Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Bucket or a Quart

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

While Joann and I were in North Carolina on our recent photography trip, we were travelling down a road behind a prison work crew bus. (If you’ve read our April 2010 blog story entitled “A Case of Mistaken Identity,” you’ll notice this prison work crew thing is sort of a theme for us, and we encountered them twice on this trip!)

Finally, the bus turned off on a road to the right and we continued straight. We much prefer not to be behind any sort of bus or large vehicle, because it makes it hard for us to see what is coming up, and we might miss something important. And sure enough, shortly after the bus turned, we came up to a field planted with rows of strawberries and we noticed that there were people walking among the rows. There was also a sign announcing a farm market, and since we had driven past several already and hadn’t stopped, Joann suggested we stop at this one.

We turned toward the tent which was set up next to the field of strawberries. This wasn’t any old farm market – this was a market selling only fresh, sweet strawberries! As we pulled into the parking lot, we could see buckets and buckets of the bright red berries sitting on tables under the tent. We jumped out of the car and got some money for strawberries and Joann got her camera. Then we went over to check out the strawberries and to ask if Joann could take some pictures.

There was a very friendly young woman under the tent selling the berries and handing out buckets for the “pick your own” visitors. When Joann asked if she could take some photos, the woman said, “Of course!” and then went about her business. But she didn’t want to be in any of the photos, so she kept stepping out of the way as Joann went about taking photos of the gorgeous red berries. The table had a few quart boxes of strawberries and many buckets.

I watched her work as people came in to buy strawberries and to go into the field and pick their own. She would hand out buckets, and with each one, she would explain that the already picked buckets were $10, and the “pick your own” were $8, as long as “yur buckets are like ar buckets” . (I mean no disrespect, but want to put a bit of her accent into this). “If they’re a lot bigger, like if they’re up to here” and she motioned her hand high above the top of the bucket, “I’ll have to charge you more, so maybe $9”.

As I watched, kids were coming back to the tent with buckets partially filled with strawberries, and the parents had also partially filled their buckets in hopes of paying for just one full bucket. One young girl, who appeared to be about three years old, was swinging her bucket of strawberries. As her mother tried to take the bucket to combine them, she began to scream. (Wouldn’t you scream if someone were trying to take away the sweet, red strawberries you had just picked for yourself?)

As Joann finished up her photos, she asked me if we should get a quart or a bucket, and I said I didn’t know if we could fit a bucket in the cooler. She said she thought we could and then the young woman spoke up.

Joann: “I think we should get a bucket.”

Ruth “Are you sure? Will it fit in the cooler? Will we get them eaten before they spoil?”

Young woman: “I think you need to buy a bucket because if you don’t, you’ll regret it later.”

Joann: “That’s true, and then we’ll be down the road and we won’t be able to come back.”

Young woman: “I’d buy the bucket, you won’t be sorry. And I have some paper towels here, so you can eat some right away.”

Since we always travel with a roll of paper towels for emergencies and for preparing meals on the road, we told her we would be ok, and paid for our bucket of strawberries. We returned to the car and rearranged the cooler so the bucket would fit. Then we each picked out a handful of big strawberries to eat immediately. As we drove down the road eating those sweet berries, we planned what we would do with the whole bucket.

We had strawberry yogurt parfaits for breakfast and strawberry spinach salad for supper. And best of all, we had fresh strawberry shortcake for dessert!

So take a drive and visit some country farm markets to see what you can find. The weather has been warm and fresh strawberries can’t be far behind!

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rowdy and Rambo Take a Ride

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

One of the most interesting encounters I had on our recent trip to North Carolina was with a man and his dogs. It was our third day in North Carolina and we had just entered Alamance County. As we drove down a country road, we passed an old red and white Chevy automobile with a “For Sale” sign on it. It was early afternoon on a very sunny day, so the lighting was pretty harsh, but I decided to snap a couple of pictures of the old car anyway.

