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Dinosaur Gardens

My family was lucky enough to get a chance to escape up to northern Michigan this summer. This gave me the opportunity to introduce my son to the land of dinosaurs, better known as Dinosaur Gardens.

You see, I visited there when I was only a little older than he. And I not only lived to tell the tale, but I left with proof.

Dinosaur Gardens

Dinosaur Gardens

I didn’t tell my 4 1/2 year old son where we were heading. I had visited the Dinosaur Gardens website, but I was still afraid that maybe they would be closed or something. Then, of course, he was asleep when we arrived. I groggily took him out of the car and, holding him lovingly to me, said, “Hey, look what is over there in the woods!” and pointed out the giant brontosaurus to him.

An immediate look of horror crossed his face. This is a little boy who actually likes scary things. (And making up stories. I am planning on him to be the next Stephen King.) But, well, apparently he doesn’t like them when he first wakes up.

We took him into the gift shop, where the sight of toy dinosaurs quickly woke him up.

But when we began down the path into the woods, M wouldn’t budge. He was afraid of the brontosaurus. Mind you, it did tower over even mom and dad, let alone him. With some gentle but firm coaxing, he entered the forest. But first he said, “This is very weird and ridiculous.”

I can't imagine why he could be scared...

I can’t imagine why he could be scared…

In time he became so comfortable, he even began to feed the creatures himself!

M feeding one of the animals.

M feeding one of the animals.

I had told my husband that my mom had brought me here 30 years ago. He asked me how she knew about it. My mother’s grandmother had a newspaper clipping she had saved about the extraordinary sculptures someone had made in Osseneke, Michigan. So, they had brought my mom (and most likely her older brother) up here once when she was a girl. I love that this roadside attraction, many of which thrived in the days of drive-ins in the 1950s but have since become extinct, continues to roar on for generations of my family.

Even my husband was charmed.

Even my husband was charmed.

I asked my son if he would bring his kids back to visit. He said that he would, and that I could come too.

I think it is amazing that this tourist attraction has survived for 80 years. And not only been maintained, but improved! There were two new exhibits that had been added in recent years. While we were there, we saw several concrete statues that had either been recently repainted, or had had their previous paint carefully removed and were primed for a new coat.

This was the only sick animal, and I thought it was very clever how they explained his illness.

This was the only sick animal, and I thought it was very clever how they explained his illness.

This is a great stop for everyone. If you like art and dinosaurs, you will love the statues and appreciate all the hard work that must have gone into them by the artist, Paul Domke. If you are a nature enthusiast, you will love the walk in the woods. If you like souvenirs, they have those too. (Personally, I like all four of those things.)



I love that all this was created from one man’s imagination gone wild. He stood on this piece of land and saw that the fabric of time was thin here, that others would be able to come after him and experience prehistoric times as he could, with a little help from his own hands. I love that he had a dream that most would call crazy, to build dinosaurs in northern Michigan’s harsh climate. But he did it. And it has endured for nearly a century.

Yes, I had to recreate the past.

Yes, I had to recreate the past.

That is all I am asking out of my writing career. That isn’t too much to ask for, right?

The End

The End

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
The Wind Could Blow a Bug – AVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It NEW RELEASE!

What I Learned This Week – 5/25/14

Posted on

This week I learned what it was like to lose a family member on the Titanic.

Not really. But a good attempt at a simulation.

Titanic 2nd class soup bowl

Titanic 2nd class souvenir soup bowl

See, my family and I headed down to the Imagination Station in Toledo, Ohio, to check out their Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. The Imagination Station is a hands-on science museum. We had never been before.

I am not a huge fan of all things Titanic, but I am as interested in one of the most famous shipwrecks in history as the next person. Although, I do own a book about the crash of the famous Great Lakes shipwreck, the Edmund Fitzgerald. But do not get me started on that horrible movie with Leonardo DiCraprio.

