On the day of the total eclipse, we were busy moving to our new location, as close to Detroit as we dared. From the “Thumb” of Michigan we had to travel back southwest to keep from traveling through the metroplex of Detroit and its surroundings. We decided that Ann Arbor was about as close as we traveled to a campground in between Ann Arbor and Jackson, Michigan. Apple Creek Campground is an older campground with fairly spacious sites laid haphazardly in between the trees. Nearly 3/4 of the campground is stuffed with seasonal RVs, but this still left one section for transient campers such as ourselves. We arrived at the campground at around 1:30, so we hoped to be set up before the eclipse was done, however, the weather did not cooperate anyway. It was not only cloudy, but we had a thunderstorm threatening during the peak of the eclipse. Thankfully, the rain held off until we got set up, except for occasional sprinkles. They led us to our campsite, which was good, as their map was very confusing and the roads were all narrow with turns that had to be taken carefully pulling a long RV. We got to our site, but I was not convinced I would be able to back the RV into. Not only was there a tree right at the corner of the site that forced us to come in square to the site, but there were two large trees right across from the site that was going to make straightening out the truck very difficult. My first attempt proved this to be the case. I made the cut around the tree in good shape, but this put the truck at such a severe angle to the RV that I did not have any room to swing the truck around. I quickly decided the only chance we had was to pull back out, circle the campground to get the RV heading the other direction and try again. After nearly hitting a tree at one of their corners I got the RV going in the opposite direction. From this direction I did not have any tree in the way so I could back in much more shallowly. This meant the truck was not so severe to the RV and those trees across from the site were less in the way. By pulling forward once to mostly straighten out the truck, I was able to put the RV into the site. That it only took one attempt was amazing and I managed not to hit any of their trees scattered all over the site. Even the locations of the hookups did not make much sense. Thankfully our electric cord JUST made it to their electric pedestal and we had two hoses to reach their water hookup. While not well designed, it was still a nice campground with very nice bathroom and laundry facilities. By the time we were finished getting the RV backed in, we had completely missed the eclipse, which was hidden by the clouds anyway. Oh Well it was only suppose to be an 80% coverage for us anyway.
Since we had opted not to do our laundry the previous week, doing laundry on Tuesday was a nearly a necessity. While Kal did the laundry I did manage to get the RV cleaned up. We also made a trip over to Jackson in the afternoon to Best Buy so I could replace the camera I had lost last week.
On Wednesday we set out to explore the National Park in the area, the River Raisin National Battlefield Park. This is one of the newest National Parks, established in 2009, and it showed. While there are plans for a new and much larger Visitor Center, the current Visitor Center is located in the old county museum for the battlefield. Consequently, there was very little room for any exhibits in the Visitor Center. The “movie” they had was a recording of the old presentation using a light board to show unit placements and movement. There are plans to create a new movie, but with current funding they have no idea when this will happen. Outside you can explore the “battlefield” which consists of a small field just north of the frontier town, Frenchtown. There is a gravel walk around the “battlefield” and there are concrete pads for interpretive signs, but with no signs yet, we did not learn anything more about the battle. Once again there are plans to put up interpretive signs, which are expected “soon” and there are plans to rebuild the buildings of Frenchtown based on drawings and archeological evidence. Thankfully, the site had been underneath a pulp mill and never farmed or developed. Suffice it to say that it took only about an hour to explore all the National Park had to offer. The River Raisin Battle is an important battle near the beginning of the War of 1812. Over the summer of 1812, the Americans attacked Canada hoping to defeat the British quickly while their resources were focused on fighting Napoleon in Europe. These attacks all failed and Canada responded by taking Fort Dearborn (Chicago), Fort Mackinac, and Fort Detroit extend their control of the Great Lakes. Once William Henry Harrison was given command of