musings from the
keyboard of Joni
Bloomington, MN to
Southern Route /
New Orleans, LA to Santa Fe, NM
Farmington, NM to Las Vegas, NV
Kingman, AZ to Scottsdale, AZ /
Palm Springs, CA to McKenzie Bridge, OR
Portland, OR to Kallispell, ID /
Glacier NP to Fargo, ND
Bloomington, MN to Toronto Canada
June 30th July 3rd
Monday, June 30 - Fargo, ND to Bloomington, MN
Before leaving Fargo, we walked around campus to get some pictures. The North Dakota State University has a lovely campus. Buildings dating from 1901 edge a series of sidewalks shaded by old trees. In the center, is a waterfall complex with a seating area. Islands on the streets are filled with flowers. The college seems to be weighted toward agriculture which makes sense. At noon the bells chimed playing the school’s alma mater. We stopped in the University Bookstore and went to the gift shop at the Redhawks stadium where I bought Chris Coste’s book.
What is there to do between Fargo, ND and Bloomington? Our first stop was in Alexandria, MN to see the Runestone Museum and the tallest Viking statue. The runestone was discovered by Olaf Ohman in 1892 on his farm and controversy has surrounded its authenticity. For six years it laid face down on the farm and was used as a stepping stone until some other guy heard about it and set out to translate the writings. It is dated 1362 and if authentic proves that the Vikings were here way before Columbus. Minnesota claims to be the birthplace of America.
The Runestone is one of Minnesota’s most controversial artifacts and has been shipped all over the world and put on display. Films have been made about it and it was the subject of Unsolved Mysteries.
The Museum was quite eclectic because in addition to the Runestone there was a display of stuffed animals-bear, coyote, bobcat, lynx, etc., an Indian display, a replica fort, schoolhouse and post office, a display of a 1958 kitchen, 10 old tractors, an Artic Cat snowmobile from 1964, a ¾ size replica Viking ship. etc. etc. etc.
But, what we had come to see was the world’s largest Viking statue, Big Ole. Not hard to please, are we?
Next stop is the town of St. Cloud where we walked through acres and acres of flower gardens. There was a white garden, an annual garden, perennial gardens, benches, water features and more. A fascinating show was put on by a chipmunk who would bite off a closed flower tope and munch on it like it was an ear of corn.
Across the street there was a shade garden down by the river and it looked like a path followed the river. What a gem to have in a town of 55,000 people.
As we continue along toward Minneapolis, we realize that we are getting back into civilization. The long drives with nothing but scenery are being replaced by town after town after town until we hit the big city.
We are staying in Bloomington for four night because we have 1 bar to go to and 2 golf courses to play from our lists. We are on the 17th floor of the LaQuinta.
Tuesday, July 1 - Bloomington, MN
Happy Birthday Barry Wilson – 50 years old today. Welcome to the 50 plus club. Glad to have you.
After breakfast at the hotel we hung around for awhile and then headed out to Willingers Golf Course, about a 35 minutes drive south to Northfield. Fred went to the driving range (with the free tokens they handed out) while I ordered lunch. We both practiced chipping and then it was time to tee off.
The first 5 holes wrap around wetlands. Birds were chirping, grasses were swaying, Egrets were in flight (but not a snake in sight) as we made our way around the pristine golf course.
Willingers will rank as one of our favorites. The slope was a high 141 from the whites due to well protected elevated greens but as long as you could keep your ball straight, it was very playable. The course was in excellent shape. The back nine played through the trees with some visually challenging holes off the tee box. Fortunately for Fred the uglies rarely showed up today and his approach shots were high and beautiful. He almost broke 40 on the back. We both managed to avoid the 20,000 square foot beach bunker that protects the 18th.
After our round, a friendly bartender chatted with us while we each enjoyed a Michelob Golden Light.
Joe Sensers (#15 on the bar list) is only a mile from our hotel but since we were extremely tired from walking the course today we stopped on the way back (we briefly thought of driving back to the hotel and walking but we do have our limits). The bartender here was amazingly friendly greeting us as if we were regulars. (We don’t understand why every bar does not hire and train friendly bartenders). Bryan got the Phillies game on for us on one of the 14 big screen TV’s placed throughout the bar. According to the blurb in the SI article, the owner Sensor, a former Vikings tight end, spends $45,000 to get every available sports package in his 3 locations. It would be great to have a sports bar like this in Lancaster. It reminded us of the old Rookies, only larger. A place you could go with a group of people and always be assured of getting a table.
The food selection was good. Fred loved the pizza swirls – looks like cinnamon rolls but with pizza ingredients and my strawberry pecan feta salad was light and refreshing.
We played NTN trivia losing the first game and winning the second.
Wednesday, July 02 - Minneapolis, MN
After breakfast at the hotel we drove to the MOA. That’s Mall of America. The Mall to beat all malls. If you can’t find it here, it does not exist.
We didn’t spend long in the mall, well actually to Fred it seemed like we did because he wandered around while I got my nails done. We took a gander at the amusement park in the center of the mall and then got on the light rail for a 20 minute train ride into the city. Sure beats driving, dealing with construction and traffic, and trying to find a parking place. There were thousands of spaces at the MOA.
We got off the train at the Metrodome. Today was the last day of a three day stand with the Detroit Tigers and we were going to catch a game tonight. The Metrodome is not the most exciting place to watch a game but these two teams are doing well in the AL Central plus I wanted a hot dog.