If you have a toddler, I recommend going straight into the Titanic Exhibit first, before they can see all the other colorful objects in the rest of the building that they can touch. I attempted this with my son. I was unsuccessful. M didn’t enjoy the exhibit as much as my husband and I did. Although he was quite fond of the gift shop at the end.

When we entered the exhibit, each one of us was given a card with the name and info of a passenger who traveled on the Titanic. At the end, we would get to see if we lived or died.

I got Mrs. Dickinson H. Bishop (Helen Walton) from Michigan. (Which is cool, because I live in Michigan.) I was 19, in 1st class, and returning from my extended honeymoon in Egypt, Italy, Spain, and France. I was also pregnant. I liked my chances of survival.

M was Mr. Charles Duane Williams, 51, a father traveling in 1st class with his tennis star son, who was Harvard-bound. His fate seemed less certain.

My poor husband got Mr. Frederick Joseph Goodwin, traveling 3rd class with his wife and six children. I didn’t really want to know how his voyage would end.

The exhibit started by showing you the accommodations 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class passengers would have enjoyed on the voyage. Some of it was quite opulent. Even while I was trying to convince my son how cool it was to look at objects that had been laying in the bottom of the ocean for 80 years (he remained unconvinced), they lulled you into how nice the trip “could” have been.

Then you rounded a corner in the exhibit, and the lighting changed. It was darker. Signs started to appear. They were the first messages received about icebergs ahead. In this day of prolific texting, seeing the warnings posted in black and white was haunting. Other signs told of how despite receiving these warnings, the Titanic continued ahead at almost full speed. The wreckage of the boat indicated that while they turned the boat, they never did decrease their speed. It made me cringe.

At this point, the museum had an iceberg you could touch, which was nice for my son, since the rest of the exhibit contained alarmed glass cases. That interested my son for a while. Then we came to the board that listed all the survivors and those who perished.

As I suspected, both Mr. and Mrs. Bishop survived. Makes me wonder if she continued to have a successful pregnancy. That would have been a REALLY young Titanic survivor.  It made me wonder so much that I Googled her. You can find out the answer here:

Mr. Charles Williams did not make it through, but his son did. At least the blood line and the family history could be carried on.  More details on how Charles died:

The Goodwin family perished. Every last one of them. The children ranged in age from 16 to 2 years of age. To drive the point home, there was even a picture of the family in the exhibit. They could afford to travel in 2nd class, but had traveled 3rd in order to have more money for their new life in America. To make matters worse, they had only been transferred to the Titanic because of a coal strike. Many other passengers found themselves aboard the Titanic for the same reason.  Interesting facts about the youngest Goodwin:

Man, The Universe REALLY wanted the Goodwin family gone. Their number was up. When it is your time, you can’t escape death.

The Goodwin family.  All perished on the Titanic. Photo: The Daily Mirror

The Goodwin family. All perished on the Titanic.
Photo: The Daily Mirror

I probably would have been more moved if my son hadn’t been throwing a mega-fit by then.

He was happy to look at the stuffed bears in the gift shop. I would have been a sucker and bought him one, as I can “bearly” resist plush myself, but my husband vetoed it. Second class soup bowls were on sale for just $5, so I had to get one. It is marked an “authentic replica” (Is that what they call an oxy-moron?) of the dishes used on the Titanic. It is quickly becoming my favorite dish. It is very versatile.

My husband on the high-wire bike at Imagination Station.  Yes, he is crazy.

My husband on the high-wire bike at Imagination Station. Yes, he is crazy.

My husband enjoyed the Imagination Station very much. I am easily frustrated by all things science. My son was frustrated by all the other kids cutting in front of him. M did better in the kid zone for toddlers. That said, if you ONLY have a toddler, as we do, it probably would not be worth the price of admission to visit. At least not until they were older.

M in the Kidz Zone

M in the Kidz Zone

I was happy to make it home, be off my feet, and use my new bowl;)

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