I was told by my asbestos friend, whose opinion on pizza I highly respect, that Pizza Junction in Huntington, Indiana was the best pizza ever. (She is the one who introduced me to Lena’s, afterall*.) She knew of it because she had attended Huntington College back in the day.
She has mentioned several times that Pizza Junction was the best pizza ever. I really wanted to test that theory, but I knew I would never go all that way without her. And when she made the pilgrimage, it was always a family affair.
I looked up Pizza Junction on Facebook, only to discover that it is named that because it located in an old train depot that still has railroad tracks next to it that used to be part of the Wabash line. There were even videos of a classic steam engine roaring by at high speed. Now, if you have stopped by this page very much at all, you will realize that my family is a little crazy about trains. Last year I redid my son’s room to look like a train station. M flipped when he saw the Pizza Junction videos.
My asbestos friend’s husband was out of town. So I snuck into her car and put in a cassette tape with hidden subliminal messages for her to take me to Pizza Junction.
What, you don’t believe me? She totally has a cassette player in her car.
Actually, I just sent her a suggestive text or two about how lovely it would be to go. So when the opportunity presented itself to us the very next day to accompany my asbestos friend and her brood to Indiana, we took her up on it.
The road trip was awesome, even being squeezed six into a car. We saw two Norfolk Southern trains go by as we ate in the station, and they were flying. The bruschetta was excellent. The pizza was great, but not quite as good as Lena’s, in my humble opinion. We explored a place called the Sunken Gardens, photos from which you will see below.
Sidenote: Last weekend a memorial was erected in our local cemetery to honor the long-ignored Italian immigrant victims of the 1901 Wabash crash just north of Seneca in Lenawee County, MI. Then my family went about figuring out about where the crash might have occurred. That track is now run by Norfolk Southern.
Some people were very happy to arrive at Sunken Gardens
I could have stayed here for a very long time…until it started to get cold.
FYI: The journey of 252 miles starts by back tracking to home.
If we could have traveled by train, we may have gotten to Pizza Junction quicker.
And consuming orange juice is like drinking sunshine.
*Expressing “afterall” as one word is a conscious, stylistic decision made by the blogger.
We are all just the sum of our stories, right? And while one person might see my stories as boring and insignificant, another might just find them relatable and moving. Certain childhood events stand out on the virtual timeline more than others.
The flood of 1981 in Riga, Michigan is one of those events in my life. The River Raisin crested in nearby Blissfield at a record 687.10 ft. (Flood stage is 683 ft.) It is actually a much cooler story from my mom’s point of view. After all, I was only five years old when all this happened. I just did as I was told, and followed my mom’s lead. [Only recently have I realized that she must have spent my entire youth faking strength. She should have been an actress.]
As my mom tells it, she was asleep on the couch in the living room. Our dog Ginger was fussing around in the middle of the night. My mom woke up and swore at the dog. She wasn’t in the mood to get up and let her out. Then my mom sniffed. The dog didn’t want to go out. She was reacting to the weird smell in the air. My mom got up and checked the basement. The weird smell was water flowing into the furnace. The rain combined with the spring thaw of snow was causing water to pour through cracks in the basement walls.
It is probably useful to mention at this point in my story, for those unaware of local history, that before Riga was settled in 1843, it was all swamp. The swamp was drained by digging deep ditches. Deep ditches remain there still, alongside country roads lined with open, flat fields. Too bad that the night the flood first hit, all those ditches were already filled with water. So was the River Raisin.
My mom did what was most logical to her at the time, and waded down into the basement in her nightgown to turn off the furnace. After all, that is an expensive piece of HVAC equipment to have to replace. A little later, as the water only continued to rise, she waded down again to turn off the electricity to the house. Only in retrospect would she realize how easily she could have been electrocuted, leaving a clueless, sleeping child to later find her floating, bloated body.
She called her mother, who lived in nearby Adrian, to come and get us. By this time, water surrounded our house and our car. This must have been when my mom woke me up, told me what was going on, and told me Gramma would be here shortly. I wondered how, in the time since I had gone to bed, our front yard had become a lake.At this point our house had no heat and no electricity. With no power, we had no well, meaning no drinking water, either. My mom opened the door so that I could look into the basement. By this time, the water had made it up to the top basement step. The basement had filled up with water to ground level. Where there used to be an entire flight of stairs, now there was just muddy, brown water.
Our flooded basement, Riga, MI, 1981
Things that are silly to remember about the flood, but they are what I remember because I was a kid:
1. As a kid, I didn’t have pajamas. I usually slept in just a T-shirt (and underpants, you sickos). Many of these were shirts my gramma had brought back from vacations as souvenirs for me. Maybe that was my mom’s way of treating them as second-class clothing. We called them my “sleep shirts.” They were kept separate from my other T-shirts, due to the fact that my mom said sleeping in them stretched the necks out. I never wore them during the day to leave the house. Ever.