We had a 6 mile route mapped out to include some of the highlights of the city. We started down along the riverfront where a modern eight story glass museum sits behind a jagged façade of one of the old mills that dominated the river front in the late 1800’s. Looking through the missing doorway of the old brick structure, we could see Ruin Courtyard where free musical events are held.
Between the old mill and the river is a wooden boardwalk for pedestrians which leads to a stone bridge that crosses the Mississippi River. We walked along the bridge and were lucky enough to watch a barge being brought through the locks. A dock worker drew applause as he stood on the back of the barge and juggled. What a process to get a ship through this portion of the river due to the St. Anthony Falls created by the St. Anthony Dam.
By now we were getting hungry but since we had neglected to do any research on restaurants we wandered and wondered and wandered some more. As we wandered toward Hennepin we noticed a bunch of Twins fans and soon realized that the game had been held in the afternoon and we missed it. We should have realized that it would be get-a-way days. There goes my hot dog. We finally found Eli’s, a small bar with excellent food and happy hour. You can’t beat a fried egg sandwich with smoked gouda and ham at 3 in the afternoon.
The Sculpture Garden is located over a pedestrian bridge that spans the highway. From the top of the bridge we got a good view of this end of the city. A basilica dominated the sky on one side and a huge park was on the other. The marquee sculpture, a large cherry with spoon, made us hungry for ice cream and in fact was created in the mind of the artist while he was eating. We browsed the sculptures, reading the plaques.
Some of the sculpture art pieces were bizarre, some entertaining, some interesting. At the Roman Civilization piece, Fred went up to it so I could take his picture. He leaned into one of the columns to pose for the picture and it started to move. If it had fallen down, would we have gone and told someone or just slinked away?
The Sculpture gardens had a memorial flower garden on one side in honor of some lady who loved natural beauty and worked for the common good during her life. I enjoyed walking through it and admiring all the lovely plants. Sorry Fred, I also took a bunch of pictures. I can’t help myself when I see perfect plants, I have to photograph them.
Our next adventure was an Artistic miniature golf course. Each hole was created by a different artist, most with a green message. One was made of recycled copper. The hole will change as the weather effects the copper during the summer and at the end the copper will be melted down and reused. Another hole was made of crushed recycled cans.
Fred would have had a hole in one except his first shot came back to him and he had to try again. The 2nd one went in the hole. The most thought provoking hole had 50 plastic water bottles hanging from ropes with a sign saying that it over 600,000,000,000 bottles are sold in the US and it takes 3 times as much water to make one of those plastic bottles as it does to fill it. This would be a great project for Lancaster since we have the art school down town. It was $8.00 to play 7 holes.
On our way back to the light rail we stopped in another park. You gotta love these cities that take their green seriously. One thing that we have noticed in many of the cities we have been in is that they encourage alternate modes of transportation with designated bike paths, bike racks, and walking areas.
We stopped at Joe Sensors to play trivia again only this time it took us three games to win. But then that is because everyone else quit and we were the only one playing. We watched the Phils beat the Braves even though it was a close call in the 9th.
Thursday, July 3, Bloomington, MN
Our drive today started off with a mini traffic jam. You just never know when you are in a big city what the traffic situation will be. Fortunately it only lasted about two miles and then we were on our way. The Summit in Cannon Falls, about 40 minutes southeast of Bloomington was our entertainment for the day. Entertainment? Sometimes golf seems more like torture.
The Summit was a golf course that was cheap to play but it was also obvious that it was being run on a budget. There was only one guy working and he did it all. However, the course was in fairly good shape but our biggest issue was very few sprinklers marked with yardages. However, they did have a tip sheet that helped on some of the holes. We forgot to put bug spray on so without much wind we were feeling bugged. There was no water on the course (drinking water) and when I asked the pro/manager he said that they did not have enough personal to monitor the drinking water so they could not have it on the course. The guy was nice but the amenities were lacking. I thought I was going to be able to enjoy lunch when we got there but I went hungry because all they had were prepackaged sandwiches that did not look appetizing.
Hole #5 is the first par 3 which requires hitting over a weedy ravine with a stone wall in front of the green. #13 was a drop hole, dropping 110 feet. As we were driving down to the fairway, we looked to our right and saw a farm that could have been located in Lancaster County. What goes down must come up and #14 was visually intimidating from the tee making it look much tighter than what it actually was. The back nine was much better than the front.
After our round we had a beer, bought from the cooler in a can, while we sat on the deck. We were hungry so we had a bag of TGIF tator skins.
Joe Sensor’s was our destination again this evening mainly because it was close to our hotel and they had the Phillies game on. However this evening in order to see the game we had to sit at a long table and not at the bar.
The service was not as good as the previous two nights. We played trivia and won the first game. We should have quit while we were ahead because we lost the next two games.
Somehow we had heard that there were fireworks. We saw other people camped out in the grass outside of our hotel so we joined them. It was not long before our sweet tender skin was a late night feast for mosquitos so we went and put on long pants. That is one advantage of having your entire wardrobe with you in the car.
The fireworks were spectacular. Happy pre 4th of July.
July 4th - 5th
Friday, July 4 - Bloomington, MN to Rhinelander, WI
Our plan was to get out early and grab breakfast on the way.
