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Railfanning

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I first discovered this word a year ago, but I have actually been doing it all my life. It is kind of like when I discovered the word shipper.

All my life whenever I am near railroad tracks I hope that a train will come along so that I can watch it go by. It seldom happens. Unless you work for the railroad, you don’t have anyway to know when a train will arrive. I love to listen to the cars as they thunder by, their couplings creaking with each variance in the track. I was fortunate enough to live near railroad tracks for half my life. But it was not a busy track.

This, my friends, is not a problem in Fostoria, Ohio. It is known as the Iron Triangle because so many trains (around 200 per day, I have been told) travel through the city. Fostoria has built a great rail park within the triangle where you can just sit and watch the trains go by. I was really impressed with the facility. There was a small roof for shade/rain protection, speakers that played the latest scanner communications, and a very well-kept bathroom. We must have seen about ten trains pass by in the few hours we were there.

Here is a new video I uploaded on my YouTube channel of a Norfolk Southern double-header passing by.

If steam engines (and possibly ones from the island of Sodor) are more your thing, watch this video of mine that already has over 2,900 views. And please like or subscribe or whatever it is people do over there on the ‘Tube. I am old. I can’t keep up with the young whippersnappers anymore.

From the broken mind of Jennifer Friess, the joining of hearts & souls…
NOW AVAILABLE! Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

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What I Learned This Week – 10/2/16

This week I learned that Lena’s Italian Restaurant in Blissfield, Michigan still has the best pizza I have ever eaten.

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

Some people were very happy to arrive at Sunken Gardens

I could have stayed her for a very long time...until it started to get cold.

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.

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.

 

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Ghost Trestle Letdown

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I tried to be like Scooby-Doo and his gang this weekend and solve a ghostly mystery, but no such luck.

A few years ago, courtesy of Facebook, I learned of a spot near Adrian known as the Ghost Trestle. I am all for anything related to trains, so I printed out the directions how to get there. And stuffed them in my desk. And a year or two later, I actually got around to finding the spot. It is a very creepy spot that does provide sufficient heebie-jeebies.

The Ghost Trestle on Bailey Hwy in Madison Township, just south of Gier Road.

The Ghost Trestle on Bailey Hwy in Madison Township, just south of Gier Road.

I drove my son out there recently so that he could see it. He wanted to know the ghost story. I tried to cobble it together from what I could remember. When I got home, I Googled it. Here is what I found:

Legend has it that at one time there was a farm house built near the tracks. Late one night a fire broke out in the barn. While the father ran to the barn to try to get the horses out, his wife and young son went to the tracks to wave down one of the many trains that would use that right of way. They were too close to the tracks however and both were struck by the train as it went past. The father was killed in the barn. Now if you go out there late at night, you can sometimes communicate with the Father. He will not allow you to talk to his wife or son; as if he was protecting them . There are other people living in the area now, and a large streetlight has been placed there by the people who own the neighboring land. If you stay there to long, they will call the police. However if you make your visit short enough they will usually leave you to it. This place has also been described as a good place to go to contact other spirits. The Father can be asked to help in this matter. He will not allow antagonistic spirits to talk however; once again to protect his family.

www.paranormalmichigan.com

Low and behold, all five or so results that come up are all the same story. EXACTLY THE SAME. Cut & paste in this age of technology, baby. Everyone is saying “This is the story”, when in reality, it is just one person’s story repeated over and over. The originator could have been a big, fat liar, and no one would be the wiser.

So, I decided it would be MY job to come up with the definitive truth behind this legend. I took a genealogical approach to the situation. I began how I begin every search, which I am sure is not at all how everyone else begins: with an atlas and a cemetery search. I know, it sounds weird and labor-intensive, but I have found the best stuff about my ancestors that way.

The atlas is a combined reissue from 1978 from my local historical society featuring maps from years 1874, 1893,  and 1916. Where the ghost trestle is located can be pretty easily found on the map, as it is just south of the intersection of Bailey & Gier roads, the Wabash (also DT&I and Lake Shore & Michigan Southern) railroad, and the nearby south branch of the River Raisin. I jotted down the names of the people who owned the land near there at those three times.