Except for the first day of the flood. My mom just put my jeans, socks, shoes, and coat on me, and left on my sleep shirt. That is how I knew something very major and upsetting was happening.
Our flooded house, Riga Hwy, Riga, MI, 1981
When my gramma arrived, she stayed in the car at the road. It was still dark outside. My mom wore her winter boots as she carried our clothes and things out to the car through our front yard that was now a lake. Too bad that the water was higher than the tops of her boots. Next, she carried me out to the car. I was at the age where I still wanted her to pick me up, and she would always be like, “No, you are too heavy.” So, it could not have been easy for her. Finally, I sat in the car and watched as she carried the dog out. Ginger was some type of poodle mix. Guessing, she had to have been at least 45lbs. When my mom tells the story, she says how the whole way she was talking to Ginger, willing her to not twist and writhe and jump out of my mom’s arms and land kersplat into the water. But Ginger did not. She made it to the car.
We ended up sleeping at my gramma’s house for the next ten days: my mom on the couch, I on the loveseat. In my memory I was in kindergarten at the time, but there is no way I could have been at that age. Just one of the ways our memories play tricks on us.
US223 bridge at Blissfield, MI, 1981
My mom spent her days heading down to the house, while I stayed out of her way at my gramma’s. Instead, I was in my gramma’s way, cramping her style. My mom would come home at night with stories about how the main bridge through town was blocked by the cops because the flood waters were hitting the underside of the roadway, and how she begged them to let her through to work on her house. She had tales of the neighbors helping with sump pumps. She had to wait for the water to recede, then the furnace guy to come, then the electrician.
Flooded Park in Blissfield, MI, 1981
2. It was not lost on me, even then, that everyone had lived at my gramma’s house before, except me. I had seen the old 8mm home movies many times to prove it. My mom had grown up here. Ginger had lived her puppy years here. Even my dad who died before I was born lived there for a time when they were newlyweds. I was the odd man (girl?) out.
Flooded Riga Hwy, Riga, MI, 1981
3. It was the first time I would ever get one of those big PAAS Easter poster kits that came with markers to color. My mom bought me a steady stream of new activities to try to keep me out of my gramma’s hair. I got a puzzle featuring a little girl in a blue bonnet and a baby chick. I got a new huge activity book, which I still had not completed years later. But I always remember the PAAS posters the best.
See the railing for the foot bridge? That goes over Floodwood Creek. Ironic, isn’t it?
4. I remember being sick and watching Fridays starring Michael Richards and Melanie Chartoff with my mom on TV as I hacked away. Fridays was like SNL, but better and didn’t last nearly as long. I am positive it was the only time that particular program was ever watched on that television.
My mom always reminds me how my gramma came out of her bedroom and said, “Don’t you know you are keeping Gramma up?” And she wasn’t talking about the TV. She was referring to my loud coughing, which couldn’t be helped.
Flooded Park in Blissfield, Michigan, 1981
The River Raisin has risen many times since then, but never as high. My mom sold the house in Riga when I was 8 years old. I married into a family whose ancestral home sits on the flood plain of the very same river. Sometimes my in-laws have to be evacuated, and my husband and I are happy to be able to provide them refuge.
US223 bridge closed in Blissfield, MI, at River Raisin due to flooding, December 2011. I would let that hottie stay at my house!
Other parts of the country worry about earthquakes or lava or hurricanes. Those of us who reside on a former swamp worry about flooding.
And a little about tornadoes.
And there is more…
I wanted to post this entry in the spring, maybe on the anniversary of this big flood or at least during flooding season. But I was busy working on my new book, and it didn’t happen. But, well, I am not too late after all…
This is my mother-in-law’s shed behind her house yesterday, as it floats away. This yard was dry enough to mow at 1:00PM on Sunday. 24 hours later, this is what the family saw as they evacuated.
Flooding on Franklin St, Blissfield, MI, June 29, 2015
And here is video someone in Blissfield must have taken with a drone:
Looks impressive, huh? And will certainly cause lots of costly damage. But just imagine, it is still 1.2 ft lower than in 1981. I think the crest of 6/29/15 will be the second highest historical crest for the River Raisin at Blissfield since 2/20/1981.
Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books When You Least Expect It & The Wind Could Blow a Bug AVAILABLE NOW! (The Wind Could Blow a Bug is ON SALE for only $.99 for a limited time.)
This week I learned that every now and then it is good for my family to have a day outside in the fresh air spent with one another. I can remember only one disagreement, but that is just because we were hungry and thirsty.
I present pictures from the 2014 River Raisin Festival in Blissfield, Michigan. If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood on the second weekend in July, stop on by.