Drove thru Eau Claire, a former logging town. Old town Water Street contained refurbished brick buildings painted in different colors along with some natural brick buildings. It was an awesome downtown; too bad nothing was open. A river runs through the town and along the river front was a beautiful park with benches and flowers.
On the other side of the river was a building with murals painted on the side. Multiple window frames each had a different scene painted in it. Fred saw three Mona Lisa paintings on three different buildings. We are not sure what the story was there. Since it was July 4th the town was closed so no breakfast was available.
Driving north through Wisconsin, the landscape changed from dairy farms to forest land. Nothing was open in any of the towns we went through except for the bars. And each bar seemed to have many large trucks parked outside. All I really wanted was an egg sandwich but no luck.
As we were driving along, I told Fred that I hoped that when we got to Rhinelander, WI that there would be an old fashioned July 4th celebration going on. I wanted to see kids eating ice cream, families picnicking, a festival with food stands, fireworks, and lots of small town local flavor. Well I got my wish in Rhinelander. Small town America was celebrating the 4th of July in a small way – with a Dachshunds race. We unpacked quickly and made it to the park in time to grab a beer, a bratwurst, and a corn dog.
The Dachshunds race was so cute. All the owners and assistants gathered at one end of the field. Then the assistants put a hotdog under their dogs nose, and then walked to the other end of the 30 yard track. Ready, set, go. The owners released the dogs and they were off. At least some of them were. Others wandered off to the crowd or crossed over lanes playing with each other. It was all in good fun and the money raised benefited the humane society.
Since we did not have a picnic to go to or friends to hang out with, we went back to the hotel for a few hours. We returned in time to see the water ski show on the lake. Amazing what a trained semi-professional can do on water skis.
We wandered around for a while, people watched (spike on a bike and other various teenagers each with their own identity), ate another brat, drank a cooler, listened to the heavy metal band, and then headed back to the hotel.
Saturday, July 5, 2008 Rhinelander, WI
What is a Hodag? This is the official mascot of Rhindelander, WI and is one ugly made up creature. I snapped Fred’s picture with Hodag at the Visitors Center. The locals really embrace this symbol. It's image and name are everywhere, including the high school mascot.
Northwood Golf Course says that they have generous fairways but it sure was an optical illusion. The course is cut out of a parcel of woods and trees line almost every hole. We were paired with two brothers,
Joe 18 and Mack 14 from Illinois who were in Rhinelander visiting their grandmother. Very polite kids but not a lot of golf etiquette. We had fun with them especially when Joe could not hit a putt hard enough to make it to the hole. One time we challenged him to hit it hard and it still took him 5 tries to get it to the hole. His little brother was laughing as Fred razzed Joe. They only played nine so on the back Fred and I were able to take our time and enjoy the course.
Hole #11, a par 3 was almost an island green. Two water balls given up for us. Walking to #12 there was a large waterfall created by the city of Rhinelander along with several businesses. The back nine was more scenic than the front.
Hole #17 was tricky but gorgeous. A pond came out from the left side and had the potential to interfere with your tee shot. As if that was not bad enough, the next shot to the green was even harder at least visually. Hitting over two bodies of water, no matter how scenic, can be tough and let’s just say we sacrificed two more balls to the water mermaids. But who could get mad. It was beautiful as the sun was starting to set casting shadows on the lush green fairway and the rock rimmed pond.
Oh, and least I forget to mention, the greens killed me today. I hit several greens in regulation but that meant I was far away from the hole and putting was a challenge to say the least. Forget about downhill putts, there was no way to get them to stop.
After the round, we enjoyed a well deserved beer on the deck of the clubhouse. The 19th hole was in a log cabin with a gorgeous dining room.
After a quick change at the hotel, we went to find the Brown Street Brew Pub. The bartender was also the brewer and full of information about different beers. He gave us a Courthouse Centennial poster that was created by him to commemorate the beer by the same name. I had him sign the back of it. The bar was empty except for a rowdy crew of six who stumbled in after having been on a sunset cruise. The bartender filled us in on the history of the bar and we heard all the scuttlebutt about the bars in town and how the former manager of the Brown Street Pub took all his help and clientele and opened a place down the street.
The place down the street was Bucketheads and we had to check it out. There was a band playing and the place was crowded. Evidently the old manager knew how to run a bar.
Copper Harbor, MI
Sunday, July 6 - Rhinelander, WI to Copper Harbor, MN
Holiday Inn breakfast’s rock. Cheese omelet, sausage, and cinnamon swirls along with cereal and other stuff. Fred asked me if I wanted to split a sausage but I politely declined. Then he asked me if I wanted to split the large cinnamon bun that was on my plate. Are you kidding me!
Just as we crossed over into Michigan, our trip almost ended. A deer sprinted across the road right in front of our car but thanks to Fred’s quick reactions just missed our car by 6 inches. That would have put a damper on our spirits not to mention a dent in the car.
The landscape is still trees, trees, and more trees. We stopped at the Visitors Center of Ottawa National Forest and enjoyed the displays learning about the various trees and animals in the area. Continuing on Rt 45 we cross over the Keweenaw Waterway created by dredging Portage Lake to cut a canal through the peninsula so boats do not have to navigate the rough waters at the point.
We stopped in the town of Eagle River to look at the Eagle River Falls.