the Army of the Northwest he resolved to retake Fort Detroit. He split his forces into two columns with the second column under the command of General Winchester. They had to slowly move north through the Black Swamp of northern Ohio to construct roads and supply depots and forts. Of course, they also attacked any Indians they found along the way, especially the Kentucky militiamen that made up over half the army. By December they finally approached Fort Detroit and instead of waiting for spring they decided that the frozen condition would surprise the British. In addition, Lake Erie was also frozen eliminating the threat from their navy. Winchester came to the rendezvous point first and was ordered to wait, but instead he sent a small force of militia to the town of Frenchtown on the River Raisin on January 18, 1813. This force was able to drive off the small Canadian and Indian force occupying the town and two days later Winchester showed up the regular soldiers who set up camp in an open field to the east of town while the militia now occupied the town. They did not expect the British to counterattack for some time, but they had now lost the element of the surprise. On January 22, the British advanced from Fort Detroit and got to within firing distance of Frenchtown before dawn since Winchester did not even bother with posting sentries. As dawn broke the British open fired catching the Americans totally by surprise. The regular army in the field had no cover and within 20 minutes were running away back across the River Raisin. However, mounted Indians swept around the left flank of the town and ambushed these fleeing soldiers who died in small groups until only 23 managed to escape. Winchester was also captured trying to rally these soldiers and was forced to send a message ordering the militia in the town to surrender. Although the militia had repulsed at least three attacks, they were running out of ammunition and eventually did surrender. Fearing that Harrison might be approaching from the south, the British retreated back to Fort Detroit taking those prisoners that could walk with them. They promised to send sleds for the wounded the next day, however, they never did. Instead their Indian allies entered the town on the next day and killed anybody that was not able to walk and continued to kill any who could not make the journey to Fort Detroit. This massacre became known as the River Raisin Massacre and led to the battle cry “Remember the Raisin!” I have to admit that I have never heard this battle cry, which for a long time was as famous as Remember the Alamo or other battle cries. In total this was the largest number of casualties and captured Americans in any battle of the War of 1812 and put an end to Harrison’s hope of retaking Fort Detroit.
On Thursday, I had plans to work on this blog, but we got bad news from the credit card company. They had “resolved” the dispute with Budget Rent-A-Car, completely in their favor. We called and found out that since we had no “official” receipt of the charges at the time we turned in the rental car, that we had no other option. As far as the credit card company was concerned we were liable for the entire outrageous amount. So much for their assistance in arbitrating a resolution to the matter. I composed a scathing email to Budget laying out our case and letting them know what I thought of their “customer service.” We received a reply that apologized for never contacting us about the matter and asking for some further information. We sent them the receipt we got at the airport, a back statement showing charges at the gas station near the airport, lunch at the airport in Dallas, AND parking fees at the Indianapolis Airport the same day. Although I don’t expect anything to change, they now have solid evidence that we turned in the car on Sunday, not a week later as they claimed. We will see if we ever hear from them again. They certainly have no incentive to do anything as they have already been paid, just their good reputation, which I will do everything I can to smear. This is highway robbery!! When you rent a car, DO NOT take advantage of the seeming convenience of their check-in where you turn the car in. You MUST go to their counter and get a detailed receipt of the charges for your records. If you don’t they can end up charging you for any amount they want, no matter what it says on your supposed receipt from the individual checking in your car. They charged us for a week’s rental instead of three days, excessive mileage (even though the rental was suppose to be unlimited), and enough to pay for gas to fill the car up at least five times!! Without that final receipt from the counter you don’t have any recourse! Even the credit card company is no help.
