The flight to Chicago from Seattle was 3 1/2 hours. We packed TONS of fruit and bread and cheeses for the trip, which is good, because they now have you "pick up" your lunch from a cooler at the boarding gate before you get on the plane. You get a small shopping bag with prepackaged foodstuff.
Jon also brought his flask of gin for a "build your own bar drinks" flight.
We arrived at 5? 6? I dunno... it's near impossible to keep the times straight between Chicago, Michigan, and Indiana, especially since Indiana doesn't ever change their time.
We drove in the wrong direction, thanks to me, for about twenty minutes. I never did find where I wanted us to go for dinner. Jon suddenly says "Welcome to Michigan" and I said "What? NO! Where was Indiana? Where are we?" We were on our way to Niles, Michigan, where There Is No Food After Ten P.M.
We finally found the Plaza Restaurant, in Bell Plaza. The restaurant, I'm not kidding you, stopped and stared at us when we walked in. Alexandra said "Perhaps we're too tall."
We had a one-hour "dinner" of spaghetti sauce and waited and waited to get the check so we could leave. The servers were busy sitting in booths with other customers eating other people's food and smoking cigarettes, while still in their uniforms and aprons, of course.
The whole experience was Very Bad.
By the time we got to the lakehouse at late o'clock, my brother and cousins were fuming, because they had been waiting for us for hours. Todd kept saying "I'm not speaking to you."
Grandma and Grandpa hung out with us in the kitchen and after they went to bed we stayed up with the kids a bit longer. We had a long day ahead.

Friday was the family get-together at the lakehouse. It was a food-o-rama.
We went out on the boat so we could see the new houses (every year there are new houses), and some ducks, and some turtles.

Todd & Alexandra

Alexandra & Craig

Craig & I

(Todd) Jon, Alexandra, Kolja
The majority of the day was spent playing in or around the lake. My family starting showing up in the afternoon and it was a perfect day to be at the lakehouse. Ben brought his friend, Otis, who walked right through the screen door. We made fun of him for it for the rest of the day.
Jon and the Germans went for a walk that morning and got sunburned. Jon was so bad it was almost purple. We went back out on the boat and watched my cousins act like weirdos.
Pictured left are Otis (Door Killa), Craig, Todd, Ben, Bradley, and Jamey.

Craig being Craig
Culver Kids 2003

Me, Jamey
Todd, Joel
Craig, Ben
Chelsea, Britany

Not pictured:
Laura (Northern Michigan)
Ben Wheeler (Arkansas)
Dylan and Lukas (San Jose)
and we lost Chad last year.

Tons of food including
Blue Cheese Broccoli Casserole. Mmm.

Craig, Todd, Me

Euchre showdown with teams of two.

I sat at the end of the pier and took pictures of these guys playing on the trampoline. It was so much fun watching them act like 12 year olds.

We woke up Saturday at 5 a.m. to go flying at the Rouch House.
Yup. Flying.
On a few hours' sleep and convenience store coffee.
Joel is a powerchute pilot and instructor. They sell these things at their shop, too. We had to go early because it's best to fly at sunup or sundown when it's less windy.
After Kolja lifted off with Joel, Tim rolled up in the four-wheeler and said he'd set up the other powerchute so we could fly together.


and away

Over Alexandra

The Rouches are building another pond

Tim & Alexandra

Our shadow!

Joel & I over Kolja & Jon

Jon and Alexandra over Kolja

Alexandra learns how to drive the four-wheeler

and takes Kolja for a spin

My cousin and pilot, Joel

Gobert patiently waits for Joel
to come back down

Slices being glued
This is Jamey's shop. He makes crazy wood furniture from trees grown on their own property. He's been doing this since he was a kid.
His bedroom walls are patterned like this. He sniffs a lot of glue.
There was a baby raccoon running around somewhere, but we couldn't find him.

Having breakfast (their cherry tree)

The Rouch's two-story TV room
Next stop was Middlebury, Indiana, home of Coachman RVs and Culver Duck.
I made my annual stop into Old Hoosier Meats, Susan's Dad's meat store (he's the town butcher) and sure enough, I missed her visit by one week (she lives in Baltimore with her husband and two sons while attending Johns Hopkins University).
While at the Village Inn restaurant, the Germans spoke with their Amish waitress (not pictured, haha), and noticed that she spoke in very old, proper German. They also saw sausage gravy and they were not impressed. I had cornmeal mush for breakfast and I was happy.
I saw Robbie Zook's Dad and spoke to him for a bit. Rob will be the principal of Heritage Middle School this year. I still have the stuffed animal that Robbie got me in Kindergarten for Christmas. It's one of three stuffed animals I own. Yeah. He was THAT hot.