Lunch at picnic table along Lake Superior-leftover pizza from last night. Fred stuck his feet into Lake Superior. He wants to get in all the Great Lakes before we go home. From the looks of his reaction, I would say it was cold. I stuck my big toe in and I was right, it was freezing. Lake Superior is the largest expanse of freshwater in the world, 32,000 square miles
Saw what we though was an island, turned out to be a freighter. The freighters on Lake Superior haul more tonnage than the Panama Canal and Suez Canal combined, mostly coal and copper. The freighters are 1,000 feet long and 105 feet wide.
Very pretty drive along Rt 26 through several small towns. We passed a large sign marking the record 397 foot snowfall back in 1987 (or 1978?) The average up here is 20 feet per winter. Passsed by Gitche Goome bible camp. (Indians called Lake Superior Gitche Goome lake)
Went by the Jampot, where the Monks make jam and sell it and just a little further down the road was the Monastery. A beautiful building with gorgeous gardens.
We detoured to take a drive up over the mountain (? if you call 1600 feet a mountain) where I perused the gift shop and then we stopped at an overlook overlooking the town of Copper Harbor. Our hotel, the Bella Vista, was older but more importantly cheap, and located directly on the water. There was no air conditioning so we quickly opened the windows to let the breeze blow through. Fortunately there was a fan in the room.
We sat out on the deck but our enjoyment of the view of the lake did not last long. There were tons of flies. Then Fred got the bright idea to bring the fan outside and that worked to scatter the flies. They went to find some other people to annoy.
Since I would not share my cinnamon bun this morning, Fred made me go for a run. We ran along a path that paralleled the road to the St. Lewis State Park. It was a great running path with gentle up and down undulations and lots of wildflowers to keep my mind off my misery. We ran out to the lighthouse and back.
Dinner at Harbor Haus was a German restaurant with a water view. We had an appetizer called Broccoli Timbale with squash puree. It was delicious and Fred even liked it. Whitefish for dinner.
When we got back to the room we sat outside but the bugs were bad. I went down to sit on the dock and watched three pre-teen girls, cousins,
play on the dock. They were ready for bed in their pj’s but the call of the water was too much for them and they ended up going in, giggling like crazy. Copper Harbor seems like the kind of town where families for generations have owned cottages and kids have wonderful summer memories. I stayed out for s while watching a duck family swim home in the sunset.
Monday, July 7 - Cooper Harbor, UP, MI to Manistique, UP, MI
Our sleep last night was interrupted first at 2:30 am by music playing somewhere outside. I got up and closed the sliding glass door. The second interruption was my phone with a dead battery beeping.
Why it bothered to beep I don’t know because there was no cell service since we arrived in Cooper Harbor. Anyway, it was a good thing because when we looked outside, there was a perfect sunrise colored sky. One of the most gorgeous we have ever seen (especially since we usually are not up at 5:30 am).
Our morning began with a hike before breakfast at Hunter’s Point, a path that starts at a Park. We were the only car in the parking lot. The path goes out along a peninsula that juts into Lake Superior. On the north side was the raging angry Lake with a gorgeous beach filled with smooth pebbles washed up on shore. On the south side trees ran up to the edge of the calm tranquil lake. The two sides of Mighty Mother Superior.
Stopped for an ok breakfast in Hancock. We were just glad to be able to get breakfast. Back on the road, doing a NY Times Crossword puzzle, and our next stop was Canyon Falls. This was not in any of our books, we just saw a sign and veered off. Sometimes those side trips turn out to be the best.
This was a mile hike through a lush fern-laden forest to a falls where the water ran the color of copper. We wondered where the copper color comes from. I guessed the copper mines but Fred said that would probably turn the water green. The water had carved a steep path through the rock making a canyon which we followed along the trail. We hung out for a while and then hiked back. At the parking lot we talked with two guys who were from the UP and they told us that the copper color was from the tanic acid from the cedar trees. Mystery solved.
Da Yoopers Tourist Trap trapped us because the world’s largest chain saw was out front. The shop contained Yooper trinkets and outside were exhibits and sculptures. One was the Beer Camp which was a replica cabin with what was the 2nd week of deer camp. Drunk guys sitting around a table, on the floor, and passed out on the bed. A real life Yooper started talking to me and told me that the guy who owned the joint used to be in a band and they had songs about all the exhibits.
We were impressed with the town of Marquette and not just because they had a brew pub which we did visit.
A huge iron ore loading platform dominated the harbor. It was only after we asked a guy walking his buster-like dog that we found out what it was. He told us that this one was no longer used but there was another iron ore loading plant up the road toward the island. We drove to see it.
It was fascinating to see how the train car drove to the top of the platform above the ship, shoots dropped down, and the ore slid down from the train car to the freighter. We were lucky to see the loading in action. These are the same freighters that I mentioned earlier that carry more tonnage through Lake Superior than freighters carry through the Panama and Suez Canals.
Stopped to get a picture of the Northern Michigan University Sports Dome where the college plays their sports and athletes train for the Olympics. The fog was rolling in from Lake Superior so instead of taking the lake drive we had planned we cut down through the Peninsula.
