. We would also like to be back swimming, but our gym has no provisions for scheduling swims, so it is all haphazard.

Just a wish during COVID! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

In my last post I shared three walks that we discovered and again in this post I will add three more. First though I will start with one that had potential, but we have taken off the list. The walk was about five minutes away from where we are living. I found it on a map of Newington, but it actually belongs to Wethersfield. It is called 1860 Reservoir. It took a little bit of finesse to find the entrance to the area, what had attracted me was that it was marked as a starting point for the Heritage Way bike trail that winds through Wethersfield. The drive in was a mess, I was afraid that I would bottom out the car, we had to drive all the way in to the parking area to turn around. Once we got there, we saw a few folks fishing and found the little trail that goes part way around the reservoir. It was poorly maintained, lots of overgrowth and a tight foot path. The best part of the hike was seeing the swans with their cygnets floating on the reservoir. The big surprise were all the lovely homes around the water, we could see many folks had kayaks/canoes in their yards. Unfortunately, we will probably not go back again since it seemed so neglected. I think if you only want to fish it would be OK. We also have biked a section of the Heritage Trail which we did enjoy, but we won’t bother with trying to start or finish at the 1860 Reservoir.

The first on the list is that we discovered that CT Transit Fastrak  (that was created to aid in bringing folks into Hartford has a multi-use trail connected to it. The Fastrack is supposed to be like a lite rail system but instead of using trains, high efficiently buses are used to create the rapid transit system. Part of the Fastrack has section from Newington to New Britain has an integrated multi-use trail that follows along the Fastrack that opened in 2015. I had read about the multi-use trail when we first moved to the area but had not really investigated. The trail is separated from the roadway by a curb and a steel railing. The buses do zoom by, but it is actually very quiet. The couple of days we have gone, the buses swish along the road about every seven minutes, sometimes on the going to Hartford side and sometimes on the coming from Hartford side. The trail does go through an industrial park area which is not uncommon on many rails to trails. At one point we could also hear an Amtrak train running by but could not see the train because of the trees. We saw a number of wild flowers and heard a lot of birds. It was off and on shady. The trail is 10 feet wide with a split rail fence on the non-roadway side. It seems that not a lot of people use the trail, so we pretty much had it to ourselves. The trail runs five miles, so you can do a nice up and back. The area to park the car/truck was very accessible so it would also be a nice option for folks using wheelchairs. We have walked and ridden our bikes along this urban oasis. We can see ourselves taking advantage of this more in the future.

Next on the list is Dividend Pond Trail and Ruins, is in Rocky Hill. The trail is part of an old Mill area. The area was the first Industrial Park in Rocky Hill going way back to 1667. There are two mill ponds and a great waterfall. We have yet to find the four dams. But we have not walked the whole trail system. The trail system opened in 2012 for public use as a town park. Throughout the trail there are kiosks talking about what took place in the area and how this tract of land was used. I believe the signs may mark the 10 archaeological sites that are within the park. We have only done the Lower Pond trail and a bit of the upper pond trail, which I think is considered the part of the White Trail. It is a soft dirt trail with that varies in width. There are ups and downs along the trail that can be at times a bit tricky for Eileen to negotiate as she walks, and it requires more thought and carefulness than a flatter asphalt trail. It is not a trail that I would consider handicapped accessible. I loved seeing and hearing the waterfall and I found the kiosk very interesting. The day we went it was during the week and it was pretty quiet. I think it would be good on a hot day as there was a lot of tree cover. As Eileen gets more mobility, I think we will be back to visit (of course on a week day!).

The last trail I will mention is kind of a trail but not. So, I saw a sign off of the Berlin Turnpike and it had what looked like a boat launch. We decided to check it out. It took us to Silver Lake in Berlin, Connecticut. There is a small boat launch with a porta potty. Some decent parking. We have seen kayakers and fishing boats. I found a dead-end road that edges the area. I don’t think it gets used much by folks.  There is a gate that blocks off the lane when you get into the parking lot. The asphalt beyond the gate is in pretty good shape. The lane hugs the lake and there is usually a breeze, with some views of the lake. The lane abruptly ends as it intersects with the train tracks. The walk is probably about ¼ a mile in length, so when we do go, we usually walk up and down a couple of times. There is something about walking by the lake and seeing the wild flowers and the butterflies that is just refreshing. We also enjoy seeing the folks out on the lake. We have seen fancy fishing boats, inflatable kayaks and hard plastic kayaks playing in the water. We have talked about it would be fun to stop over and kayak at some point.

