It’s good to have the summer here. All the kids are out of school. The pool is opened. The beverages have upgraded from warm and comforting to cold and refreshing. The land is green and flourishing again. We’ve worked our way out of the depths of doom; advancing forward through each and every dreary, cold day since December 21, 2010. Almost exactly six months later we find ourselves on the opposing precipice. The days from June 21, 2011 will slowly begin their creep back towards the dark blanket of winter. Until then, we celebrate our accomplishment. We celebrate with summer fun. We begin scheduling the outdoor picnics and BBQ’s. We also head out to festivals. Last night and today, through the generosity of Rebecca Eldrige of Rizzi Designs my family was able to attend both the Festival of the Moon and the Festival of the Sun. Both took up residence at the end of Turner St. in Old Town. Before entering the gate an outdoor gallery of Old Town Scrap Fest art creations spread out across the parking lot for exploration. Eighteen elaborate metal beauties stand waiting for voting and auctioning. Some even had their creators proudly positioned nearby to answer questions. We made our way to the entrance tent roughly around 8pm Friday night for our Festival of the Moon adventure. Once inside the tents, with sampling souvenir cup in hand, we weaved our way through the crowds. We first tried the Bells table, requesting the pale ale for myself and the stout for Pat. Then we meandered past the food, ran into a few friends and eventually found ourselves in front of the stage. Without realizing it, we had become the front row for two really amazing bands; Finding Clyde and Locksley who finished out the night. By 2pm Saturday we were back again with our twins for Festival of the Sun. We sampled a drink and some food and made our way over to the children’s tent where Elderly Instruments was providing a musical “petting zoo”. The kids fiddled their way through a dozen instruments, some more than once. We wandered out beyond the gate to finish off two streets I had missed before, passing Friedland Industries’ scrap yard. It was from this yard that the 18 contestants were able to collect their material to create the art we witnessed earlier at the festival. After our walk we once again found ourselves in the front row of musical talent. This time our daughter danced her merry way around us to the fine tunes of Hot Club of Lansing.
Two Festivals in two days! And this was only the beginning!! We have the downtown Fourth of July, Common Ground, Turner St. Outdoor Theater and The Lansing Lugnut games, just to name a few! Go and enjoy the greater Lansing area, winter will be here before you know it!
With the increased speed of 70 mph on I-496 it is somewhat of a challenge slowing to the posted speed of 35 mph coming off the freeway into the downtown of Lansing. Passing Grand Ave and Washington Ave. we turned left onto S. Capitol Ave. For the first time we didn’t pick one of the three left turning lanes; providing direct routes back into the heart of Lansing or a way to return to the freeway that splits Lansing in half. Instead we chose the lesser used straight lane. Without the presence of a massive, yellow house where The Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame is located I would have thought this to be another over grown part of town. I knew however, that a splendid garden hid somewhere on this block. Even from the parking area, lush with mature trees and creeping ivy, there was no indication of the size, shape or appearance of the Cooley Gardens. It wasn’t until we walked past the entrance sign through an arch of flowering bushes did we find ourselves within a cathedral of beauty. At every side there is some sort of petition; a landscaped wall, large, mature trees, an ivy covered pavilion, providing isolation for the visitor from the harsh, loud environment surrounding this haven.
The land for the Cooley Gardens was donated in 1938 by Eugene Cooley to the City of Lansing to be used solely as a city park. In 1940 Edward H. Laird began designing the gardens, finishing in 1942 and dedicating them to “the horticultural education and pleasure of garden lovers.”
At the time that these gardens were added there was an already affluent neighborhood in place. Within the block stood four elaborate homes; The Olds Mansion, The Barnes Castle, Scott House and the Cooley House. All but two still stands. The Olds mansion, a Darius B. Moon Victorian Era styled home, was demolished in 1971 to complete the new I-496 highway, ironically named the R.E. Olds Freeway. This freeway offered a new accessibility into Lansing from out-lying areas yet created a new isolation from north to south. Areas that once held connections to the downtown area were now severed from the heart of Lansing. Cooley Gardens and business districts like REO Town were abandoned for more centrally located districts. Only through the dedication of residents have these two areas seen restorations and improvements. REO Town has recently had a flourish of activity with budding art centers like Art Alley and Reach Art Studio providing hints of hope and Board of Water and Light beginning their construction of the first natural gas facility. The Friends of Cooley Gardens, a group of residents concerned about this treasure, have been providing restoration and support since 1984. Standing in the peace and tranquility of Cooley Garden and its sister garden The Scott Sunken Garden; sentinels to an era of prosperity, it’s easy to imagine the splendor and possibility of this neighborhood.