Even though we were anxious to get to our destination for the night, we detoured to Palms Book State Park home of Lake Kitch-iti-kipi. I had read in the guidebook about a spring that has a cable and you can pull a glass bottom boat across and see the whole wasy to the bottom of the clear water. I thought it would be a little boat where 2 or 4 people would get in and casually go across the lake. WRONG! Instead it was a large raft for 25 people. Fred was lagging behind (not thrilled about going in a lame boat that goes 2 mph with a bunch of strangers) while I walked up to the platform.
There were a group of people waiting and one guy, then another, then another, came up and asked me my name and told me theirs. It was a group of mentally challenged adults on a field trip. One guy Louie was in my face asking all kind of questions. Then he saw Fred walking up the path and said "Who is that". That is Fred I replied. Louie said, "I have to meet him" and proceeded to pepper Fred with questions about
his wedding ring, how he got it, etc. Then he turned to the couple next to me and starting asking them the same questions.
We all finally got on the raft and Louie was just a riot asking everyone questions, mostly about marriage and kids. The raft is there to show people the 45 foot spring that bubbles up from the ground. Through some phenomenon, the spring fills and drains gallons every day always staying at 45 degrees.
It was around 15 miles to Manistique where we would be spending the night in a hotel I read about in Budget Travel. We only had an address, no directions and since the street signs in town were sadly lacking, it took us a while to find it. In our travels around town looking for the Star Hotel, I had spied a wine tasting sign
and noticed that the doors were still open.
By the time we got there it was after 8:00 but Lori did a tasting for us. She was personable and told us that she and her husband had left the corporate world 5 years ago to start their own wine making business. They were doing very well and planning to expand. She was patient with us and gave us 8 samples of wine including a taste of their $50 bottle that had just won an award. We bought 3 bottles (but not the $50 one).
Dinner at Teddy’s where a "machine gun" laugher and her conversation with her unique friends kept us entertained.
Traverse City, MI
Tuesday, July 08 - Manistique, MI to Traverse City, MI
Today we are going from the Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula. We didn’t set the alarm last night so we got up late and hit the road as fast as possible. There was no McDonald’s going out of town so we stopped at a grocery store and got some strawberries. We had breakfast at the Dreamland Restaurant-a large omelet each.
At St. Ignace we stopped along the lake so Fred could put his feet into Lake Huron. He winced as his tender feet came into contact with the rocky shore. St. Ignace has a boardwalk that runs along the entire lake front and a nice harbor area. This is where the Jesuit priest Father Marquette settled and was buried so there is a museum commemorating his work.
We drove 5 miles over one of the world’s longest suspension bridges, Mackinac Bridge, which spans Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. I am confused as to why the bridge is Mackinac and the city and island are Mackinaw. As we were driving over the bridge from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City (pop 650) we saw a freighter go by.
Just south of Cross Springs, we drove through the tunnel of trees. Trees lined both sides of the road causing us to turn on the car lights. The highway is up on a bluff with the lake below when we saw an awesome vacation rental – a magnificent log cabin. This area is pretty.
We came upon a nature conservancy and stopped. What a wonderful surprise. For a $3.00 parking fee we were able to explore 2 miles of path through the woods laden with ferns. We took the beach trail first and saw the rare lady slippers that were blooming. The conservancy has them protected with wire mesh.
The Lady Slippers only grow where there is a certain fungus present.
They cannot be transplanted. The trail came out onto a section of beach. Here is where Fred stuck his feet into Lake Michigan. On one of the other paths, trees were labeled and we saw a striped maple tree.
Inside the conservancy building was a display showing eggs of different birds. Quite interesting.
Keeping with the nature theme, as we were driving down the road we saw a pretty fawn.
She was right beside the road and did not get spooked when we drove up alongside her for a picture. Such pretty eyes.
As we approached Harbor Springs, there are many spectacular homes up on the hillside. Reportedly this is the vacation spot for the rich and famous. It is a beautiful area but we see quite a few houses for sale-victims of the stock market and housing crisis? There was a golf course on the left, public invited after 1:30. The town of Harbor Springs was an upscale resort town – we could tell by the size of the boats in the harbor. I would say there are no $50 hotel rooms in this town.
Next up Poteskey (pop 6,000), home of the Poteskey stone. Poteskey stones are pieces of coral that wash up on the beach every spring and beachcombers snap them up. Downtown Poteskey is another upscale beach community. Lots of cute stores.
Leaving Poteskey is the first time we have hit a lot of traffic. We can’t figure out where everyone is coming from or where they are going because there are not many towns on this highway.
Next town, Charlevoix, had a memorable entrance into town. Both sides of the street were lined with pink, purple, white, and red petunias for at least two miles leading into town. How do they plant that many flowers? Another upscale town with large boats in the harbor.
We passed the 45th parallel halfway between the Equator and North Pole so stopped to take a picture. This must be perfect cherry growing territory because there are plenty of orchards and the town we are heading to, Travers City, is having a cherry festival (which I am very excited about).
We checked into our hotel, the Cherry Tree Inn. How appropriate since we are going to the Cherry Festival. Our room looks out over the East Arm of the Traverse Bay.
We ate strawberries (because that is all we had) while sharing some wine. With having had no lunch, the wine went straight to our head.
It was time to go check out the Cherry Festival. On our way from our parking space we saw a bunch of hoola hoopers. I felt the urge and I had to join them.
The festival had rides, food cherry butter, cherry shirts, cherry ice cream etc. Downtown Traverse City has an open space by the harbor where all the festivities were going on.