Be safe, get outside and enjoy nature in whatever way you can!

© 2020 Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen A. McFerran

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3 Walks in Central Connecticut – COVID 19 Part 1

By Jelane A. Kennedy

For the last nine weeks Eileen and I have been finding small walks around the condo in Connecticut where we have been under Stay Home Stay Safe during COVID 19. Often, we just walk around the complex and the neighborhood. Since we can no longer go to the gym to do our daily swim we had to find another option. Walking is still a big challenge for Eileen, without PT (because of the close down) and swimming she has been struggling through building up her capacity to walk. We have also been exploring places near by that take no more than 20 minutes to get to.

In this post I will share three places we have become part of are repertoire. I’ll start with Mill Pond in Newington, Connecticut.This is a walking trail that circles a small pond near the Town Hall and Library in downtown Newington. The trail is pretty flat and is made of asphalt, making it handicapped accessible. The trail is 4/10 of a mile.  When we first started this walking program as I was pivoting to teach classes online rather than in person, this was our first go to place. The park has overall good parking and is part of a bigger complex with a swimming pool and kids play area plus a big open space used often during the summer for concerts. We have yet to find the park overrun and people are very respectful of each other.

Because this is a short walk it was a good start for our walking program. Eileen started by doing a partial loop and stopping at one of the benches to take a break while I would do some extra loops. Right now on the average day Eileen is able to do two loops with me strolling with her. Then I head off doing more loops and she heads to the kids area to a garden to hang out.

Number two on our list is Dinosaur State Park in Rock Hill, Connecticut. We had visited the Park last year. You can read about the exhibits in my post: Tracking Dinosaurs in Rocky Hill, Connecticut!. When we visited last Spring, we found a set of nature trails. Some were being updated with new bridges and we had not been back to check out the progress until we wanted some walking variety. What is nice about this park is that usually it is pretty quiet with not too much human traffic at this point. Parking is ample and I can plug in the electric car for a charge.

Most of the new bridge construction has been completed and there are multiple trails to explore. So depending on how Eileen is doing we can create a variety of loops that can be flat or add some small hills. As the Spring has progressed we have been able to go from a pretty brown park to a park that slowly greening up! The trails are primarily dirt or mulch so it is not very handicap accessible. Currently only the trails are open, not the building that houses the educational center. We have yet to hike the whole set of trails but it has been fun to create walks of various lengths and toughness. Also there is a back up walking area nearby because of the the Veterans Cemetery, which has some nice loops.

Number three on our list is Pistol Creek in Berlin, Connecticut. The park can be found off of the Berlin Turnpike taking the light for Spruce Brook Road. It is a couple miles down the road on the right. From what we understand this was a golf course that has been transformed into a walking and biking park. The golf cart paths have been fairly well maintained and again providing a sturdy surface for Eileen because of the asphalt. But it is not fully flat, there are hills some steeper than others. There are a few benches and picnic tables spread out.

So far, we have explored a short loop near the recreation building (huge log cabin building with a very nice pavilion porch on the back, all during normal times available for rental) and then across the street and we have done one of the inner loops. It says that the loops make 2.3 miles of walking. But I think there is actual more, we can see several more trails that don’t show up on my trail map app.

We have not fully explored all the possible loops. But we have been creating a variety of options depending on how Eileen she is feeling. Because of the benches here and there they have made great resting areas that we use and many times I drop Eileen off, while I explore a little more and swing back to pick her up. There have been fields of dandelions, patches of trout lilies, flowering trees along with lots of birds (gold finches, red wing black bird, woodpeckers, etc.. It has been fun to see the landscape change as the weeks go by. Right now, the buttercups are showing up.

In my next blog I will add to our list of places to go! Get outside when you can, and stay safe!

Our first set of COVID-19 masks.

© 2020 Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran

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Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St. Ignace, Michigan – The most creative museum!

