Sunday, September 23, 2012

Just in the Nick of Time - Cobblestone Barn

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In early January, 2007, Ruth had a phone conversation with our sister Peggy, who lives near Beloit, Wisconsin. Peggy asked Ruth if she knew about an old cobblestone barn that was situated in the city of Beloit. Ruth told Peggy she knew about the barn from her research into structures on the National Register of Historic Places.

What Ruth didn’t know, until Peggy told her, was that there had been a couple of recent articles in the Beloit Daily News about plans for this historic barn to be demolished to allow for construction of a Walgreens store. We had seen cobblestone houses before, but never a cobblestone barn.

Ruth immediately called me and told me about the plans for the barn. She said Peggy thought the plans called for the barn to be demolished in a couple of months, so we had some time to get down there to photograph it.

As Ruth talked about this unique and historical barn, I began to get a feeling in my gut that it was of the utmost importance to go right away.

Joann: “I think we should go this weekend.”

Ruth: “Are you sure you want to do that? It’s going to be mighty cold this weekend.”

Joann: “I just feel like we need to go right away.”

Ruth: “OK, it’s up to you. You’re the one who’s going to be standing out in the cold while I stay warm in the car.”

As soon as Saturday morning arrived, we got up early and headed to Beloit. And Ruth was right. It was darn cold outside! The barn was definitely in disrepair and, due to the RV business the owner had been running on the property, there were a lot of tires and other distractions around the barn. However, this was our only chance to record a piece of history before it disappeared forever.

In 1846, Captain Thomas Power, a former British Navy officer, and his wife, commissioned cobblestone house builder Chester Clark to construct a cobblestone house and barn. The barn was completed in 1849. Captain Power died in 1851 and the house was razed in the early 1900s. The cobblestone barn remained standing and had several owners over the years.

Cobblestones are small round stones left by the glaciers. They are typically imbedded in mortar in horizontal rows. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, “Cobblestone buildings were constructed in Wisconsin for approximately thirty years, beginning in the 1840s, with most found in Racine, Rock, Walworth, and Waukesha counties.”

A few days after we captured the images of this beautiful piece of architecture, the barn was suddenly demolished. Had we waited even one more week, we would have missed this opportunity. I am grateful that I listened to my intuition and that we took our photos just in the nick of time.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Storm Cloud

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In June of this year, Ruth and I took our annual summer trip to Iowa to photograph along the backroads of our neighboring state. As we headed out on Sunday morning to catch first light at an interesting cemetery, it began to rain. After photographing a few things in between the rain showers, the rain let up for about a half hour. But it was obvious that the storms weren’t finished because the sky was quite dark and we noticed an unusual cloud in the distance.

The route Ruth had planned caused us to turn and head towards this unusual cloud. It was situated over a cornfield and it was beautiful, so I pulled the car to the side of the road and took out my equipment. The wind was picking up and then I noticed that the cloud was rolling towards us at a fairly quick pace.

Every few minutes, a bolt of lightning flashed between the base of the cloud and the horizon. I decided to try to capture a lightning bolt, but I knew I didn’t have much time. The wind and the speed of the rolling cloud were increasing rapidly. I looked down the road and I liked how the cloud hovered above it, so I turned my camera in that direction. Just then, a huge bolt of lightning descended from the cloud where I had been facing a few seconds ago. Wouldn’t you know it!

After capturing the road scene, I turned back towards the cornfield to try to get a photo with a lightning bolt in it. The cloud was rolling ever closer and I knew that I should be getting back into the car. And then a big bolt of lightning came out of the cloud and I managed to capture it – just in the nick of time because it began to rain. So I quickly put my equipment back and jumped into the driver’s seat. I was glad to be safely back in the car.

We’ve decided to use one of these storm cloud photos in the 2013 scenic calendar we will be offering soon. Contact us if you’d like more information and, as always…

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

More Ways to Celebrate Autumn

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Every year as Joann and I turn our calendars to September, our thoughts turn to fall color and the many scenes awaiting us on the backroads. We can’t wait to hit the backroads to see what kind of show the trees will display each year.

Several years ago we gave you Five Ways to Celebrate Autumn, and this year we’d like to share a few more.