We listened to James Otto, a country singer, sing his #1 hit while hanging in the beer garden and watching the sky change colors as the sun set. We enjoyed it so much we are going back again tomorrow night.
Wednesday, July 09 - Traverse City, MI
We were the first people in the breakfast room. The breakfast room is bright and cherry. Cherry that is with cherry covered chairs and red tablecloths.
North Pointe golf course was a late edition to our trip. Fred found it on-line and even though it was not on the official 50 under 50 list, it was a good value and an enjoyable course.
The front 9 was appealing with large open fairways and natural wildflowers growing among native grass areas. A short walk off the green of one hole onto the tee box of the next made it a wonderful walking course. The course is in good shape. As we came up to the tee box on #9, the amber colored tips on the long grasses were waving in the slight breeze.
We let the two guys behind us in carts go ahead of us on 10. I had been a little uptight on 8 and 9 thinking that they were thinking that we were not playing fast enough. They were the nicest two guys from Grand Rapids, MI. Lesson learned! Don’t assume you know what people are thinking.
The back nine was through the woods and had many elevation changes. Hole #10 was an undulating hole meaning that the tee box and the green were about the same height but in between was a hike down, then up, then down, then up again making the green elevated for the approach shot. Hole #11, a par 3 was the same with the tee and green being on the same level but with a large sloping fairway ditch in between. Somewhere you did not want to be on this par 3.
Hole #13 is why the course is named High Point. The walk to the tee box put you on the highest point on the course where I could see out over all the trees. I was struggling up this hill. I think Fred is in better shape than me because he did not moan and groan and was way ahead of me.
Hole #18 was an impressive par 5. A good drive gets you to within 190 yards for an intimidating shot over the water. It was probably only 100 yards to get over the water but it sure did look daunting. Just daunting enough for a little tightness and another ball sacrificed to the water mermaids.
Overall we enjoyed the course. I liked all the flowers that were blooming around the clubhouse especially the Asiatic Lillies.
On the way back to our hotel we stopped at a market for food and ate on our deck overlooking the East Arm of Traverse Bay. We had a pleasant relaxing afternoon before heading into town for another night of the Cherry Festival. We started off at the McKensie Brewing Company. Our server was nice and almost had Fred talked into buying a periwinkle tee-shirt. Next we went to the North Peak Brewing Company located in a historic building that used to house a candy factory. We split a hamburger, beer sampler, and I had my favorite product of the Cherry Festival – a special porter made with cherries that tasted like a chocolate covered cherry in a glass.
The music tonight was a 1964 Beetles Tribute Band which we enjoyed listening to. There is one in every crowd – the person that entertains the others – and tonight it was a 71 year old man who danced up a storm including a few leg kicks to all the Beetles songs. I don’t think he was ever a good dancer but he sure was having a lot of fun.
Port Huron, MI
Thursday, July 10 - Traverse City, MI to Port Huron, MI
After breakfast in the cherry room, we walked down to the beach, sat on chairs, read the paper and then walked into the lake. You can walk for quite awhile and the water still only comes to your knees. We could see the change in the color of the water where it got deeper.
We enjoyed Traverse City. Traverse City has a lot to offer as a place to live. Temperate climate, boardwalk at the harbour, nice water area, many golf courses, nice downtown, several micro breweries. This might be our new city of choice. We could live here if only our friends, family and next door neighbors would move here.
Back on the road, our first stop was East Lansing, home of Michigan State University. We walked the same campus where Jeff Smoker walked. Our first impression was one of major highways running through campus but as we got further into campus and parked the car to walk around, we discovered green space and old buildings. I eavesdropped on one of the orientation groups and found out that there are 45,000 students on campus. MSU started as an agricultural college and still has a road called Farm Lane.
Downtown Lansing, home of the capital, is also home to a riverfront park where we got a clever proposition from someone who needed money for his co-pay since he had just gotten out of the hospital and needed antibiotics for the injury to his arm which was wrapped in a bandage.
Yeah right. But Fred gave him some money for the cleverness of his story. We ate lunch on the waterfront-a Pita Pit sandwich. Lansing is also home to a minor league team-the Lansing Lugnuts.
The capital is modeled after the Washington Capital except it looks like someone pulled it up and elongated it. We did a self tour. The rotunda dome was spectacular with four levels. The Senate and House of Reps chambers were painted in different colors. Supposedly this is the first capital that had the idea to have the central dome and two wings for the House and Senate. Now they all seem to have it. Interesting was a display showing the first laws written by King of Hammurabe from Babylon nearly 4,000 years ago. Wow. These laws were severe. If a son strikes his father, his hand shall be hewn off. If a man knocks out the teeth of his equal, his teeth shall be knocked. If a man commits a robbery of the gods or the court, he must repay threefold. If he has no money, he shall be put to death.
Back on the road again to our stop for the evening. We lucked out – our timing is impeccable-Port Huron is having a boat show. There is a sailboat race every year from Port Huron to MacKinaw Island which includes festivities leading up the race and tonight is family night.
We drove down to the Harbour and hung out at the Yacht Cub on the 2nd floor. We saw steps and went up them and ended up on the balcony of the Yacht Club looking out onto the harbour and all the people below. We were the only ones up there. Awesome. The best part is the beers were only $2.
Then we stopped at the Quay Brewing Company sitting on the patio in direct line with the water watching the boats troll up and down.
