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Do You Want To Go On A Treasure Hunt?

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could go on a treasure hunt whenever you liked? Are images of pirate maps and crates of gold filling your head? Well, it’s not quite like that but the thrill of finding the stash, or cache, is just as fun.

I’m talking about geocaching, from their website it is described as:

a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.

Sounds kind of geeky, huh? The only thing about geocaching that screams geekdom is the GPS unit. It’s quite simple, you register on their website (for free) and then seek out a cache. You can put in your zip code and then pick the cache of your choice depending on area, terrain, degree of difficulty, or the cache itself. They give you the GPS coordinates and off you go on your own treasure hunt.

We're getting close!The husband and I were all set to give this a try and then my dad heard about it. He has a handheld GPS he uses for hunting. (Don’t worry, the last time he had a successful hunt was probably 30 years ago. The animals are safe.) We added my mom to the mix and the four of us were ready to go.

Equipped with dads handheld Garmin GPS and the husbands Garmin from the car, we went on our way. Other supplies included water and some items to put in the cache. Once you find a cache, you can either just look at it and sign the logbook or you can take something from it. Rules, yes there are rules, state you can only take something out of the cache if you add something of your own.

Our first cacheThe second cache.I picked relatively easy cache's based on terrain and degree of difficulty, since this was our first time. The first one took us over by Cranbrook. The GPS units only got us within about 15 feet of the cache. I was kind of expecting the GPS unit to play the warmer-colder game with me. Quick beeps to tell you that you were getting warmer or a slow, drawn out beep to tell you that you weren’t anywhere near. For whatever reason, that didn’t happen.

We found it, or I should say, I found it, after searching for a few minutes. I’m not going to give away too many details as I don't want to spoil it for other geocachers in the area. In the container, which was an ammo box, were books. I knew this from reading the description so I came armed with two books. We took from the cache Jonathan Rand’s Michigan Chillers: Mackinaw City Mummies. It looks to be a pre-teen book. We left the UK version of J.K. Rowlings’ The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

The second cache of the day was a bit trickier and the terrain was slightly harder. There were rocks and streams and bridges, it was very picturesque. Again, the GPS units only got us so close and then it was just time to look around. I found the second one too!

This is a great way to spend time with your family and we had a fabulous time. The thrill of the hunt is really the best part. You can also hide your own cache and wait to see who finds it.

I’m nicknaming this our Suburban Geocache, I hope to add an Urban and Rural one soon. Stay tuned.


The Spirit of Detroit's Jersey Has Shrunk

I'm very happy that the City of Detroit and the Red Wings organization came to an agreement regarding the jersey. It just wouldn't seem right if the Spirit of Detroit wasn't donning the Detroit Red Wings jersey again for the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. And I must say, the Spirit looks fantastic since they cleaned him up.

We went down to see the Spirit of Detroit today, now that he is dressed for the finals.

Spirit of Detroit wearing the Detroit Red Wings jersey for the 2009 Stanley Cup FinalsHowever, Detroit's favorite statue seems to be effected by the current economy. His jersey has shrunk. It's not the same flowing jersey of years past, it's tight fitting.

Spirit of Detroit during the 2002 finals.So, is it fashion or the economy? Either way, he's looking good!


Detroit Dive Bar Tour with Inside Detroit

I happened to be on Twitter on Saturday and mentioned that I love dive bars. A few minutes later I got a tweet back from a friend that there was a Detroit Dive Bar tour the next night, would I be interested? Oh heck yeah!

The tour was organized by Inside Detroit, a non-profit organization that gives public and group tours of Detroit. The founders, Jeanette Pierce and Maureen Kearns, both live in the city of Detroit and are extremely passionate about the city. They not only exude that passion on their tours but also educate others on the history and culture of Detroit.