New kitty! With no tail!
This is an aerial of Dogtown that Todd took on top of the barn. It still doesn't fit in the camera. We need to find a place for Joel to land his powerchute so he can take a real aerial picture of the property. This shows how much space the dogs have to run around. But it doesn't justify how big the whole property is (eighteen acres). Dad has covered the whole area with new plants and trees. It's going to be an Enchanted Animal Garden in about ten years.
After visiting Dad & Kay's, we went down the street to the Culver Duck Growers party, which was mostly Amish. They provided a lot of hot dogs and gelatinized things and the kids ran around in their adorable Amish outfits while pummeling each other with water balloons. They had a great time.
Martha Eicher was there, who used to be Amish, so she answered a lot of our questions. I believe Alexandra is on a research mission.

Kolja taking pictures in the Hatchery

Mother Ducks (shut yo mouth!)
After the Growers Party we headed across the street to visit Culver Duck Farm and to give a tour of the processing plant. Thankfully the processing plant was not running on Saturday. You can imagine. The plant is where ducks make the transition between adorable thing and dinner.
We saw eggs and ducks and rows of corn and dirt throughout the farm. It was pretty ho-hum.
By now it's afternoon and we still needed to head over to my Mom's in Kendallville, about an hour's drive in the heat. And you can NOT leave Middlebury, Indiana without getting a turtle sundae at Yup's. It's just wrong.
We looked at all the Amish houses between Middlebury and Kendallville, and considering we drove through the Amish mecca that is Shipshewana, we saw quite a few.

The Old Farmhouse is hurting

This is Jeff.
He cooks kebobs.

Smitty stands up all the time.
(scroll down)
It's kinda creepy.
He's stronger than most dogs.

Lucy is totally precious. Her eyes are always expressing something.
She loves me.
She does not love cameras.
Mom and Jeff had food and more food. The kebabs were good enough to make me want a grill for our house now. At nightfall, the night critters came to Mom & Jeff's house, as they do every night. They eat all the scattered seeds below their bird feeders (they have tons of them all over the property). The Germans were introduced (no, really, they got that close) to a little skunk, a little raccoon, lightning bugs, and two flying squirrels. The flying squirrels live in a tree by Mom's front door and she feeds them peanut butter. She's had them for years and they aren't afraid of her. Those suckers are fast!
We stayed up late playing cards and talking. It was so nice to be in a screened in patio on a cool night after such a hot day.

Jeff's assistant and her family have spent years building a rammed earth house in Kendallville, near a wildlife conservation area. They expect to move in this summer. They built it themselves with a lot of research. It's set into a hill, like a cave house. (So the back of the house is a grassy hill.)

Along the left: the household water is filtered into these planters.

Close-up of the wall: tires then mud.

The living room/entryway

An unfinished wall: cans then mud.

A finished planter
After the rammed earth house, we headed to Uncle Steve & Aunt Susan's on Lake Wawasee. We had more cheese and bread and Steve gave us a tour of the lake. It's much, much bigger than Diamond Lake, and there was a lot of traffic. Jon had seen Steve's house two years earlier, before it was remodeled, so I was trying to show him the changes ("Remember? A piano here? The orange couch there? The bar was in there?") and he would slowly nod in passive agreement.
Susan and Lisa and Mike were all away for the day, and Cinda (scroll down) was going to try to stop by but she was busy with other guests, so it was a pretty quiet visit.
After Steve's we had an afternoon of reading a loafing, then another big dinner on the patio, and more cards and wine to finish the night. I did some stuff with Mom on her computer while Jon and the Germans discussed the itinerary for the following day in Chicago while consulting their architecture book.
The time with my family went by really fast, but I say that every time I visit them. There's never enough time.

Last boat ride of the trip

Me & Keiffer

By this time my camera was full, so we switched to Jon's camera. We took pictures all over the city and at ITT, then we accidentally left Jon's camera in the rental car at O'Hare airport, and so far Jon's calls to Hertz aren't getting him anywhere. So this will be added when we get Jon's camera and/or the images that Kolja and Alexandra took on the whole trip.
Oh yes, there are more images coming.
To end the trip story, KMFDM was on our plane and I made an idiot of myself no less than three times with them. My groupie skills are going downhill.