July 11th - 18th
Friday, July 11 - Port Huron, MI to Toronto, Canada
I wanted to call Roger before we left the states but Fred said we could do it from the road. At customs, the agent asked us what we were taking into Canada with us and Fred replied, "just a bunch of dirty laundry". Our car did not get searched.
When we got into Canada, we called Roger and sang Happy Birthday to him. He turned 40 today, or so I thought. I asked him why he was at work today on his birthday and he said, "because my birthday was on Tuesday". Crap. For some reason I had the 11th in my head but his birthday was the 8th. (sorry roger you tiger now) Oh well Happy Birthday anyway. As we were talking, we got cut off on the phone and suddenly I had no service. What? No Verizon in Canada?
Getting off the highway to drive on Lakeshore Road which goes along Lake Ontario, we were looking for a place to eat hopefully with a view of the water but no luck. We stopped in a park so Fred could put his feet into Lake Ontario. We then found a nice place to eat. We sat outside next to a fountain.
As happened many times, the navigator was not paying attention but fortunately the driver was, so with only a few mishaps, we found the home of Dianne and Mark, our home exchange in Toronto. We met Hilde, Dianne’s mother who showed us around the house. We get the pleasure this week of caring for Paka (the inside cat) and Tagore (the explorer), two huge beautiful tabby marked cats.
Diane and Mark live in a wonderful neighborhood in the west section of Tornonto. High Park, restaurants, and stores are all walkable. We went for a run/walk to help get oriented. We cooked in and started watching Ghandi.
Saturday, July 12 - Toronto, Canada
Heather, Steve, and Lizzie are joining us in Canada and we are not expecting them until around 7 in the evening. We spent a lazy day lounging around, ate a big breakfast, finished watching Ghandi and read. Around 3 we were thinking of motivating to go play tennis when the phone range. Steve asked me where we where. I said "we are here". He said, "so are we". They were standing outside the door.
After hugs, hellos and catching up, we all walked to Bloor Street. This neighborhood reminds Fred and I of where Jim and Kelley used to live in Chicago. Even though you are part of a big city, it has a small neighborhood feel. Heather enjoyed the old houses and I enjoyed the gardens.
As we were enjoying beverages at a Bloor street stablishment, we were discussing food with our personable server. We mentioned Chinatown and then Fred, trying to be funny, said what about Portuguese, is there a Little Portugal. "Why yes there is", said the server.
We had dinner at Castle and Firkin. Where Lizzie got sausage and beans. Earlier we were talking about the book the saying eat, shoots and leaves and how based on punctuation it can mean different things. Fred said that to the beaneater Liz it means Eat, Shoots! and leaves.
Sunday, July 13, 2008 Toronto, Canada
The theme of today was walking. We walked to the Metro Station at Runymeade got off at St. George St. and walked through the University of Toronto, walked through Chinatown, and walked some more until we got to the Rogers Stadium. We bought baseball tickets then walked over to the CN tower and bought city passes (entrance to 5 attractions).
At the baseball game, the Blue Jays A.J. Burnett struck out 2 of the first 3 guys he faced. Lizzie has him on one of the free give-a-way baseball cards we got. Lizzie was interested in the game, Heather just wanted to eat. She and Liz bet a souvenir on the game and Heather took the Yankees. Blue Jays win 4-1.
Our plan was to leave the game early to get in line at the CN tower before all the obnoxious Yankee fans but we did not leave early enough. Fred was wearing his "line tude face" and after waiting for 15 minutes and barely moving, we left. It would have been more than an hour wait. We will come back another day. Then we went on this lame ride which broke down while we were on it.
We took a stroll down along the harbour. We were all tired and hungry so we started walking back toward the subway. We passed the "pink area" on the map where there were guys wearing pink. Finally stopped at Castle and Elephant for dinner.
Monday, July 14, 2008 Toronto, Canada zoo day
Happy Birthday Mom – exactly 20 years older than me but still oh so young.
We drove to the zoo and spent all day there. Lizzie and I pet the stingrays at Stingray Bay. I am glad she was there to show me what to do. Lizzie is a wealth of information on any creature that lives in the water. Actually she knows a lot about all kinds of animals. Our favorites today were the jaguar, the cloud leopard, and the tigers. Unfortunately we did not get to see the polar bears because they were re-habbing the exhibit.
At the Indo Malaya Orangutan exhibit, some ignorant people were throwing carrots to the orangutan. Steve read them the sign that said "NO FEEDING THE ANIMALS" and the guy goes, "it’s only a carrot". We looked around for a zoo keeper to tell but could not find any. We did finally find someone to tell 10 minutes later when we got back to the front gate. We were a little disturbed with the lack of personnel around to monitor the human animals.
On the way back we were looking for the Rain Forest Café to have dinner but much to Lizzie’s dismay, we could not find it. We parked back on Bloor Street where we saw a film shoot going on. While Steve and Heather went to look for a bathroom, Fred, I and Lizzie walked down to observe the film shooting and from across the street. We saw the actors and actresses just walking along a section of the sidewalk and then walking back. With Fred leading, we decided to cross the street and we all did our best movie star walk. Alas, they did not stop us and ask us to be in the film. At Fred’s suggestion, we stalked Steve and Heather from across the street. However, Liz and I were obvious rookies. While Fred hid behind the mailbox, Liz and I got caught at the corner when Steve and Heather looked across the street and saw us. Fred said Liz and I have a lot to learn about stalking.