On the 1874 map, the railroad is just a “proposed route” which differs slightly from where it was actually built, so I use 1874 as my starting date. I found mention of an article from the Adrian Daily Telegram on August 23, 1897 where an N. Stevens talks about a haunted house. A website attributed it to the ghost trestle. I didn’t verify it, but used 1897 as my high-end cut off for dates.

Then, since it was 10:00pm at night and too late to go to the actual Madison Township cemetery, I searched on the website FindaGrave.com to look for any family members who all died on the same day or year. I came across the tombstone of “B. Carpenter and wife Eliza and Dau. Lucy.”

Tombstone from Madison Township Cemetery

Tombstone from Madison Township Cemetery

When I found the tombstone, I cried. It was really no proof of anything, but just the thought of a family all dying together upset me, the proof before me, their names carved in stone. And what if it had been under such tragic circumstances?

No dates visible in the picture or provided on the website. But that they are all on the same marker struck me as interesting. I had relatives, a husband and wife, who perished with another couple when they all fell through a frozen Devil’s Lake in 1858. All four of their names are on the same tombstone, two different sir names. Most people other than myself would have no idea why.

Michigan has an AWESOME database where you can look up actual death certificates. I found out how my great-great grandmother and infant aunt died using it. But, unfortunately, it BEGINS in 1897. No Carpenters for me.

So, I started Googling and looking at census for the Carpenter family in Madison. I watched them age every ten years, learned their family relationships. B. most likely stood for Benjamin. Eliza may have stood for Elizabeth. Very common names back then. And if he were to have married and had a child between census, it wouldn’t have caught it.

I went to the historical museum and searched their card catalog of obituaries, some dating from the 1800s. It is usually a gold mine of info. All I found was the possible listing of Benjamin’s mother’s death on December 10, 1893. It was a death notice, and not a full obituary; sometimes they are like mini-family histories. I asked all the employees at the library. The one gentleman used to go out to the Ghost Trestle with his friends as a teenager. All he could remember was that when heading south on Bailey road on the northwest side of the tracks on the right there was an old house that has since been torn down. That was cool, but didn’t really help me much.

And there are so many variables to consider, giving me roadblocks. The ghost story relies on the sweet image of a newlywed couple and their first child, an entire family perishing tragically in one night. But what if there were other children who survived? What if it had been grandparents with a grandchild?

And some seem to believe the Ghost Trestle is haunted from those who died roughly 10 miles away in Seneca in 1901 in the wreck of the Wabash. (There will be an event on September 24, 2016 at Oakwood Cemetery in Adrian to memorialize all the victims, including 75 to 100 Italian immigrants whose resting place has only recently been discovered.) But I don’t feel like the Seneca ghosts would want to trot that far to spook a bunch of drunk teenagers. And the houses? One allegedly torn down and another still standing? They could be a clue for someone else, but I am not good at researching property records.

I wanted this blog post to be the absolute history of the Ghost Trestle, with sources and shit. I didn’t set out to prove if it was haunted or not, just if it had a story that could support the possibility.

So, I was unable to find any concrete proof of anything. I still just have a tombstone with no dates. And there was Benjamin Carpenter who had a son Benjamin. Families all reused names over and over again. Who the hell knows who is really buried under that stone! I need to run out to the cemetery, see if there is maybe a family marker with more information. There is a very real chance that these people died totally uneventfully and are at peace in the afterlife. But, well, I have to abandon this search for now. In the next week I have a book to convert from longhand to electronic and a list of four books I want to have read, in addition to planning and packing for my first ever trip to Utopia con, a writers conference.

I made a fake ghost. Do not believe that this is real.

I made a fake ghost. Do not believe that this is real.

My thoughts right now are that it just happens to be a creepy bridge, and nothing of the story of the farmer and his wife and child are true. It would almost be good if that were the case, it is such a sad story.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

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Why Does Michael J. Fox Never Come to Our House?

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I’ll start by saying my son loves Back to the Future. He even dressed like Marty McFly for Halloween, to the delight of others of my generation. His generation? They were a little baffled. After all, BTTF has not been remade as everything else from the 1980s has been.

And thank God for that.