As I set up my tripod, I heard some dogs barking from across the road. When I turned around to see what the commotion was about, I realized that the dogs were about to run out into the road. Just then, an older gentleman with white hair came out of a large shed and scolded the dogs. “Rowdy! Rambo! Get back here!” he shouted. As I watched him, I realized that he looked a lot like the eccentric inventor, Dr. Emmett Brown, in the movie Back to the Futue.

I went across the road and introduced myself and he said his name was Cary, “spelled like Cary Grant.” He told me that the old car was a 1955 Chevy Bel Air two-door hard top and that it was pretty rare. He said that, if he had restored it, it would be worth about four times what he was asking for it in its present condition. Then he said, “I’ve also got a 1940 Buick Special in the shed. It’s fully restored and it runs perfectly. Would you like me to pull it out so you can take a picture of it?”

I said, “Sure, that would be great!” Cary quickly turned around and headed into the shed. Rowdy and Rambo were running around in front of the shed. As I tried to get a photograph of them, Cary called from the shed, “Come on, get in.” I wasn’t sure if he was talking to me, but then Rowdy and Rambo made a mad dash for the back seat. Cary started up the Buick Special, revved up the engine (which he later explained was a Straight-8), and backed the car out of the shed. He drove it across the road and towards the Chevy Bel Air.

I was still standing on the other side of the road by the shed, and as Cary stopped the car, I noticed a great silhouette with him in the driver’s seat and Rowdy’s profile in the back seat. I attempted to capture the silhouette, but Cary was too quick to jump out of the car. It was then that I realized that, although his appearance reminded me of Dr. Emmett Brown, his mannerisms reminded me of the character, Kramer, from the sitcom Seinfeld.

I crossed the road and Cary asked me if he had parked the Buick Special in a good spot for my photos. I asked him if he could move it a bit so that there was a better background. He willingly obliged and, all the while, Rambo and Rowdy were sitting in the back seat, just like a couple of people waiting for the chauffeur to drive them somewhere.

I took a couple of shots of the Buick Special and then pulled in close to capture Rowdy and Rambo as they waited patiently in the back seat for the short ride back to the shed. And while I photographed them, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. You never know who you’ll meet as you travel the back roads of this great country. In this case, two rambunctious dogs, Rowdy and Rambo, had made my day.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Moonshine, IL. - Population 2

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

We’ve been to Moonshine several times now, and every time is different. The first time we went, we were on our way to Kentucky. As I planned the trip, I was looking for some stops along the way. I had torn an article out of the paper that was about a tiny town in Illinois with an old general store that was becoming famous for the hamburgers they served. They named them moonburgers because the general store is called the Moonshine Store. At that time, their record for the number of sandwiches served in a single day was 712. Their new record, set in April of this year, is 1,908!

Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

On that first trip, we left for Kentucky on a Thursday morning at 3:30 AM and planned to arrive at Moonshine around noon. We managed to get a little lost along the way and ended up on a road that passed through a creek – something like the scene below, but much worse since there was no concrete lining the bottom. Needless to say we turned around because we weren’t driving a 4x4 vehicle. After losing time back-tracking, we had to hurry to make it to Moonshine before they turned the grill off at 12:30!

Sylamore Creek, Stone County, Arkansas

If you decide to take a trip to Moonshine, you’ll know you’re getting close when you start seeing small signs tacked up on the telephone poles pointing the way to Moonshine. Because it’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s a good idea to have a backroads map and watch closely for those arrows.

Sign Pointing to Moonshine, Population 2, Clark County, Illinois

On our first trip, we arrived at Moonshine at 12:22 and as we came in the door, we were told to get our order in because we had 8 minutes before the grill was shut down. We ordered two cheeseburgers and paid for our sodas and burgers while we waited. There are no order slips - you just tell the person at the register what you ordered.

Taking Orders for Moonburgers at the Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

As we waited for our food, which only took a couple of minutes, we noticed that the “staff” were all older people. Some were manning the register and the grill; others were sitting around chatting at the benches in the store. We thought one of them was even the spitting image of Junior Samples of Hee Haw fame, bib overalls and everything.

Relaxing at the Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

When your order is ready, they call your name and hand you your grilled sandwich on an old tin lid. Close to the grill is a small table where you help yourself with condiments and napkins.

