Jiffy Corn Mix Factory Tour

My children love Jiffy, whether we’re talking about eating it or making it. So when putting forth the possibility of a Jiffy tour, they were ready to go. The Jiffy plant is a small one, but they produce a lot of product.

We were part of about thirty other folks touring the facility in Chelsea, Michigan. Jiffy schedules them throughout the morning, and there is no charge. It took an hour, which began with a short creative video.

We put on our nifty Jiffy blue hair nets and took the tour. I thought it would be cool to be a tour guide in a factory. The Jiffy tour guide was excellent. She has been working at the plant for 30+ years and loves her job. The tour guide gets to interact with the people and not have to do the hard factory work.

The plant was somewhat loud, but not unbearable. They were not at full capacity. They are mostly a seasonal company as folks use their products more during the fall and winter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, for example. We bought a case of Jiffy boxes on the way out, which were at a discount.

From Their Website

Chelsea Milling Company was established in 1901, as a traditional flour mill. By early 1930 we had expanded into the retail prepared baking mix market with our first “JIFFY” Mix product. Today, “JIFFY” is the market share leader in retail prepared muffin mixes. In addition to our retail products, we produce mixes for the Foodservice and Institutional markets.

At “JIFFY” our mission is to provide our consumers with the best possible value. We define value as providing the highest quality ingredients at the best price.

Mindo Chocolate Factory

 

One of the things we love to do is visit factories, to take tours. They are always interesting, and usually, you get good deals, if not free stuff. Last year we did the Celestial Tea Tour in Boulder, Colorado. We got a lot of inexpensive tea, and it was educational.

In 2008, we may (or may not have) skipped out on part of the ACBC national counseling conference to take the Budweiser tour in St. Louis. (It was way more interesting.) This year we did the Henry Ford museum, and while on our way to Chicago, we decided to visit the world-famous Mindo Chocolate Factory.

Okay, it’s not quite as world-shaking as it sounds. The factory is a house deep in the woods of Michigan. The GPS had a hard time directing us, and we went down more than one gravel road. And the service on our phones did disappear. I kept hearing the theme song to Deliverance (dueling banjos) in my head.

The reviews online said not to give up; you will find it. They were correct, and after awhile we drove down a long driveway to a home surrounded by woods. Being the leader that I am; I protected our children as Lucia went to the door to meet a lady, who said, “It’s a little weird, but it’s okay.” I think she has seen “that look” before from strangers who were not sure what was going to happen after they knocked on her door.

She was about twenty or so and inviting. We slowly entered her home as she explained that it was a chocolate (house) factory. One converted room was shipping and receiving. Another room was where they made the magic chocolate. Then there was the tasting room, which appeared to be a converted Florida room.

The lady who owns the “factory” shuttles between Michigan and Ecuador, which is where they get their amazing beans. She was in South America at the time. Our guide was wonderful, kind, generous, and willing to answer all our questions. The “cook” in the back room was also gracious.

And the chocolate was fabulous. We bought a few bars to take on the road with us. The thing I appreciated the most was the entrepreneurial spirit of these folks. They had an idea and went about implementing it. I love that spirit. They do sell to a few small-sized stores, as well an online presence.

If you’re ever deep in the woods of Michigan, drop by their house (factory) and take the tour. It’s about an hour, depending on your questions. You’ll like these folks and their chocolate, and it will be a good memory for all.

University Sight-Seeing

During our travels, it’s important to me that we visit iconic sport’s landmarks that harken back to my youth. Those days when sport’s figures were heroes and the stadiums where they played were fields of conquest.

It’s not as important to my family, but they oblige me because they are a deferring bunch. Sports was the road I traveled, in my mind, as a youth. The field of play is where I lived vicariously. Sports took me to another world, which permitted me, ever so briefly, to escape from the hellishness of my home.

I don’t follow sports any longer, at least not like that. I keep up with current events through various apps but have little time to devote to such matters now that I have a better life.

As we travel, I do enjoy seeing the places where my heroes played. This time around, we’ve seen the Cincinnati Red’s ballpark, Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions, Wrigley Field, United Center, and as we were exiting Michigan, we stopped by Ann Arbor to see the Big House and then went to South Bend to check out the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

The Big House

The Big House looks like a big house of sorts. It’s big with red brick walls towering from the parking areas. The Michigan Wolverines play college football there. I’ve never cared much about the Wolverines, but they have had good teams historically. Jim Harbaugh is there current coach.