On Friday we decided to head towards Detroit to The Henry Ford Museum at their huge factory in Dearborn. We knew this museum was a “must see” from everyone we talked to and they were correct! The entire facility consists of three separate venues. The first is the Museum of American Innovation which is a huge facility that is every bit as large as the Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian. The other two venues are a huge Greenfield Village that is has working farms, craftsmen, and other exhibits from the past and a tour of their assembly line, which sounded very interesting. It is obvious that each venue would take at least a day to explore and the tickets you buy can be used at any point in the future. However, we were only going to spend one day so decided to limit it to the Museum of American Innovation. As I said the museum is HUGE with many different interesting exhibit and even after spending 6 hours in the museum we did not see it all. There is an extensive collection of farm equipment and machines from the plow to modern combines. Unlike nearly all museums with agriculture exhibits that have worn out and rusted equipment, the equipment in this museum is all brand new with explanations about how they worked. There is a large area devoted to steam engines from the first massive machines to the smallest functional engines. They are all built into the floor of the museum so you can see how they would operate. There are even steam engines that produced the first electricity, both DC and AC and the first power plant used by Ford. The collection of firearms was also impressive from the smallest 0.22 pistols that could fit in your palm to the largest rifles that had attached tripods or small tables at the end of the barrel. There was one very interesting exhibit, the Dymaxion. This is a modular home constructed out of aluminum in a hemisphere shape suspended from a central pole. It was designed in the 1940s, right after WWII when there was a severe housing shortage as the troops returned home. The idea was to use the airplane factories, that were looking for new production ideas based on the new products such as aluminum and plastics. This small two bedroom home could be constructed completely in the factory, shipped to the building site, and put together in about a month. The really neat thing was that the two prototypes were built at Beechcraft in our hometown of Wichita, Kansas and we had never heard of it! This could be because they went out of business never getting beyond the prototype phase. It was an interesting design, by Buckminster Fuller, using convection currents to heat and cool the structure, although I still wonder if it could be adequately heated in the winter or cooled in the summer by today standards. Of course, there is a very large collection of automobiles. The collection is arranged historically from horse drawn carriages and stagecoaches through bicycles and the earliest automobiles. While Fords are represented, the collection includes many makes over time. Along with displays showing the changing road conditions and accommodations for travelers, our entire history up to the present is represented. With respect to the past, there was one large exhibit that had different areas for each generation since the 1920s. It was fun to see how many artifacts we remembered from our childhood, especially for the baby boomer section which included many artifacts each of us had as children. There is also a collection of Presidential automobiles which includes Kennedy and FDR among others. Finally we explored the much smaller collection of trains and planes, smaller in terms of the number of machines since they are much larger than cars. Other areas we did not have time for were devoted to clocks, the manufacturing processes, and America’s drive for Liberty and Freedom. Each of them looked interesting and would have been worth the time. It was a very worthwhile day and I strongly recommend it.
We spent Saturday in the campground, but on Sunday we headed over to Jackson, Michigan to check out the Civil War Muster. They had numerous reenactors dressed up in Civil War era costumes, a couple of tent enclosures, and even a small village. There were a lot of crafts being sold and large tents set up to sell everything you would need to join in. The most interesting show of the afternoon was watching the mounted cavalry go through their paces around the field. The highlight of the afternoon was their reenactment of the Battle of Malvern Hill which took place near Richmond, Virginia in 1862. It was the last of the first series of battles after General Lee took over the Confederate army and drove General McClellan away from Richmond. This battle favored the north only in the fact that they stopped Lee from capturing their army and bought time to escape on their ships back to D.C. It was fun to watch them stage a battle from the Union standpoint, unlike other reenactments we have seen at the actual battlefields in the south. The vast majority of the reenactors were dressed in Union costumes with only a small handful of Confederates. I also suspect that their reenactment did not correlate with the actual battle at all. It was more an opportunity for them to fire off their cannon, march around the field, and fire their muskets at each other to the delight of the crowd. Suffice it to say that the Union forces, which included a few on horseback as well, drove off the tiny Confederate force!! Still it was great fun. I should mention that Sunday was the due date for our first grandchild and when we learned that Kristin was in labor Sunday evening, we tried to get as much sleep as we could expecting a call at any time. We did get a text message at 6:30 the next morning that they had gone to the delivery room, but nothing further as we hooked up and left the campsite on Monday morning.