A Delicious Lunch at the Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

If the weather is good, you can take your lunch and head out to one of the many picnic tables under the trees at the side of the store. If the weather isn’t good, you have to content yourself with a seat on one of the benches, and balance your plate on your lap. We’ve been lucky and have always had great weather for our visits.

Enjoying Lunch at the Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

As you sit under the trees enjoying your lunch, there are birds singing in the trees and sometimes hopping along the tables looking for crumbs. The food is excellent, though, so there aren’t many crumbs left over.

Satisfied After Lunch at the Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

The first time we stopped, there was a truck parked in front of the store with a golden retriever taking a nap under the front bumper. This year on the way home from our North Carolina trip early in May, we stopped at Moonshine for lunch. As we were finishing our delicious meal, Joann glanced up and saw a dog wistfully watching the lunch patrons from the second story window and she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to snap a picture.

Dog in Upstairs Window at the Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

As we laughed about how we are often almost too late to order at the grill, we remembered what the owners had told us on our first visit. They had given us pens with the Moonshine Store name and phone number on them. They told us, if we were coming again and were running late, we could call and order our sandwiches. If we did that before 12:30, they would grill them so we wouldn’t miss out. And if we would be arriving after 1:00 (the time they promptly close the store), they would put the order in a bag in the mailbox. They said we could pick up our sandwiches whenever we got there and we could just leave our money in the mailbox. (We need to keep their number in the car!).

Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

Whenever we stop at Moonshine, we usually spend a couple of hours there enjoying the peace and quiet and taking a needed break from the car. And before we leave, we make a stop at Sitty Hall (also known as the outhouse) and then we’re on our way.

Sign on Outhouse at Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

Sitty Hall used to be the only facility, but since the store has become so popular, they have added several modern port-a-johns in the field across the road right next to Sitty Hall.

Outhouse at Moonshine Store, Clark County, Illinois

If you ever have the opportunity, take a side trip to Moonshine and experience a Moonburger for yourself. You won't regret it!

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Milling Around West Virginia - Glade Creek Grist Mill

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Ruth and I just returned from a two-week photography trip to North Carolina. This is the first of a number of stories we will share from the trip. On the tenth day of our trip, we left North Carolina, crossed the corner of Virginia, and headed into West Virginia. Our plans called for us to reach Babcock State Park by evening.

Within the boundaries of Babcock State Park, on Glade Creek, in the New River Gorge National River area, sits one of the most photographed mills in West Virginia. This mill is a 1976 reproduction of Cooper’s Mill, a grist mill which once stood nearby on Glade Creek.

The Glade Creek Grist Mill was authentically constructed using materials from three former West Virginia mills. The Stoney Creek Grist Mill, dating back to 1890, provided the basic structure and was carefully dismantled in Pocahontas County and put back together piece by piece at Babcock State Park in Fayette County.

The beautiful overshot waterwheel was salvaged from Spring Run Grist Mill in Grant County after a fire destroyed everything but the waterwheel. The Onega Grist Mill, in Pendleton County, supplied the materials for other parts of the mill. Today, the Glade Creek Grist Mill produces freshly ground buckwheat flour and cornmeal, which can be purchased by park visitors.

Glade Creek, which is full of boulders and small waterfalls, is an idyllic setting where fly fishermen, photographers, sightseers, nature lovers, and mill enthusiasts join together to enjoy the sights and sounds of this wonderful setting. We visited Babcock State Park on a beautiful spring evening and the creek was full of fly fishermen. As I was photographing the mill from the huge rocks downstream, I met some nice people who were also there to photograph the mill.

When I’d finished and was heading back to the car, I saw an older couple standing in front of the mill. They looked very much in love, which was confirmed when the gentleman got down on one knee to propose.

I noticed that the man had a camera on his belt, so I gave them some time and then went over and asked them if they would like me to take their picture. They were very pleased and recreated the moment so that I could capture it with the grist mill in the background.