Photo courtesy of DNR and Archives of Michigan
As a mother of four children I know where the recreational parks are located throughout Lansing. My first two children, while growing up on Cooper Ave in Colonial Village, went to school at Elmhurst elementary. We frequently enjoyed trips to that park on school days and non school days. Within a mile we were able to access Quentin Park, Frances Park and Moores River Park. Growing up in the north side of Lansing our parks were miraculous wonderlands. We had two parks within a block of our house; Filley and St. Therese. I remember spending hours playing at these parks with my brother and neighbor friends Lisa and Chrissy. We would spin each other on the merry-go-round until it was unhealthy. My favorite though was the swings. We would swing, kicking our feet into the air; pretending to fly.
For father’s day we were invited to Pat’s parents for brunch. They are also parents of four children. When I first started dating Pat, who had 3 younger siblings at the time (ages 11, 13 and 16) I would often find the younger two playing catch in the street or basketball around the corner at Mt. Hope Elementary school. My father in law was the history teacher at Otto Middle School for 38 years. He knew kids. After a robust Thanksgiving meal, perfectly made by his wife, he would often announce we were going outside to play football. He had two daughters and two sons and now me. We would head out to the tree lined street in front of their house, evenly split into teams, set up end zones; “that tree and the end of that driveway”, and play 3 on 3 tag football. Sometimes we would all walk over to the baseball field behind Mt Hope Elementary school and play softball. When Pat and I added the first set of grandchildren to the mix we moved to taking the kids to the park. We would talk or play Frisbee keeping an eye on the kids kicking their feet into the sky; pretending to fly. Years went by and those grandkids grew. They grew to a point where they could play with us. Once again we were out in the street after a perfect home cooked meal; three generations playing a game of street tag football. As spouses came into the picture our football games were often moved to larger fields to accommodate our growth. Variations began to play out as children were born or families moved away. Sometimes the wives and mothers would stay inside and enjoy talk over a cup of coffee and homemade blueberry pie. Sometimes the grandparents stayed inside with the youngest O’Meara’s while the second and older third generations played. As for this Sunday, the first generation and his oldest son both clasping the hand of a young toddler walked over to the park to watch the youngest of our clan swing high in a swing; pretending to fly.
I like Old Town; a lot. Almost 40 years ago my family moved just north of Old Town. Only this Old Town wasn’t vibrant with colors. It didn’t hold festivals. It didn’t win awards. It was not filled with diverse businesses. It did have fantastic architecture and history. However when I lived nearby it was often a neglected area with its most prominent tenants being those who had no home. They would congregate at the corners and wander the streets. There wasn’t a VOA, or Loaves and Fishes or City Rescue Mission helping this population or so it would appear.
It wasn’t often that I would make my way south on Turner St. One reason I would make the trip was to get to my grandparent’s house. They owned a pool and the five mile bike ride was often worth it; especially in the summer. I recall racing my bike down Turner St. sometimes with my brother, sometimes alone since I had few friends allowed to bike this way. At the end of Turner I would cut across the parking area and make my way to a little dirt path where the future river walk would be created. The path ran along the river, behind industrial areas, and across closed down train trestle bridges. It ended at an open field at Cedar St. and Baker St. From there the path was mainly city streets that got me to my destination off Mt. Hope Ave. If I were to bike it today I would be able to ride the river trail almost the entire way.
Now travelling through Old Town is a completely different experience. As a child Old Town was a place to get through. Now it’s a destination. Now it’s where I go to get uniquely flavored popcorn and maybe a father’s day present at Craving’s Gourmet Popcorn. It’s a great place to watch the river while enjoying a pizza at Grand Café/Sir Pizza. It’s a gorgeous place to have a photo shoot. Soon it will also be a place to get a wonderful cup of coffee and a sandwich. While on my last Old Town City Saunter I had the great fortune of talking with the new operator for Arties Filling Station. This is a prime example of what Old Town does right. It leaves in place a historic building and adds new talent with great services within. John Miller will refresh the 90-year-old gas station and customers with a drive-thru, walk-up window coffeehouse and sandwich shop.