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Eileen out front of the Museum. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

If you are traveling to visit Mackinac Island, you owe it to yourself to make a stop over to visit St. Ignace and the Museum of Ojibwa Culture  The museum is a must see when traveling through the UP. One of the unique features of the museum is that it is both an inside and an outside museum. In making it so, I believe they have honored the scared relationship the Native peoples share with the land. You can start your visit in either place. We began our visit by going inside.

The museum structure itself was originally a Catholic Church. Then a community building, then after WW2 when a new roadway infrastructure was being added to the area it was in the way. The building was saved by the Knights of Columbus and moved to the present location. It is next to the Father Marquette Park and burial site . After some refurbishing the building became a civil war museum and finally the Museum of Ojibwa Culture.

Eileen reading about the Boarding School. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Medicine Man garden. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

This is a free museum. So donations are important to keep this wonderful gem available for all. When you first enter you arrive via the gift shop. There are beautiful items for sale from Native crafts people. The large open sanctuary space has been partitioned off into sections. There is a children’s interactive space for them to learn more about the clans through a coloring activity. This connects to a display of the clans that are outside.

Turtle clan educational sign. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

There is also a set of story boards that discuss the participation of Native persons in military service. Historically they have outpaced any group in the US for their participation. There is also a discussion of the unique ways in which they have served.

In another area there is historical information about boarding school movement that was developed by the federal government to strip Native peoples of their culture. They discuss one school in Harbor Springs, Michigan and the ways Native people have begun to heal.

Then there is a section of the museum that looks at examples the relationships of the three main rival groups with the French, British and Colonists. The French relationship was probably the least damaging. The fur traders appeared to develop cooperative relationships and many Frenchmen married Native women who worked with them in the fur business: French Catholic missionaries believed that they believed in a similar creator and looked to educate them more.

One of the most important things I learned was that the Native peoples from the UP were not moved to reservations out west. They did “sell” their lands but also negotiated not to be removed from the area. There was a lot of trickery on the part of the federal government but ultimately they kept their place in Michigan.

As you then move outside there is an award-winning graphic sign display educating about the clan system created by local tribal artists: The Anishinaabe Clan Park. There is also a long house built on the grounds, a drum circle structure and a teepee. Then there is a display of several sculptures depicting domestic life that are integrated into gardens that have native plants that would be used in a variety of ways in day to day living (i.e. sage, strawberries, etc.): The Anishinaabe Sculpture Park. Both parks were the work of Jen DeVos and Lisa Walker of Gogomain Art.I was really taken with the creativity and the way the symbolism was used – amazing artists!

Entrance to Fr. Marquette Park, Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The last outdoor space is the Father Marquette burial marker and garden that has a kiosk that discusses his relationship to the area. He also brought the Huron Native Americans with him as that fleed war with the Iroquois.

One of the things that struck Eileen and I the most about this museum experience was the creativity. The integration of both the in door and outdoor spaces we had not seen before. And the way they used the garden spaces that were so thoughtful.

It was so worth our time and the museum really pulled us in.

One of the things we really have appreciated about St. Ignace has been the hospitality. The town shows the pride they have. The gardens are beautiful and well maintained. The boardwalk along the water is a nice amenity that connects several parks. The area seems to have embraced being an area that welcomes visitors and it shows.

Hours: Open seasonally, open seven days a week: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (Memorial to June 30th) 9:00 am to 8:00 pm (July 1stto Labor Day); 10:00 am to 5:00 pm Labor Day to October 31st.

Location: 500 N. State St., St. Ignace, Michigan 49781

Free Parking in the back.

Grounds to the Museum with Long House and Teepee Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2020 By Jelane A. Kennedy



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Biking all day on Mackinac Island

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Map of the Island. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

“Let’s do it again!” suggested Eileen.

“Are you sure you’ve had enough of a break? This is our first big ride you’ve already done just over 8 miles around the island plus the ride down from the campground it will be 16 at least when we are done before ride back to the campsite?”

“Yes, it is such a nice day and after we got through the hoards of bikers at the start, it was so fun to ride around the island.”

“Sounds good to me, but let’s go the opposite direction of the crowd, this way we can stop at the kiosks and check out the displays”

The day started out cool and foggy, with a chance of rain in the air. Even so we decided to take our chances and spend the day on Mackinac Island on the edge of Lake Huron before the water transitions to Lake Michigan.