As an aside, my Tar Heels beat the Michigan basketball team for the national title in 1993. Michigan had the “fab five,” a group of freshman that were going to change basketball, which that did in a sense. But we did win the title.

While at the university, we went to the Law Quad, which was impressive. It reminded me of Dead Poet’s Society as far as the structures and cerebral perception of the place. The university seemed to spread all over Ann Arbor. I’m not sure about that, but it had the feel that it was everywhere.

Fighting Irish

Notre Dame was much different. It was tight and confined, though large. It was also clean and beautiful. Because it was more accessible to walkabout, we could see and enjoy it better than the University of Michigan.

We saw their football and basketball stadiums, which are side-by-side, as well as their other sport’s facilities. They’ve gathered most of their sports, if not all, in one place, which was smart because they could park in the same area for multiple sporting events.

It was great to see statues of Lou Holtz and Knute Rockne. Lou was a ten-year coach, who won a national title, and Knute is the iconic football player and coach from the earlier part of last century.

My most impressive memory of Notre Dame is January 19, 1974, when the basketball team beat UCLA, breaking the Bruin’s 88-game winning streak. It was stunning and indelible.

It was interesting to see all the religious statues and plaques on campus. The most notable one was a massive statue of Moses with his foot on the neck of the golden calf, one arm corraling the Ten Commandments, and the other hand defiantly pointing to the sky. It was impressive.

And, of course, the Bascillica and Golden Dome were side-by-side and inspiring too. I silently wondered how much it meant to folks, other than architectural intrigue.

Puffing Priest

As we were walking around the stadium, three priests were chatting up each other. One of them was puffing on a cigarette. That was cool. It reminded me of my Baptist days when the deacons were out back toking their cigs, away from the holy parishioners.

The difference is that this priest was more consistent in that he had nothing to hide. He was “just as I am” rather than being pretentious. It was refreshing. He was relatable. Sadly, the Baptist puffer is relatable too with his hypocrisy.

Lake Michigan, here we come!

Our First Book In Print

Change_Me_front_cover_02

Last week I published our first paperback book, called, “Change Me, The Ultimate Life-Change Handbook.” This book will be the leading resource from our ministry on how to change. It is 34 chapters and 292 pages.

Here is the promotional video https://vimeo.com/rickthomasnet/change-me

A few years ago, I wrote 31 articles (2K words per) on how to change. It was intended to be a guide for disciplers and counselors to use as a long-term homework tool. It was quite popular, so I turned it into a digital book. Now it’s in paperback.

As we near the 10-year anniversary of our ministry on July 03 of this year, we are at the “publishing phase” regarding our content creation. The goal is to publish two paperback books per year. The second one this year will be in a few weeks. Then we’ll try to release one during the first and second halves of next year.

Hey, What May I Do?

1. Say a prayer, asking the Father to bring more folks who are willing to support our ministry. Each book costs approximately $1200 to publish.

2. Buy this latest book here: https://amzn.to/2JPeliJ

3. Share the link with a friend https://amzn.to/2JPeliJ, asking them to buy a copy.

4. Write a review on Amazon about the book, which will signal to them to broaden its reach.

5. Use this book in your discipleship and counseling endeavors. (One counseling ministry at a local church is reviewing it to see if it would be a good fit to add to their curriculum.)

This new step is significant for our ministry, and I hope the Lord will open more doors as our books go forth, sharing the good and transformative news of Christ.

The Henry Ford

Henry Ford was a smart fellow. Of course, you know that he said you could have any color you wanted as long as it was black. And he did us a good favor by building the “Model T.” But his legacy is greater than the automobile.

We went to “The Henry Ford” complex in Dearborn, Michigan to tour the Ford plant, the museum, and Greenfield Village. Two days was not enough. We did the Ford River Rouge Complex first. (Rouge is French for red dirt, which was the color of the land where they built the factory if I got that right.) That facility is where they make the F-150 truck currently.

In my former life, I worked on the BMW assembly line for five years, most of which was while earning my Masters in Biblical Counseling. It was a painful experience that took several years after I left to recover from the physical problems of production line work.