September is a good month to visit a winery especially if you would like to participate in a grape stomp. Some wineries even have Lucille Ball look-alike contests in honor of the famous “I Love Lucy” episode where she stomped grapes.

I typed “grape stomp Wisconsin” into Google search and found a website listing all of the grape stomps in the Midwest states. Try it for your location and see what comes up for your area or an area you want to visit.

Look up the Wisconsin Rustic Roads map for your area and find the locations of some roads to explore. Each road has a description of what you can expect to find along the route.

If you’re not lucky enough to live in Wisconsin, find a good backroads map and pick some rural roads of your own to drive. Often the thrill of finding something unexpected on a backroad is more fun than knowing what to look for. (But keep your eyes open since not knowing what you’re looking for makes it that much easier to drive past it without realizing it!)

Find a cranberry festival in your area, or make plans to visit Warrens, Wisconsin for their annual Cranberry Festival. The festival is always held the last full weekend of September.

If you can’t make it to the festival, take a drive in a cranberry area near you to see the fields flooded for harvest, or plan a visit to the Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens, Wisconsin. There you can take a tour of the cranberry museum and buy cranberry-flavored and scented items, as well as everything else cranberry.

Find a farm market or watch along your route for small vegetable stands. Fall is a wonderful time to find the bounty of home gardens for sale along the roads. Many are self-service stands, so make sure you have small bills and change.

Find a stand of hickory nut trees along the backroads and pick up some hickory nuts. The taste is wonderful, but it takes some practice to crack them with success.

Or, if you’re lucky, you might find an older friend or relative who knows the secret and will crack some for you for a share of the nutmeats.

We always have big plans of getting some cracked over the winter, and have yet to actually make that a reality.

Lastly, even though we included this on our prior list, we can’t help but suggest a visit to an apple orchard. This year the apples are ready early, and the supply in many areas of Wisconsin will be limited, so plan your trip early.

Don’t forget to take home some apple goodies. Buy yourself some caramel apples, cider doughnuts, or an apple pie.

Have fun however you celebrate autumn this year.

Happy Shunpiking!

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Once Around the Block

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In April of 2009, Joann and I visited Wilmington, Ohio in the middle of the day in the pouring rain. We had a few things on our list to photograph and we tried our hardest to make the best of the weather.

Some of the photographs turned out well, others did not. Joann put on her wish list to return on our next trip, if at all possible, so I worked it into the plan to stop on the way east during our April, 2012 trip.

Our list of things to photograph in Indiana is huge, so rather than just sticking to the interstate and getting to Ohio as quickly as possible, we made many stops across Indiana. I know you won’t be surprised when I tell you that, late in the day, we had many miles to go before reaching our reserved motel room.

We switched drivers and I drove the highways towards our motel. But on the way, we still had to make time for Wilmington. Our plan was to photograph an old Dairy Queen sign that we hadn’t captured well on our previous trip and then continue to the motel. But, as we pulled into town, the theater sign was lit up. Who could resist?

It was a Saturday night, and the downtown was very busy. The streets were parked full of cars so Joann asked if I wanted to pull up and let her out. I did an illegal stop at the next stop light and she quickly gathered her equipment. She told me she would hurry and I should drive around the block and then pick her up.

Around the block I went. When I got back to the theater, I could see her still taking shots, so I continued around the block again. Knowing that she needed more time, I increased my “block” to about a three-block area. Now as I came past the theater, I couldn’t see her! Oh crap, now what? There was still nowhere to park, so back down to the same stoplight I went.

Turning the corner, I decided to do my three-block route again and this time, as I came past the theater, I could see Joann walking toward the corner. I pulled into my illegal parking spot so she could climb in and then we headed for the old DQ sign.

We couldn’t remember if the Dairy Queen had been open on our first trip, but this time it was looking very sad.

Thankfully, the old sign was still there in the parking lot. Joann took a lot of photos knowing that the next time we were in the area, the building and sign could well be gone.

When we finished up and punched the motel address into Irwin (our trusty GPS), we found we still had an hour of driving to go. It’s a good thing we always reserve our motels with a credit card and warn them that we’ll probably be late arriving. (I should say there’s never a “probably” about it!)

When you’re out in your travels and you find something great, take your photos then, because you never know how long it will be there.

Happy Shunpiking!