Eileen taking a break as we ride the Island. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Mackinac Island has the unique distinction of being the 2ndNational Park (1875) in the United States after Yellowstone (1872) but it was released back to the State of Michigan (1895). It may be the only such park in the United States. The Fort on the island was in service until 1895 and had been so for 115 years. Mackinac Island became Michigan’s first State Park.

No cars are allowed on the island so the only way to explore the island was by foot, horse, horse-drawn carriage or by bicycle. (There are some hidden cars on the island and we did see a garbage truck that had been tucked away heading to a barge). Automobiles were banned starting in 1898. The park works very hard to make it wheel chair accessible. When we were on our bikes riding around the perimeter road of the island we saw several electric wheel chairs tooling along!

View of lighthouse from the Island. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The roadway around the island was designated as M185, and it was 8.2 miles. But be aware, it all sounds quite quaint but this does not mean you don’t have to be careful – it can be mass chaos in the downtown area as bikes, horse-drawn carriages, and humans packed in tight quarters can be intense. Michigan does not have a bike helmet law but since living in other parts of the country where this was required I always carry helmets for us and we use them!

The downtown business area was very busy with: restaurants, fudge shops (fudge capital of the US), souvenir businesses and the visitor center. Once we got off the ferry that we took from St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula (UP for short) we headed for the Visitor center. It was possible to also take a ferry from the Lower Peninsula in Mackinaw City. The ferry we took was Shepler’s Ferry; they were friendly, efficient, and helpful. They have been in business for over 70 years and model their business practices after Disney World. (I actually lost my prescription sunglasses at the end of the day when we got hit with a huge rain storm coming back from the island, the next day we went back and they had found them.)

The Fort. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Surprisingly the visitor center was quite small. It did have restrooms and a few displays. There was a movie we watched for a while, it was long and there were not seats so standing for a long time is not good for Eileen or me. We listened as long as we could but then it was time to ride.

As we left the visitor center we could see the Fort out in front of us and you could see how it had been a strategic outpost during multiple times in US history and before. The Fort has Scout troops that help with the managing the tourists. The Boy Scouts first worked on the island and President Ford was one of the first Scouts during his adolescents to participate in what was then a new program. Later in the late 70’s the Girl Scouts petitioned to also be able to be part of the program on the island thus starting their tradition.

Kiosks with Native American cultural history. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Early Native American tribes saw the island as scared space and found it bountiful for fish. The road around the park has six stations/kiosks that mark the Native American cultural history of the Island. (This was a new feature for me around the Island; the kiosks were installed in 2016). They did a great job telling the Native American story and really added some valuable information. There has also been work being done to revamp the exhibits at the Biddle house, the oldest structure on the island, to reflect Agatha Biddle’s experience. She was a Native American/French Chief married to a fur trader from Philadelphia. We didn’t go since they have not finished yet.

Riding back going the opposite direction was really fun. We got to see the more of the houses up in the hills because of going in this direction. Along with the Grand Hotel (we had stopped by so I could show Eileen the large porch but unless you are staying there or going into eat you can no longer just sit on the porch or go into the lobby – bummer of a change in policy). We also stopped at the marker for the movie “Somewhere in Time”. (When I was a high school senior a friend, Jane Waldron, and I went to the Island for senior skip week and lucked into seeing them filming the movie. I got to meet Christopher Reeves, very briefly.)

The Grand Hotel Porch Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

When we circled back around we also got to see the arch rock formation. The first time around it was so crowded and there was nowhere to park the bikes. This time we coasted right in and got a spot since it was later in the day. Arch rock was made of limestone and sits on the Lake Huron side of the island. The limestone breccia of the arch is rare in the Great Lakes region.

It was so nice to also enjoy the flowers around the island. My favorite, are the lilac’s that were everywhere. You could see that it was just past peak blooming. Such a treat since in New York and Connecticut the lilacs go into bloom around mid-May so for it to be the end of June it was a second treat to have another season of lilacs!

We had a great day of biking and even the rain deluge at the end of the day didn’t spoil the fun we had. Of course next time I would not chose to visit the island so close to July 4th. What was I thinking?