What is M watching so intently?
A giant tortoise, that’s what!
Trying to master the sack race. He is winning because he is the only one racing.
A pony ride always brings a smile to my boy’s face.
Getting dark. Fireworks begin.
“Boy, this girl sure is cute. Maybe I should scoot just a little closer to her. Closer…”
This week I learned that Crystal Bowersox is really nice. Last weekend I happened to be in Blissfield, Michigan (my hometown) for Railroad Days, and Crystal, whose hometown is Toledo, Ohio (very close proximity), happened to be dining at the same restaurant as my family. It was Lena’s Italian Restaurant. (Their pizza rocks. If you are ever in the neighborhood, check them out!)
Adrian & Blissfield Railroad, Railroad Days, Blissfield, MI
RAILROAD DAYS, you might ask? I know it sounds dorky, but if you are interested in trains, then it is not. I was raised by a mother that when she rode me around on the back of her bike, we would stop for the train and wave at the engineer. When we were riding around in the car out in the country, she would race to the tracks for the train.
NO, SHE WOULDN’T TRY TO CROSS THE TRACKS IN FRONT OF IT!
She would race up to the crossing, and then we would stop and watch the train go buy.
I do similar things for my 2 year old son, M, who is very interested in Thomas, and can identify most of the major parts of a steam engine.
Anyway, Miss Bowersox was eating with her family, including her son, who seemed very interested in my son. My family and her family chatted and she was nice enough to give me an autograph. I TOTALLY wanted to get a picture with her, especially since I had my brand new higher megapixel camera with me. But I was too chicken. (Check out my new page of Celebrities I have met, called When Stars Align.)
It was totally awesome that she was there, because, well, no one famous EVER comes to Blissfield. I think the last time was when Little Texas stopped at the Blissfield McDonald’s in the mid 90’s.
Crystal Bowersox Autograph, 4/20/13
I also learned this week that I am employable. I HAVE A JOB! It is only part-time, only pays half of what I used to make at my previous job, has no benefits, and is a further commute (by like 3 minutes). But, it is also only part-time, so maybe if my husband gets a full time job, I can still fit this job around his. And I don’t have to clean any bathrooms. And the button-down uniform shirt actually fits me better than my own button-down shirt I wear for interviews-go figure.
PARKER UPDATE: The Vet says he had good healing tissue, and she is no longer going to check his progress every week. We are putting prescription cream and aloe (alternating days) on his wound right now. After two times sewing up the wound (and it coming back apart both times), she is just going to let it grow back together on its own. Which means there is a big hole in his doggy armpit still, which I try not to look at. If we put a T-shirt on him, he can roam around the house (supervised) without his cone collar on.
Q. What do you call a Pointer wearing a cone collar and a major injury?
I live in a small town in Southeastern Michigan called Adrian. While it is small by New York, Chicago, Detroit standards, approximately 44,600 people live here and it is the county seat. So then, you would think, when they make major road construction plans that they would make sure there is still a way in and out of the city that isn’t blocked.
A map of Adrian showing the construction projects of 2012, as compiled by me.
Think again. Great government minds at work.
You also have to realize that there are small towns around Adrian that have no Walmart, Meijer, Lowes, or Spotted Cows. Hence, people come from far and wide (Blissfield, Riga, Deerfield, Palmyra) to go to Adrian (when they don’t feel like driving to Toledo or Ann Arbor).
Now, to get to Adrian from the East, you have to cross the River Raisin. The River Raisin is no ordinary river. Ripley’s Believe It or Not deemed it the most crooked river in the world. (Or so they tell students in the local high school science classes.) There are a limited number of bridges to cross the River Raisin from the East. (This is really inconvenient when the river floods and closes several of them.) The main crossing between Blissfield and Adrian and the most convenient is in Palmyra. Which is now a one lane bridge due to construction. It has been since, like, April. No end in the forseeable future. My brother-in-law even contacted the Michigan Department of Transportation via Facebook to ask if they would be finished soon. They only answered that they were on schedule. And that means our grandchildren will have a new bridge?
A map of Lenawee County showing all the 2012 construction projects, that I gathered myself.
Many locals take a road north of the Palmyra bridge construction to get into Adrian. Or they did. Until they started resurfacing that road, going so far as to close it completely some days.
This leaves only a southern detour to get to Blissfield, even involving a stretch of gravel road.
My asbestos friend, in utter frustration trying to reach the grocery store recently, texted me that Adrian must be quarantined, because it was almost impossible to get to it.
I laughed very hard and realized she was totally right. My husband doesn’t get it.
This summer’s construction has been really miserable and it isn’t anywhere near over as they begin new projects every day. IN OCTOBER!!!!!
We have 2 seasons in Michigan–Winter and Construction. Winter is here. It is time for Construction to END!
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