The McFly-est Marty

The McFly-est Marty

To be more specific, my son likes the last 40 minutes or so of Back to the Future III, because it contains a long sequence with trains: people stealing them, crawling on them, and eventually blowing them up. So, by now you understand that Michael J. Fox is pretty common in our household. We even celebrated Back to the Future day last October 21st. (The futuremost point in the trilogy, duh.) My son kept asking me why Michael J. Fox never comes over to our house.

How does a parent even begin to explain that one?

So, it wasn’t that strange that I should pick up Fox’s audiobook version of his book Always Looking Up from the library. It is read by the author himself, which was a big factor in getting it. I like him. I never had his picture hung on my bedroom walls, but he is highly likeable. Ashton Kutcher fills that void nowadays.

Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox

Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox

Fox explains right away that the title has a double meaning. First, he is short and has to look up at everyone. He is so short that I am actually a quarter of an inch taller than him! The second is that he is an optimist.

I must admit I picked up this book hoping it would be some sort of “how to” book on how to convert me into being an optimist. No such luck. He does talk about a stool with three legs. The legs are Optimism, Hope, and Faith. He says if you are missing any of them, then your stool will collapse. I am not sure I even have a half a leg. Maybe that is why I am always falling on my ass.

Not being a guide, he instead tells stories about how his optimism pulled him through. The book includes how when he realized there needed to be more funding for Parkinson’s research, he started his own foundation. Then as government regulations put up huge roadblocks to further research, he began to get involved politically for candidates who were pro-stem cell research.

I have learned way more about Parkinson’s than I ever thought I would and hopefully more than I will ever need to. The swaying, talkative Michael J. Fox we have seen for the last couple decades on camera is more of a side effect of his medication than his actual disease. Parkinson’s actually makes you freeze up. It makes it hard to have facial expressions, to walk, talking to slurred. Fox takes carbidopa/levodopa to ease these symptoms. He has to calculate when to take the medicine so that it will be in effect when he will be on camera. Sometimes he gets it right. Sometimes he gets it wrong.

Always Looking Up makes me wish I had read his previous book, Lucky Man, first. Listening to him talk I wish he was my next door neighbor and I could hang out with him and be his friend. He is both intelligent (which cannot always be said for the character of Marty McFly) and funny. He is so affable that while listening to the CD in the car, my son asked since Michael J. Fox was talking to us, if we could talk back to him.

Sadly, no. He might be a Lucky Man, but he is also a busy man with a very full plate of activism, acting, and family.

I am glad Fox took time out to share it all with the rest of us.

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

Artsy Fartsy Pics: Greenfield Village Edition

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My family went up to see Thomas the tank engine at Greenfield Village this weekend. We all had fun even though the weather didn’t cooperate. I can’t call it a “typical Michigan spring day” because I only experienced rain, sun, clouds, and wind. I didn’t see any snow until the next day.

I had fun taking pictures. I had even more fun after I got home adding filters and effects to them and generally making a gloomy day appear a little brighter. Some might think this is overkill, but I love them.

GREENFIELD-Tractor

Steam Tractor

 

 Back in the days when anthropomorphic engines regularly crossed the countryside.

Back in the days when anthropomorphic engines regularly crossed the countryside.

 

The Depot

The Depot

 

The Roundhouse

The Roundhouse

 

The Workshop

The Workshop

 

Train Crane

Train Crane

 

The gnome that lives under the buffer.

The gnome that lives under the buffer.

 

I can picture this flickering as some sort of stop-motion movie you would pay a nickel to watch inside a machine.

I can picture this flickering as some sort of stop-motion movie you would pay a nickel to watch inside a machine.

 

You gotta have a caboose...

You gotta have a caboose…

 

Vibrant Thomas

Vibrant Thomas

 

An out-of-sight very orange engine, by request of my child.

An out-of-sight very orange engine, by request of my child.

 

Sir Topham Hat’s view, or as I like to remember it: Too dang cold to stand outside any longer.

Sir Topham Hat’s view, or as I like to remember it: Too dang cold to stand outside any longer.

Hope you enjoyed it!

 

Follow the romantic entanglements of The Riley Sisters in my books:
Be Careful What You Wish ForAVAILABLE NOW!
When You Least Expect It THE CONTINUING ROMANCE!
The Wind Could Blow a BugWHERE IT ALL BEGAN!

 

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