At the Rouge plant, the assembly workers have headphones, mobile devices, their choice of clothing (shorts), and anything else they want, within limitations, as long as it does not hinder quality. We did not have those options back in the day at BMW. Perhaps things have changed since then. We also were not a union shop, which makes a difference.

The Ford Museum

The museum was phenomenal too. It was an eclectic collection of planes, trains, and automobiles from the past one hundred years. Henry Ford was a collector before other folks thought about the value of such artifacts. I was talking with one employee who said they could not get those pieces today because people see the value of them and want them for themselves.

Henry saw the value back then, as well as those Ford visionaries who came after him. They collected such things as Presidential automobiles, e.g., the one when Reagan was in when Hinckley shot him, Kennedy’s car, FDR’s car, and Teddy Roosevelt’s carriage. (Teddy did not believe in automobiles; he was old-school.)

There were scores upon scores of other historic cars and paraphernalia from our American past. I liked the huge trains. They had the train car that Ford and Edison traveled in when they needed to get away from public life. It had everything you want in an “RV.” There were NASCAR and Indy cars too.

If you’re old enough to remember some of those events or if you have a history background, it would be a rich, sentimental, and rewarding experience for you.

Greenfield Village

This place is far better than Colonial Williamsburg. (I’m not counting the black lady who sang for me. That was an all-time highlight that I continue to savor.) They do a much better job with their “living history” aspect of this enormous property. It’s acres and acres of diverse American history from the early 1800s through the 1900s. One of the unique features is how they cobbled together the vast expanse of history. It’s not just from one era, i.e., Colonial America.

You have the home of the Wright Brothers, brought in from Ohio. You then have Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park complex where he did his creative work. (His goal was to have a major invention every six months and a minor invention every ten days. (I, obviously, aim too low.)

IMG_3242Then there is Noah Webster’s home, a courthouse where Abe Lincoln conducted law, and fifty other homes, cabins, and stores from America’s past. There is a living farm where they eat what they grow. They were having lunch when we walked into their little home. It just happened to be the home of Henry Firestone. They would not let me eat with them. They would let me use the outhouse. Of course, there are spinning shops, printing shops, glass blowing shops, and many more shops.

It was amazing.

The downside is that we covered all this in two days. I missed a few movies and did not spend enough time in the museum. I did get my steps in though, and that was a plus. It reminded me of the two months we spent out west, in that it’s not enough time to take in our amazing country.

Visiting Lucia’s Cousin in Novi, Michigan

Forty-something years ago, Lucia was the flower girl in her daddy’s sister’s daughter’s wedding. Lucia’s sister is Pam Straub. She married Richard O. Straub, who is a PhD. in Psychology for the University of Michigan in Dearborn.

Lucia has not seen Pam since the wedding. Life can go that way, which is why we wanted to stop by for a visit. They were super-gracious to let these “relative-strangers” barge into their home for a night and a day. It was even more gracious of them since their septic tank started having problems a few days prior. We used the bathroom at Starbucks. (Praising God for public facilities.) The kids could not take showers, which ruined their entire summer travels.

Not!

We came in late from Cincinnati on Friday evening. We chatted briefly and then hit the hay. We were exhausted. We were up Saturday morning for breakfast and more talking before heading out to Detroit.

Richard is older than I am but way more energetic. He runs nearly every day, and also works out at the gym. A good portion of his income comes from writing books. (Rick’s got an idea.) He’s written a textbook on psychology, which quite a few universities use. He’s on his umpteenth edition; once he finishes one version, he immediately begins the next one. Theoretically, this could go on forever. (Rick likes his idea.)

Our visit was brief by design because we did not want to over-tax their plumbing, plus it was all spur of the moment. It was great to be there, to see distant family, and connect some “relative dots” that would not have connected if we had not visited.

Downtown Detroit, Sunday

We arrived midday in Detroit. It was the most “un-busy large town” I’ve ever visited. There were massive empty parking lots and several businesses that were not open on Sunday. We were at the towering GM building at the Detroit River, which separates the US from Canada. We could see Canada across the river.

I longed to go to Canada, and we could have since we did bring our passports, but we decided to wait until our October conference in Alberta. I was craving maple syrup and poutine.