The Dive Bar Tour group.The tour we were on was specifically put together for couch surfers. Couch surfers are an internet based community of travelers and hosts. The hosts offer free lodging on an extra bed or couch to the travelers. I actually looked into this when I was planning my first trip to the UK; the service was just starting out at that point. For whatever reasons, I decided to go the hotel, hostel, bartenders’ floor, and “man I would eventually marry” route. I’m still interested in couch surfing though, as hotels are cost prohibitive for the budget traveler. The cost isn’t the only benefit of couch surfing; you also get to experience a city through a local’s eye. And that is what we're doing on this tour, experiencing the city from a local's perspective.

The Anchor BarThe first bar on the tour, and our meeting spot, was the Anchor Bar on Fort Street. The Anchor is a dive bar, but it’s a comfortable dive. I could definitely see myself hanging out there. There is sporting memorabilia strewn about the bar and a whole wall is dedicated to hockey and the Red Wings. I’ve been told it is a regular hang out for both WDIV and Joe Louis Arena employees.

Vaughn Derderian, the owner of the Anchor, stopped by our group to say hello and even bought us a round of shots. The regulars were friendly too; I talked to one gentleman at the bar about our Detroit sports teams.

We then travelled to Beaubien Street Saloon in Bricktown. On our walk the tour guide, Jeanette Pierce, pointed out local landmarks and gave us an entertaining history lesson of Detroit. These woman know their city!

Beaubien Street SaloonBeaubien Street is a small, quiet bar. The regulars and the bartender, Tiffany, were very welcoming. In fact, Jeanette told us that there are only two bartenders here and between them they work every shift, 365 days a year. Did I mention there is free popcorn?

Steven's PlaceLastly, we journeyed to Steve’s, or Steven’s Place as the sign denotes. This bar, which is as dive bar as you can get, had a lasting impression on me. It’s right next to Saint Andrew’s but you wouldn’t go in here unless you’ve been in here before. Quite the catch 22, huh?

Steve Francis, his wife Sophia, and the guitar playing dude.Again, the owners were on site, serving up drinks. Steve Francis and his wife Sophia have owned the bar for 32 years, they also live above the bar. They are a cute old couple, hobbling about, adding a charm to this strange room. Steve served up the group shots of peach scnapps and as we clinked glasses my husband said, "Yiamas," which is Greek for cheers. I saw Steve's eyes light up and asked if he was Greek. Yes, he told me he was born in Oregon and raised in Greece. I didn't get a chance to ask how that happened. Oddly, there are old classic lunch boxes above the back bar; The Monkee’s, ET, Charlie Brown, etc. One man sat off to the side, playing his guitar. Other than him and our group, the bar was desolate.

We had a great night out, went to places we wouldn’t have gone to on our own, and met some great people. Jeanette and Maureen of Inside Detroit are what made the tour fun and unique, you can’t help but love Detroit after spending a few hours with them.

Do you have a favorite dive bar? Tell me about it!


The St. Mary's Fair & A Bit Of History

We, like over 100,000 others, attended the St. Mary’s Polish Country Fair this past weekend. The fair originated in 1972 but didn’t really become what it is now until the mid-80’s when they expanded the fair and added the carnival rides.

The weather was perfect and the smell of sauerkraut wafted through the entertainment tent while we listened to the cover band 2XL. There certainly is fun for all ages with the carnival rides and games, Vegas and bingo tents, live music, and tons of yummy Polish food. It seems odd, however, to write about an event that won’t happen again for another year. So, that isn’t what I’m going to focus on.

You see, I kind of grew up on this campus. My brother went to Orchard Lake St. Mary's Prep and my parents were heavily involved in the Mom and Dads Club. One year my parents were in charge of the fair and another year they were presidents of the club. They, and the other parents at the time, are the ones that added the rides and the arts and crafts (which are no longer a part of the fair).

Between my parents endless meetings and my brothers sporting events, I spent a lot of time on this campus. It was quite cool to be 14, boy crazy, and one of the few girls to be able to roam the campus. I felt like a VIP and even stayed in the dorms during the fair when my parents were running it. This year, however, my husband and I wandered around not knowing a soul.