With five people all trying to decide where to have dinner and all trying to be polite, we ended up changing our mind five times before Steve made a decision and said we are going in here. Mr. Generosity’s turned out to be a good meal for all. Lizzie made out the best with a free Shirley Temple and free cookie dessert.
We came back to the house (home exchanging sure is great) and watched the Home Run Derby. Heather lasted 5 minutes, Steve lasted and hour, and Fred, Liz and I watched to the very end. It was a record setting 28 homes runs by Josh Hamilton in the 1st round. It is great that Liz likes baseball as much as we do.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008 Toronto, Canada
After breakfast, we walked to the subway for our day in the city. Confidentially walking into the subway, Steve said, "today we know what we are doing". That is until he tried to buy our tickets. The quick talking ticket seller quickly proved him wrong and he just backed sheepishly away from the window. We stood for 10 minutes trying to decipher the sign and finally Fred went and got our tickets. People on the subway know we are not native because we were laughing and talking. Everyone else sits with a vacant stare.
Our first stop was the CN Tower where everyone but me had no problem walking out on the glass floor. Looking down through glass to the ground 140 stories below freaks me out just a little. Outside on the observation deck, I had no problem viewing the city.
Next was the City tour where we boarded a Hippo for a tour of the city and then the hippo went into Lake Ontario for a cruise on the lake. Our guide had told us that the rolling stones and Red Hot Chili Peppers stop in a club when they are in town. We tried to find it and stopped in at the ______ where Tamara, the bartender, gave Steve and Fred a hard time. We started discussing politics with her and she said the Canadian people cannot understand how we elected George Bush a 2nd time. She also showed us the front page of the Toronto newspaper that showed the New Yorker cartoon depicting Barack Obama as a muslim and his wife as a terrorist. Poor taste.
We walked through Chinatown, lost Heather and Lizzie, found Heather and Lizzie, and finally boarded the subway.
Just like native Torontoians, we shopped for groceries on the way home. We bought veggies and pasta and Heather made a great dinner. And I helped. Watched the All-Star game until the 9th inning when it was still tied.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 Toronto, Canada
After breakfast we hopped in the car for the 2 hour drive to Nigara Falls. Gee only $20 to park. I guess we can’t complain since the main attraction is free. We walked along the falls, snapping pictures, and weaving in and out of a million other tourists while being misted by the crashing falls. From up top we could see the Maid of the Mist boat and everyone in their blue raincoats crowded onto the boat. It looked lame and Fred and I were thinking of sitting it out especially when Fred got a look at the line. Lizzie really wanted to go so we paid and got in line. The line wound down through several switchbacks but when we got in the shade and started laughing and talking, it was not so bad. We got a place in the back of the boat and the ride was awesome. The raincoats were necessary as we got our first spray while going under the American side of the falls. Then we boated to the bottom of the horseshoe falls. From on the boat we sure looked and definitely felt a lot closer than what it appeared when we were watching from the top. Our blue raincoats did the job and even though we were pelted with water, our clothes did not get wet.
Lunch was a so-so overpriced meal at one of the restaurants and then we got back in the car to find our way to Lake Erie. We found a spot at Fort Erie where Fred and Lizzie put their feet into the lake. Mission accomplished for Fred; all the Great Lakes conquered.
Back at Evelyn Cr, we walked downtown to eat but it was so late by the time we finished eating at the Dark Horse that we just headed home.
Thursday, July 17, 2008 Toronto, Canada
Tourists again for the day. After eggs, ham, and broccoli prepared by Fred, we set out in the car for the Science Museum. New vow – never going to a science museum again. It is always the same. Hundreds of screaming children, running here, there and everywhere, pushing buttons, and breaking all the exhibits. These hundreds of children were dressed in green, blue, red, yellow, and orange tee shirts and were indeed running amok through the museum. Fred had his toes stepped on four times. Lizzie got shoved and butt in front of numerous times but she did get a sample rock from the scientist who told the other children to scram. Our museum experience in one word – chaos. We tolerated it for two hours and then elbowed our way out. Ahh breathing fresh air and let’s add insult to injury and pay $20 for the privilege of parking.
The Rain Forest Café, one of Lizzie’s favorite restaurants, was thankfully not filled with screaming children. Just screaming elephants. We had a good meal while sitting beside a colorful fish tank and listening to the elephants roar. The first two times – cute - by the third time, Fred was ready to punch one of those elephants.
Casa Loma, our third tourist attraction of the day, was much calmer. We watched a movie about Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, prominent in early Toronto society, and his rise and fall of wealth. Built in the early 1900’s, the castle was the lavish home of Sir Henry and Lady Mary for less than ten years before financial misfortunate forced them to abandon the castle. Particularly interesting was the secret staircase to the stables that Lizzie and I explored together and the spiral staircases to the upper floors. We also enjoyed the gardens.
The ride back home was uneventful except for a few wrong turns. Liz, Steve, and Heather stayed in to watch the Pink Panther while Fred and I walked to the park to see the performance of Midsummer Nights Dream. I had read it was donation requested but when we got there, $20 was the suggested requested donation. We skipped it and walked through the park. When we got back, we watched the Pink Panther.
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