Monthly Archives: September 2015

Week Three: Traverse City, Grand Haven and Frankenmuth, Michigan

Traverse City (or as some call it Tra-verse City) is a small town on Lake Michigan/Grand Traverse Bay.  The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is very close. There are two campgrounds in the park and we stayed at the Platte River Campground. It’s a national campground so we used our National Senior Pass for half price camping. We don’t have reservations for camping anywhere except Florida in December and January and New Orleans. We read that part of the campground was first-come, first-served, so we thought we had a good chance of getting in because  it was during the week. We did get a spot for one night and had to move to another  for the second night. Ralph talked to one camper that told him you have to make reservations 6 months in advance to get a campsite. And we just waltzed in! It was a forested area near the Platte River and Lake Michigan. We did not have much time to explore due to a very strong rainstorm.

I went into Traverse City the day it rained to look around, have lunch and tour the old Traverse City State Hospital that has been redeveloped into housing, shops, restaurants and galleries. The old asylum has an interesting history. Northern Michigan Asylum was established in 1881 as the demand for a third psychiatric hospital in addition to those established in Kalamazoo and Pontiac, began to grow. Lumber baron, Perry Hannah, “the father of Traverse City,” used his political influence to secure its location in his home town. Under the supervision of a prominent architect, the first building, known as Building 50, was constructed. The hospital opened in 1885 with 43 residents. Over the years, changes in the law and mental health care philosophies brought on the decline of the institution. Use of the hospital slowly declined, and it was closed in 1989, with a loss of over 200 jobs to the local economy. Over the next decade, the community struggled with plans for reuse of the hospital grounds. In 1993, the property was transferred from the state to the Grand Traverse Commons Redevelopment Corporation. Their efforts have led to the gradual but successful preservation and re-use of the former Building 50 as part of The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a residential and commercial development. As of 2015 these buildings and cottages are occupied or being close to completion. I toured Building 50 and saw photos of the converted apartments in the grand old building. It’s good to see preservation and re-use of the beautiful, old buildings, instead of destroying them.

Building 50

Building 50

The next day we had to leave by noon, so we got up early and drove up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and took the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. We also climbed the dunes. It was a very clear, sunny day and the Dunes and Lake Michigan were gorgeous.   I’m so glad we were able to see the Dunes. I would have liked to have spent a little more time in the area.   After the Dunes visit we drove about 150 miles south on Hwy 31 to Grand Haven to visit my former brother and sister-in-law, Wayne and Pat Johnson.

Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan

Footprints in the sand dune along Lake Michigan

Footprints in the sand dune along Lake Michigan

Climbing the dunes

Climbing the dunes

Grand Haven, Michigan

We were able to park on the street next to Pat and Wayne’s house. Actually it was in front of their neighbor’s house (with permission, of course) because that was the only level spot. We ran the electric extension cord to the garage and we settled in for a few nights. We had such a good time catching up and doing a little site seeing. Grand Haven is located on Lake Michigan and the Grand River. It’s a lovely, small town with a beach on Lake Michigan. Grand Haven State Park is located on the beach too. If we hadn’t been able to stay at Wayne and Pat’s we would have stayed at this “park”. It’s more like a parking lot on the beach. Pat and I walked along the break wall/pier in the morning with a few of her friends. It was a little chilly and a beautiful view. The next day they took us to the Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. The park opened in 1995 and is known internationally for the quality of its collections, exhibitions, gardens and grounds. It has a permanent collection which includes more than 200 masterworks by artists from Auguste Roden to Ai Weiwei   If you are ever are in the Grand Rapids area, you must see this place for yourself.  Here’s a link to their website: http://www.meijergardens.org/

Pat and Wayne Johnson

Pat and Wayne Johnson

Frankenmuth, Michigan

From Grand Haven we drove across the state to Frankenmuth for Car Fest. Ralph’s brother Roy had a 71 Olds Cutlass Convertible in the show. There were 2500 classic cars in show. I’ve never seen so many cars in one place like this. It was fun to walk around and decide which one I/we wanted to drive off. Later in the evening Roy and his friend Joe and Ralph and I had dinner at Zhenders (known for their chicken dinners, but none of us had chicken!) We camped in a really funky campground at Otter Lake. The campground accepts seasonal campers and some  have built decks on the front of their trailers. This is the first time we’ve seen something like this. By the way, there were no otters at Otter Lake! We stayed two nights before heading to Clarkston for some more driveway surfing at my best friend (from kindergarten), Dianne and her husband, Ken’s house.

View out our front window at Otter Lake campground

View out our front window at Otter Lake campground

Me and the big guy. When I got up I realized he had a wet hand!

Me and the big guy. When I got up I realized he had a wet hand!

Fancy Clubhouse

Fancy Clubhouse

Wooden spokes...cool!