The GaleriaSo, while we were at the fair I took my husband on a tour of the campus. Before the Polish Seminary of Detroit purchased the campus it was the Michigan Military Academy. Many of the existing buildings date back to this era including the “Castle” (1858), the academic building (1890), the Engine House (1889), the Barracks (1884), and the Old Gym (1896).

I remember my brother telling me about tunnels under the school and that Apple Island was an Indian burial ground. At the time, I wasn’t sure if he was just trying to scare his little sister or act cool. The Michigan Military Academy did install a network of tunnels that connect these old buildings. If the academy was attacked the tunnels would provide access around campus. When we returned from the fair, I asked my brother if he had ever been in the tunnels. He admitted that once they found access to the tunnels from the Old Gym but got scared and didn’t venture further. The tunnels are now used for utilities.

Apple Island sits in the middle of Orchard LakeThe island in the middle of Orchard Lake is Apple Island; it’s three-eighths of a mile long and a quarter mile wide. Apparently, it is quite unique to have an island this large in a lake the size of Orchard Lake. Native American Indians were definetly on the island and Chief Okemos was born on the island, so most likely there are burial grounds here as well.

The island was first purchased in 1827 and in 1850 two future kings of Hawaii, Kamehameha IV and Kamehameha V, visited it. I’ve never been on the island but the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society does offer tours of the island every May.

Overall, the campus is a great place to take a walk and snap some pictures. It is not nearly as large or austere as the Cranbrook campus but it certainly has its own charm and history.


Cranbrook Institute of Science

I’ve been itching to get out to a museum ever since I wrote about the Museum Adventure Pass. I’m happy to say that we have crossed the first one off of our list, the husband’s choice: the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills. First, it has to be said that the Cranbrook campus is beautiful. Don’t just go to the museum, bring a picnic or lunch and take a walk around the grounds.

Cranbrook Institute of Science

Eliel Saarinen designed the original Institute of Science building, which opened in 1936. In 1998 the Institute added an addition, which is now the main entrance. Saarinens’ work can be seen elsewhere on the campus, he also designed the Art Museum and the schools’ Cranbrook and Kingswood buildings.





The museum itself is quite diverse:

  • Investigate dinosaurs and their relationship to the modern day bird
  • Learn about mastodons and find out why they became extinct
  • Take part in a computerized virtual dig and analyze the results
  • Explore space and the night sky
  • Find out who Baby Louie is and why he’s so special
  • Delve into motion and movement while watching the Kinetic Machine

Did you know that in 1963, when I-75 was first being built, some kids found mastodon bones at the construction site in Pontiac? The bones were donated to the museum and are part of the exhibit. I don’t know about you, but I never really thought about mastodons living in Michigan.

Exhibit showing the small differences in birds can mean big changes over the years.I also learned that 380 million years ago Michigan was near the equator, we could be living in the tropics! How did they figure this out? The Petoskey stone, our state rock, is actually fossilized coral.

The Kinetic Machine was one of my favorite installations in the museum and I watched it for quite a long time. It reminded me of the game Mouse Trap, the rolling ball speeding up and slowing down through clever engineering.

The Stegosaurus at the entrance.

Cranbrooks’ Institute of Science has many interactive exhibitions that should keep the kids interested. “Hatching the Past” seemed scaled to a kid’s size and they can dig for eggs and dress up like a dinosaur. I was tickled to see signs that said, “Enjoy Touching” and “Feel Free To Touch.”

The Institute also has an observatory, planetarium, and the Bat Zone, which weren’t open when we were there. I do remember going to the planetarium when I was in high school and watching laser rock shows to the music of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, but that’s another story.

The Reflecting Pool outside of the Institute of Science

So, what are you waiting for? Go to your library and check out free passes to the Cranbrook Institute of Science.