© 2020 Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran

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Winter Solstice – Photo Essay 2019

By Jelane A. Kennedy

E-bikes to go. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

I decided to share photos this Solstice around the electric bike. I was a bit hesitant about getting an electric bike. First I thought it was “cheating” that it really would not be biking. Second I thought how heavy the bike would be and would I really be able to enjoy the bike because my bike mind said lighter bikes are what “real bikers” use. So you can see my bias!

This all started to change when I started reading the stories about what people said about their experience. How much joy they got out of riding! So many people wrote about feeling like being a kid again, and how they found their own fun side again. Many had not been on bikes since their teens. Folks also talked about how long they would ride and that they would be able to stay out riding for hours. So the more I read the more I decided it would be good to try out the electric bike especially for Eileen after her broken hip. The next part was to encourage Eileen to think about moving also to the idea of an electric bike, and giving up her 1970’s Schwinn. So after sending her to read some testimonials, her interest was peeked. After some research I discovered a couple of places near by in Connecticut for us to at least check out the prospects.

“So, Eileen, we can just see what they have, and learn more about the bikes.”

“Yes, I think that would be good but I know I’m really not ready to get on a bike again.”

20 minutes after listen to the bike mechanic discuss the bikes. He says “So are you ready to take a quick ride and see what they are all about?”

At the same moment:

“No” I say thinking I need to respect what Eileen had said before we left for the shop.

“Yes” Eileen pipes up.

So we hopped on the first e-bike and off we went around the parking lot and up the street to a little hill. The next time I saw Eileen’s face there was a big grin! This led us to two more shops over the next few days and ultimately we decided it was the right thing for us. The following pictures are from our new e-bike adventures.

Eileen in her new pink helmet on Mackinaw Island. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

I learned again that it’s OK to change things up and be open to new ways of doing old favorites. All Spring, Summer and Fall we looked for ways to get on our e-bikes and to be out in nature enjoying the breeze on our faces! My original thought was an e-bike would be good for Eileen, after our first ride I knew I would never keep up. And this summer I discovered that my bike enjoyment improved as my injury from 5 years ago had been limiting my bike time, now that is not the case.

May 2020 bring new adventures!

© 2019 Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran

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Visiting Gerald R. Ford, Jr. Presidential Library – Grand Rapids, MI

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Gerald Ford Museum Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Ford was a bridge builder and an honest guy who could not believe the dishonesty of others in powerful positions; he felt his role, as President during the tumultuous ‘70’s was to heal the country.

After we finished inside the museum we then walked out to see the burial site of both President Ford and Betty.  We then sat out at the fountain. I think for me I was surprised at how many of the energy and economic programs that I had always attributed to Jimmy Carter era were programs that started with Ford. I was also surprised with the support of education through the establishment Special Education programs throughout the United States, and that he and Betty were supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment for women along with being pro-choice. These are things that I nowadays don’t think about being connected to the Republican Party.

The burial site of Gerald and Betty Ford. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

As we sat out at the fountain:

“What did you think about the Museum Eileen?” I asked.

“I was surprised at all I learned and didn’t know. I do wish though that the Betty Ford section was bigger.”

“Me too. I think we don’t really understand what all The First Lady does, or can do. She was the unpaid partner and many times was doing some amazing work on her own.”

“She was one to not be always behind the scenes. Did you know she was she was a proponent of equal rights and rights for women in general like abortion?”

“I had no idea, and that she had been an accomplished dancer and later work with children and kids with disabilities.”

“Then there was her openness about breast cancer and her treatment when people didn’t talk about those subjects.”

“Yeah, and then after they left the White House, she was very open about her addiction and created the Betty Ford Clinic when women or anyone for that matter didn’t talk about substance abuse.”

“They were quite the couple. A lot more liberal than I expected.”

One of the exhibits in the museum. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

President Ford had the shortest Presidency for a President that did not die in office (895 days from August 9, 1974-January 20, 1977). He became President in a very unexpected way, and at the time had been considering retiring from public service. He served Michigan in the House of Representatives for 25 years. He had moved to the position of Minority Leader and had hoped when President Nixon was running for re-election that he would become House Leader after the election. Little did he know that in a few short months after Nixon’s second inauguration that he would become Vice-President (not through election but by appointment, after Spiro Agnew resigned), and within months become President of the United States of America again not through an election but because Nixon resigned under impeachment.