We decided to spend the day walking downtown, which was nice because it was clean, and not busy or hot. They’ve done a great job cleaning up that part of Detroit. It was tourist friendly. There was not a lot to do because the shops were not open, so we walked around, took pictures, and enjoyed each other.

I did not realize that it was “pride month,” so seeing so many gay folks walking around sporting their colors was a bit surreal. There seemed to be more gay people than not. Let’s just say it was instructive and interesting.

I asked one dude what I needed to eat in Detroit, and he said that Layfette or Americana hotdogs were a must. They are two holes-in-the-wall, side-by-side, about five minutes from the river, so we went. The conies were good. It was everything you would want in such a place.

The two restaurants connected to each other; I decided to do Layfette for no particular reason. It was a hole-in-the-wall. Perfect, I’d say. We do not do chain restaurants on the road. We want local food if we eat out at all, which we don’t do much of because it’s cheaper to buy groceries as we do at home.

But I could not resist a Detroit hotdog stacked with chili and onions.

We finished our day driving around Comerica Park and Ford Field, where the Detroit Tigers (baseball) and Detroit Lions (football) play. A street separates their parks, which seemed odd, but a great idea to put your parks contiguous to each other. They configured their roads and parking to service both parks, which has to save money while creating year-round tourism for the same part of the city. The basketball arena was around the corner. (I think it was for basketball, though it was not clear to me.)

Off to The Henry Ford and Greenfield Village.

Welcome to Cincinnati, Ohio

We left Florence, Kentucky and drove a few minutes, though it seemed, before we came upon a cityscape that looked intriguing. We wound through a few hills, and then there was a big city on the other side of a large river.

Cincinnati is a beautiful town, especially on the riverfront. It is the Ohio River. We saw a striking blue and white building that first caught our attention, and since we do “adventure driving,” we had to stop.

We found out that George Clooney’s dad lives in one of the condos in the blue and white building. (That’s my one “name drop” for the day.)

We pulled off the Interstate and wove our way around the riverfront area to find a parking spot. It is one long park, for kids mostly, along the Ohio River, where the Roebling Bridge stretches across the river. We found a parking spot and walked across the Ohio River and back again.

We then walked around the park, went up to the Underground Railroad Museum, walked down to the Tervis Store, went to The Great American Ball Park where the Reds play baseball, and had lunch at Skyline restaurant.

Skyline Restaurant

The ladies at the Tervis Store said we had to eat at Skyline, so we did. They piled about fourteen feet of cheese on top of chili spaghetti. And I had a coney too, which was a premature hotdog buried in more cheese. It was good, though there were gastronomical consequences.

As we were standing in the entryway of the restaurant, I needed to be free from the internal gurgling. And thinking it was only my children in the entryway, I set myself free. And while I was in mid-process (it was record-setting), a gentleman came out the door. My back was to him, so I assumed it was Lucia until he let out a belly laugh.

Later, I connected with him at the intersection, as we were waiting for the light and I apologized while telling him that I had never done that before in my life. He laughed again, as did my children.

Hall of Fame

RaeAnn, our Skyline waitress, gave us a half-price ticket for the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, so we had to go. The museum is in a “park area” with the stadium. The entire area is fantastic. Well done.

My family is not into baseball that much, and they do not have the historical background that I do. So, let’s say that it was an emotional experience for me. As we walked through the museum, they played radio broadcasts from some of the most famous moments in Red’s history, e.g., Pete Rose breaking Ty Cobb’s lifetime hit record.

It was emotional because sports (and all things TV) was my escape from my childhood. The TV was a “portal” that permitted me to “go somewhere else” while never leaving my family. The TV was my “salvation” as a kid. Those radio broadcasts that I heard at the museum were the ones that I heard the moment they happened.

Bobblehead Anyone?

We also got four bobblehead statues of Johnny Vander Meer for touring the museum. It was a promotion. If any of you want one of those statues, you’re welcome to it if you pay for the shipping.

On the way back to the car, we ran into two actors gearing up in their Iron Man suits. We had to chat them up (and get a picture, of course).

There were many other things we did in Cincy, the best of which was talking to the people, i.e., the lady at the Underground Railroad Museum, the police officer at the Hall of Fame, the ladies at the Tervis Store, and RaeAnn. And then there was the lady down at the park and the Iron Men. I could spend a few days in Cincinnati. It was that good. But we had to move on.