Old Town still has the most distinct architecture in the Lansing area. But it’s what is encased inside that is the true heart that beats this area to life. That heart is the people who have come to this area for the betterment of a community. They have come here to open their small businesses. They come here to volunteer for events and beautification projects. They come here to support and enjoy all that Old Town has to offer. And they continue to make Old Town a great asset to Lansing and the Lansing area.
It would seem that Lansing area folks are trying to make up for the many wintry, inactive months we’ve succumbed to this year. Last weekend mid Michigan residents were able to choose from Be A Tourist in Your Own Town, The BWL Chili Cook-Off, Chalk of the Town and Hawk Island Triathlon. This weekend has World Day at Hunter Park, The 14th Annual Mayor’s Riverwalk and Dirty Feat. I was also invited to the ePIFanNOW Pass it Forward event and the Lansing Eastern Alumni fundraiser for Relay for Life which is a 24 hour walking event at East Lansing High School.
The Dirty Feat is an adventure race that takes participants all over the Lansing/East Lansing area by bike, foot and boat. The racers do not get to know the path until they arrive the morning of the race, which really adds to the adventure. Each team comes equipped with a bike, biking gear, first aid gear, note gear, directional gear, and safety gear. The object is to stop at all the checkpoints preselected on the map. Each checkpoint also has an extremely helpful written clue to help locate the check point. The entire race is expected to take 6 hours.
I arrived at Valley Court in East Lansing a little after 7:30. By this time most of the racers were in place and going over the map. Some were securing their gear in plastic bags. Despite being a cool 60 degrees the foggy humidity made it feel much warmer. A sense of excitement bounced off the low hanging clouds. I was greeted many times with a smile and a good morning. It took only one pass through the crowd to run into familiar faces. My cousin, Shawn was participating for her second time. There was a large group from the TIC that was either racing or part of the organization crew. It wasn’t long before the roughly 250 participants were lined up and listening to the commencement directions. And with the squawk of the canned horn, they were off! Within 5 minutes they were all on their bikes; after a quick run around the park, and on their way.
I headed into Lansing and decided to park at the Ralph W. Crego Park off Aurelius. Just as I got out two sets of Dirty Feat bikers came down the trail looking for the check in. The volunteers were just barely out of their car. I tagged along to watch the first set race into the mosquito infested swamps off the beaten path to find their prize.
My journey continued north on Aurelius. I wanted to make a stop at Hunter Park where they would be setting up for World Day. The event starts at noon today. The walk was one I had never been on before. I have driven Aurelius many times. Walking allows you the luxury of stopping and reading signs. I also get to stop and take the picture of the landmarks that get passed while in a car. It also takes a lot longer! In about one and a half hours I can walk about 4 miles. Part of me was wishing I was on a bike like the Dirty Feat racers.
I walked my way through Hunter Park and back around to Pennsylvania. I passed Potter Park and headed into the Lindbergh neighborhood. I took Sunnyside around to Mt. Hope and despite the lack of sidewalks it wasn’t a bad walk. I then made my way back to Aurelius. At one point there was a convergence of activity. The Dirty Feat bikers were moving about the sidewalk just as the Mayor’s Family River Walk participants were heading out on their walk. Add to that the regular exercisers (and me) and the small walking trail was easily crowded! Lansing folk might not come out in droves when it’s cold and snowy but we sure do make up for it when it gets nice outside!
