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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Categories: RV | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Week Three: Traverse City, Grand Haven and Frankenmuth, Michigan

  1. Jeanne

    Love your commentary, Rochelle. It sounds as if you’re having a fabulous time. Jeanne

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