Wooden spokes…cool!

Car Fest on the river

Car Fest on the river

Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

The Happy Campers

The Happy Campers

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Week Two: Iowa, Wisconsin, and UP of Michigan

Bettendorf, Iowa
Let the party begin!  Pulled into the driveway of Rod and Toni (big and circular) and settled in for a two night stay.  Rod and Ralph rode motorcycles together for the last time in 2008.  Thank you Facebook!  They are on a harbor/canal right off the Mississippi.  There’s only ten or so houses on both sides of the canal.  It’s a very friendly neighborhood.  They use golf carts to go from house to house to party by the fire pits.  And party they do! Both night I went to bed first.  Ralph was up until 2:00 am!  That’s not normal.

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Boating on the Canal

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Our hosts: Rod and Toni

The Mighty Mississippi

The Mighty Mississippi

Madison, Wisconsin
Beaver Dam was our home for a few days.  This was the closest we could find to Sun Prairie where Leslie (BFF) was visiting her daughter Stephanie and family.  This was the first time we’ve seen each other for over one year.  That’s not like us. We both been traveling and not in the same place at the same time.  We went downtown Madison and had a very nice afternoon by the two lakes.

Bay Shore County Park near Door County was a great place to stay so that we could explore the Door. My Aunt Lill and Uncle Marv loved visiting Door County and I wanted to see what it was all about. Door  is the top of a peninsula that is part of Wisconsin and sticks out into Lake Michigan. It was a major ship building area settled by immigrants from Belgium. Some of the small towns are named after towns in Belgium. It is a beautiful little area full of small towns and lots of coastline. We stopped at a German Beer Garden and had beer and brats. Delish! I’m happy we stopped there for a couple of days. I can see why my aunt and uncle liked it.

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Sweetie Pies: Best Cherry Pie EVER!

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Bier and Brat

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Maritime Museum with the Famous Sea Dogs Exhibit

Next we headed north up to the upper peninsula (UP) of Michigan. In Rapid River, Michigan we stayed at a campground right on the Little Bay de Noc.  It’s a quirky, old Michigan campground with friendly neighbors.  We walked down to the water and took these photos.  We are here for the holiday weekend.  The UP is very green with lots of evergreens.  The water on the Bay and Lake Michigan is more inland sea than lake.  It’s nice to be around so much water!  While camped here we took a day trip up to Marqette, the home of Northern Michigan University.  It’s a lovely small collage town on Lake Superior.  This was my first time seeing Lake Superior and dipping my hands into the lake.  It is the largest of the Great Lakes and really beautiful.  And the water is so clean!  We walked out on the break wall and climbed a “mountain” (1200 ft high).  The view at the top was superior!  Pun intended.

The break wall

The break wall

Rocks viewed through the clean water of Lake Superiod

Rocks viewed through the clean water of Lake Superior

Lake Superior view from the top of the mountain

Lake Superior view from the top of the mountain

We left a day early (Sunday) and headed east to St Ignace.  We wanted to go to Munising for the Pictured Rock, however, it was raining and all the boat tours were booked (due to Labor Day holiday), so we decided to head to St Ignace and Sault St Marie.

Walk to the lake from our campsite

Walk to the lake from our campsite

Long dock at the lake

Long dock at the lake

Sunset

Sunset

We found a dry campsite at the Tiki RV resort in their grassy overflow section.  Actually it was one of the best places in the campground.  There was no one next to us and a big green lawn out our door.  We were lucky to find anything on a holiday weekend.  We drove the car about 50 miles on I75 North to the Soo.  I couldn’t remember if I had been to the Soo Locks before,  Seems I have, just couldn’t remember when.  So we went to the Soo!  There was a 1,000 ft Laker (lake freighter)  just pulling into the locks when we arrived.  It was perfect timing to see the locks in action. Believe it or not…they only use gravity to fill and empty the lock chambers.   The Soo Locks are so important to the economy  in the Northeastern US…they move $500 Billion worth of cargo annually!.  We had dinner near the locks and then headed back to St Ignace to the Bridge View Park.  Absolutely beautiful views of the Mackinac Bridge and surrounding water.  Reminded me of the Golden Gate Bridge except it wasn’t red.  Stopped for an ice cream on the way back to the Tiki Resort.  After laundry in the morning, we pulled out and headed to Traverse City.

Tour Boat in the lock: Now you see it...

Tour Boat in the lock: Now you see it…

Now you don't!

Now you don’t!

Soo Locks with large laker in the lock

Soo Locks with large laker in the lock

Mackinac Bridge from the Bridge View Park

Mackinac Bridge from the Bridge View Park

Sunset from Bridge View Park

Sunset from Bridge View Park

The Happy Campers

The Happy Campers

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