Today I tried something I have never done before. I rode my bike from my house in Haslett into Lansing. I packed a backpack with my camera, my map, my notebook and pen, a bottle of water and my cell phone. Out of a childhood habit I hunted down 2 dimes to put in my sock only to realize I didn’t really have a need to use a pay phone anymore; old biking habits. I wore all the right gear and felt really good about this adventure. As a young person I rode my bike everywhere, often reaching distances of 20 miles or more. Despite not riding a bike (without a child carrier of some sort) in over 5 years, I knew I could do this! With foot on the left pedal I limberly straddled the bike and headed out to the streets. We live in an area in Haslett that is quite literally up hill both ways. I didn’t mind it heading out but coming back was a different story. There are a few trails that I could get to but they are not the most direct route. I have always been a road biker. I was taught early on how to ride the bike using all the rules of the road, including the arm signals to let drivers know your path. I headed out to Saginaw Highway. Most of this route has a very large extra lane. It was flat, far from cars and perfect for biking. In just under 15 minutes I had made it to Hagadorn Rd. That was when I heard a loud hissing noise and knew I had popped a tire. Instead of giving up, I called my husband, Pat, and asked him to bring me his bike. I was determined to do this ride. In ten minutes flat I was on another bike and quickly riding through East Lansing towards the eastern edge of Lansing. It took me about 38 minutes to get from my house to Frandor. This edge of Lansing was one I had walked before but I had little sections I had missed. This would be the perfect way to finish this section. I could walk the areas I needed to walk and use my bike to quickly get to the next area. I’m sure that if anyone was really paying attention to me they would have thought I was a little odd; riding a block getting off the bike and then walking the bike while holding a camera and a map. The total city walking I did was 4.6 miles. That’s one of my longest walks so far on top of the longest bike ride so far. I might regret that tomorrow. But it felt great getting another complete neighborhood finished.
I use social media quite a bit to keep in contact with non local relatives, close relatives, close friends and not so close friends. I enjoy reading about the things they are active in, photos they post and even the quirky links they might send out. One of the pleasant surprises I’ve found from using social media is learning about the many fun events that are happening around Lansing and the great projects people in my network are participating in. One of my favorite finds is Lansing Ninjas. They are a group of four unknown #LoveLansing folks that skillfully bequeath deserving Lansingites with special gifts. Since I first heard of this group I have wanted to be an honorary Lansing Ninja. I finally had my chance today. I was scheduled to meet Dave Trumpie with Trumpie Photography in Old Town. He is the hired photographic gun for the on line magazine Capital Gains. A few months ago Suban Nur Cooley, the editor for Capital Gains got in touch with me. She was interested in writing an article about my City Saunter Project. We had a wonderful meeting and she sent some follow-up questions. The last piece was the photographs. I was excited to be the subject with the talented Mr. Trumpie behind the camera and even more excited that I could use this outing to hide 4 Be A Tourist in Your Own Town passports around Lansing. After my shoot with Dave, I immediately grabbed my gear and set out to hide my extra passports. I bagged each in a plastic bag; in case of rain, and a special note describing my project. I was debating about hiding all four together or individually. As I came to my first location, I decided to spread out the fun. My first pick was in Old Town; since I was already there. I wanted to choose places that are participating in the BATYOT; kind of a dry run! Here’s my first stop:
I have fondly walked many of the streets in the Old Town area, so finding a path I hadn’t been on was a little difficult. Add to that my need to walk to specific locations and I could have been in for a very long, round about walk. Fortunately there are quite a few participating businesses in the BATYOT and after checking over my list I was able to quickly decide my path. From Grand River I walked down to Washington Ave. and headed south. It was this stretch that I found my second place to drop my prize.After some quick photos I continued into the LCC area. There are multiple participants in this area including LCC TV and Radio Station, The Fire Station on Grand Ave., The Capitol and a true treasure,which I picked for my 3rd location:
One passport left! Within walking distance I had Impression 5, Creation Station, CADL, or The Book Burrow. Instead, I walked into an area that has recently undergone a tremendous revival. I stood in the middle of the Shiawasee St. Bridge and this is what I saw:
In this area I found my last place to hide a passport. I have quickly fallen in love with this Barn!
I hope everyone gets a chance to explore Lansing; their own town, on Saturday. It’s a great opportunity to see our city with new excitement and unbridled enthusiasm. Go! Explore! Fall in love with Lansing. I know I have!
If you need more help with finding the hidden passports or want to see all the photos I shot from this walk check out my Facebook page! City Saunter
While I was out on my photo shoot with Dave we came across our own find. I have heard of The Purple Carrot Truck for a few weeks now but today I was honored to meet the team behind the idea and even got a tour inside! If you see them around town it would be a good idea to check them out!