Visiting the Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan was on our list as we headed to Michigan this summer. When I was growing up in Michigan the Museum did not exist and did not open until 1981. I actually didn’t know Ford had a Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids until this last year when I first saw a list of all the Presidential Libraries. We had never really considered visiting the Presidential Libraries until after visiting the JFK library in Boston one summer. That was really the start of it all.

Ford’s Life Lessons. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

It appears that Ford is the only President that has a Museum in one location and a library in another (Ann Arbor, Michigan). The Ford’s Museum was in downtown Grand Rapids, we went on a Saturday, the traffic was light and we found easy parking near the building that sits along the Grand River. As we approached the building there was a large shooting fountain that grabbed out attention along with a garden and statue of his wife Betty Ford.

The museum was on the second floor of the building. The first floor had restrooms, gift shop and a conference room. As we began our tour we learned of his humble beginning. We were surprised to learn that he started his life not as Gerald R. Ford but as Lesley King. His parents divorced early after is birth and his mother made her way with him from Nebraska to Grand Rapids where he grew up. In 1935 he formally took the name Gerald R. Ford in honor of his stepfather although he was know as Ford junior early on.

When we planned this trip to the library we both had thought we would just be there for a short visit. We had not realized we would become pulled in by his story and what was happening during his Presidency. As a teenager during that time I have memories of Nixon’s impeachment and of the energy crisis.

During our visit I came to understand so much more about what a true leader he was. The economy was a mess, high inflation and high unemployment rate. The war in Vietnam was coming to an end. Nixon was impeached. The populace was distrustful and angry. What a way to start a new job! He thought his job was to help the country heal and many of his decisions seem to be made with that always on his mind.

The museum starts with a section on his early years, growing up and his schooling. We learned that he had been a Boy Scout and was one of the first honor guards to spend his summer on Mackinac Island. He earned the highest honor in Boy Scouts – Eagle Scout and has been the only President to be an Eagle Scout. Now both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have the same opportunity to serve at Mackinac Island. He later went onto the University of Michigan where he studied economics, history, business and political science. He was a star football player and Captain of the team. Then it was off to Yale where he worked full time as a football and boxing coach. Later he studied law on a part time basis while coaching. When he finished law school he returned to Michigan to practice.

Eileen looking over the Oval Office. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

One of the other exhibits we saw was a replica of the oval office and of the cabinet meeting room. Both spaces were very impressive. We had been watching the television series Madam Secretary just before we went to the museum.  So seeing these rooms in the series then seeing the replicas added a whole new context for me. The rooms were impressive and thinking about what happens in these spaces was awe-inspiring.

We also watched the film called “A time to heal: Gerald Ford’s America.” It really set the context for understanding what was happening and how he felt he needed to negotiate the rocky climate in the country. As I mentioned earlier that responsibility to consider what was best for the country not what was best for President Ford to get re-elected. He pardoned Nixon because he felt that there needed to be an end to the impeachment mess. This was a hard decision and he was given a lot flack for this decision.

I also really enjoyed the exhibit area dedicated to Betty Ford. I wish actually that she had a larger exhibit. I think that we underestimate and don’t really understand the work of the First Lady.

Ford had the job to build bridges and find a way to bring the country back together again. In many ways he and President Grant both had the job of leading when the country was getting through traumatic events. Ford was awarded John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage in 2001 for his pardon of Nixon, Senator Teddy Kennedy later stated though he originally opposed he now saw the wisdom, as did history.

Ford statue out at the fountain. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2019 Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran

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Fall Equinox Photo Essay 2019

By Jelane A. Kennedy

I decided that for this photo essay I would concentrate on the sunsets and sunrises that I enjoyed this summer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Most of these photos were taken at different locations on the Great Lakes around Michigan. Some were on Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan. And then there is Lake Superior. It is actually pretty amazing to think that we visited three of the Great Lakes from one land mass – the Upper Peninsula or the UP.

Starting with Lake Huron as a backdrop:

St. Ignace, Mi, Straits campground Lake Huron Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Then the point between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan – The Mackinaw Bridge!

Lake Michigan as the backdrop:

Finally Lake Superior as a backdrop:

Each morning we got up early and each night after dinner we would go for a walk or ride our bikes. As a small child I grew up in the Upper Peninsula and later we lived in the Lower Peninsula. When the sun was up, I was up and even now as an adult it was the same (drove my Mom crazy as a kid). Eileen joked that I was the engerizer bunny! Being up on Lake Superior, I enjoyed the cool breezes off the lake and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. For me there is something about the light and the smell of the air.