After that, Ruth and I went up the mountain to have a picnic supper as we watched the last rays of daylight sink into the valley below. The next morning, we returned in the predawn hours to capture the mill as the moon was beginning to set.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit West Virginia, don’t pass up the chance to enjoy the beauty of this wonderful state park and grist mill.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Amish Encounters

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

The pace in Amish communities is slower, and maybe that’s part of what draws Joann and me to those areas. They can’t go faster than their horse can take them anywhere, and the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves is very soothing, at least to us. I’m sure if you’re riding in the buggy it’s a different story, but the Amish we encounter always seem very cordial and happy as they pass by. We wave and they wave back. We’ve had some interesting encounters along the way, and here are several of those.

One October afternoon, we were in Vernon County, standing on the edge of the road looking at the fall color and an abandoned house off in the distance when we heard the familiar clip-clop of horses’ hooves coming down the road.

As the buggy approached, we could see three Amish girls in the front of the buggy and as they neared us, the horse shied and didn’t want to move forward.

Amish girl driving the buggy: Giddyup!

Joann: I’m sorry. Are we scaring your horse?

Amish girl, giggling: He’s more scared of things standing still than he is of things that are moving!

Amish girls, all giggling: Giddyup! GIDDYUP!!!

Finally the horse began to move and we could hear the girls still giggling as they urged the horse to continue down the road. We stood on the road listening until the clip-clop faded to nothing, and then we returned to the car to continue on our way.

On a trip to Pennsylvania, we were in Amish country photographing old mills and covered bridges. The area is so full of history that we stopped every mile or so to photograph something. As we came down one road, we passed an Amish girl on a bicycle with flowers in her baskets. A little further down the road we came upon an Amish farm selling flowers. The front lawn had a large wagon filled with annual flowers for sale. We couldn’t resist stopping to see if we could photograph the wagon.

Since we couldn’t buy any flowers, we went into their little vegetable stand before we left. Two young Amish girls were tending the vegetable stand and they seemed very shy as we talked about what to buy. We decided to buy some fresh leaf lettuce for a salad and some cucumbers. As we were getting ready to pay, Joann noticed the Whoopie Pies.

Joann: What’s in the Whoopie Pies?

Amish girls: Shortening, sugar, chocolate, flour. It’s like a chocolate cake.

Joann: And what’s the white stuff?

Ruth (laughing): That’s the Whoopie.

Now the Amish girls just giggled, and they were still smiling and giggling as we paid for our vegetables and walked back to the car.

Several times we’ve stopped at an Amish farm when the men are hitching up the horses for field work. Often they will let us take a picture of the team as long as we first state that we won’t take any pictures of the Amish themselves.

On one such occasion, there was a young Amish lad with a team of horses pulling a wagon of logs. We pulled over and Joann got out to ask if she could take pictures of the team. He said that we could, so Joann set about taking pictures. This was years ago before Joann switched over to her digital equipment, so we were using 35mm film cameras. As she finished taking pictures, he asked if he could see them. He had obviously already seen pictures on someone’s digital camera, so he assumed he could see our pictures right away too. We laughed and told him that we didn’t have a digital camera and we had to wait to see the pictures ourselves.

Another time, we came to a farm with a team of horses standing on the hill between the house and the barn. There were kids playing in the yard, but they ran inside as soon as we pulled over. Joann got out to ask if she could take pictures of the team, and several of the Amish men came down to see what she was asking about. They kindly told us that we could take pictures of the team as soon as they finished hooking them up and were not in the scene.

Once she had taken the pictures, they wanted to see them. Since this was after our switch to digital, she was able to share with them the photos that she had captured. And the kids who had run into the house must have been watching out the window, because soon they were outside, gathered around the camera wanting to see the pictures that we had captured. They all crowded around Joann and she took turns letting them see the pictures on the LCD screen.

If you want to experience the same sort of friendly encounters with the Amish, take a backroads drive in an area that you know to be Amish (Vernon and Monroe counties in Wisconsin have large Amish populations). Don’t be afraid to stop at the places with hand-painted signs for vegetables, woven rugs, furniture, and other items. They aren’t open on Sundays, but any other day of the week you can stop and check out their wares.

Happy Shunpiking!