We also enjoyed walking in the water looking at the rocks (a bit too cold to swim!). Over the next few months I will share more of our adventures. We had a great time.  Going with the flow – we have some great summer memories as we move toward the winter months. It was great to see Eileen back on a bike, she continued to find electric biking easier than walking, but she continues to make progress. She is a trooper!

Travel on!

(c) Jelane A. Kennedy

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Hiking Heublein Tower, Simsbury, Connecticut

By Jelane A. Kennedy


Trailhead Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Heublein Tower is part of Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury, Connecticut. The hike to the tower is known for it being a short hike with a great view. We arrived on a nice Sunday morning. We had packed a lunch and were ready to see what sights we might find on this 1.25-mile hike. The description on the website had said there was a steep incline to start.

I was a bit worried if it might be too much for Eileen as she was 9 months into her recovery from a hip fracture and surgery to repair the fracture. She had kept making progress with her recovery. She had begun the process of re-training her brain to walk. Over the months, walking long distances had been a challenge, leaving her sore and uncomfortable. But of late her physical therapy work had been training her again to use her core to walk and not just her thigh muscles. So this would be a test to her progress over that last couple of weeks. In our choice of this hike one of the things that was encouraging was the description that indicated the trail included multiple benches along the way to be able to stop for a rest on the steep ascent.

Eileen taking a pit stop Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The trailhead was easy to find. Luckily we arrived early and found a nearby parking space. During our drive up we saw multiple signs that said no parking, which lead us to believe that this was a popular hike and that parking could be at a premium. So we were happy to snag a spot on a nice Sunday morning.

Once on the trail the steep incline began pretty quickly into the woods. The trail was wide; it looked like it had been a road. It though was not without rocks. I don’t think it would be consider a wheelchair accessible trail by any means.

The canopy overhead offered great shade as the hike progressed. We enjoyed looking at the trees and we saw some wild flowers. There were several benches spaced along the way providing rest stops up the incline. Eileen was a trooper and when needed we made a pit stop at one of the benches. We could always turn around if it got too much. About halfway up the trail it leveled off and we found ourselves on a ridgeline that looked out over the valley below to Simsbury. We followed this up to the tower. Now this was not your typical fire tower, this was actually a house! It looked very Bavarian. Like we had stepped out of a German landscape. The tower was 165 feet tall.

It is not just a tower but a house. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

We followed the trail to the visitor center in what had been the caretaker’s quarters. There we learned about the tower and how it came to be. This was the fifth tower to be built in this general location. It appears that people from the valley below enjoyed coming up in the summers for the view and a break from the valley heat. This particular tower was built for the wife of a German entrepreneur from Hartford, Gilbert Heublein. While hiking during their courtship he had promised his wife to be, to build her a tower summer home. It was constructed of cement, steel and rock. (Earlier wooden towers in the area had succumbed to fire). There also was some history about the caretakers and life up at the tower.

During the summer months the tower is open and hikers can climb through the tower and get a feel for what it was like to live there. When it was originally build it was the first residential building in the area to have an elevator (Otis to be exact). Between the time the park took over the building and it’s last owners, the building suffered vandalism.

Restored bedroom in the tower. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Over the years the Friends of Heublein Tower  have been restoring the building. The elevator was replaced with a double staircase, which allows for separate up and down staircases that travel to the sixth floor (observation deck/old ballroom). It is 120 steps to the top (Yes we made the walk up!). On the way up you have a chance to see the private sleeping quarters of Louise and Gilbert. Along with an area set aside showcasing the family businesses and ultimately ending up in the 6th floor ballroom with panoramic views of the valley below. One of Gilbert’s claims to fame is A-1 steak sauce.

The building also has a small gift shop area. The grounds include some gardens, and picnic areas along with a famous fire pit (you’ll have to visit to learn more about the fire pit!) We enjoyed the hike a lot and want to return during the Fall foliage to see the colors. Eileen looks forward to comparing the two hikes! Even on a cloudy day the view was worth it!

View out over the valley from front door. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2019 Jelane A. Kennedy

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