Day #142 – Are we in Napa Valley or Michigan?!!!

LOCATION:  Traverse City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Traverse City State Park
WEATHER:  Gorgeous!  Sunny.  High 75

Today was a perfect day!  We headed out to Mission Peninsula, a skinny strip of land jutting out into Lake Michigan that is chock-full of wineries and vineyards. 

We randomly stopped at our first winery.  All of the wineries grow their own grapes here.  The countryside is full of wineries. There are also cherry and apple trees.

This first winery was very homey.  George offered to be the DD today.  I started with a tasting there.  I liked their pinot noir.

The wine pourer is a local college student who works here in the summer.  She gave us some great recommendations of other wineries to try and places for lunch.

On to our second winery.  This one has a gorgeous view of the lake.  We sat out on the patio and I had a glass of their dry red.

We found a brewpub (this peninsula has everything!) for lunch.  The pub also has an event center and we watched a wedding going on.  Our waitress said they have at least one wedding a day in the summers.

At the end of the peninsula is the Mission Lighthouse. 

Even though it was a bit brisk, the Michiganers were out in the lake.

We stopped by the Old Mission Store, in business with the same family for 182 years!

Then, to our 3rd and final winery.  This one is also a lavender farm.  Some people were doing the U-pick, although the season has just finished.

We savored this last wine, a cab/merlot blend at the 3rd winery’s lawn bar.

We peeked over the lavender bushes to see the lake.

What a lovely, lovely day!  I could certainly return there to visit some other wineries.  It really felt like Napa Valley, except the prices were more reasonable, the views more spectacular (Lake Michigan),  and the wait staff friendlier.  Love it!!!

DINNER:  At the last fish market we went to, we bought some fish sausage that I was anxious to try.  It was Cajun style, so I made a kind of New Orleans rice/seafood dish – with yellow rice, shrimp sauteed with onions and garlic, all with slices of the fish sausage.  We liked it! 

All of the campgrounds we stay in have signs/rules about quiet time starting at 10:00 PM.  Our neighbors must not have read the rules.    We heard them partying all evening.    By 10:30, it was pretty bad.  Another group had joined them for a birthday party and they were doing karaoke.  George had to ask them to be quiet. 

Day #141 – Settling in to Traverse City

LOCATION:  Traverse City, Michigan – on Lake Michigan in northern part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Traverse City State Park.  Very crowded.  Site is tight, and difficult to get into –  due to trees.  Paved sight and level.  Electricity only.  Central dump station and water.  New, clean bathrooms and showers.  $35/night.  Traffic noise.    3 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Very pleasant.  A little drizzle.  High 73

We took a nice long walk around the campground at Petoskey State Park to get our steps in and to view the bay.  After a quick lunch (whitefish pate’), we headed out.

We re-traced our route from yesterday.  Since I had such difficulty making camping reservations, we are having to back-track a bit.

Traverse City is VERY busy.  It is a popular tourist spot.  Most of the license plates are from Michigan, so it must  be people from other parts of the state spending their summer vacation here.  All of the hotels/resorts along the lake post “no vacancy” signs.  We were able to get set up on our campsite.  Again, George did an excellent job backing Joy into the site, even though a big vehicle and tree were blocking our way on the other side.

We will be here for a week, using Traverse City as a base as we do day trips around the area.  There are a lot of wineries and breweries around.  So, first up was a brewery in downtown Traverse City.

The traffic is terrible.  We spotted a bus, so we might try to use that the next time we go into town.

DINNER:  Hot dogs!  This is the first time this entire trip that we have eaten them.  George cooked them over the campfire on a hotdog stick.  I toasted ciabatta rolls to use as buns.  Side was cole slaw (finally done with that).  Lots of traditional condiments. 

Day #140 – 2 great Michigan breweries in one day!

LOCATION:  Petoskey, Michigan – in northern part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Petoskey State Park.  On Lake Michigan, although our site has no view.  Paved site.  Really hard to get into – narrow with trees.  Quite shady.  Completely full/packed.  Electricity only.  Central water and sewer.  Standard Michigan State Park fire pit.  Picnic table.  Decent showers/bathroom.  $45/night.  3 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Chilly in the AM, warming to 80 in PM

It was very peaceful at the Harvest Host winery overnight.  It is so nice to be away from the crowds.  This farm is a u-pick cherry farm, but the season ended 2 weeks ago.  Lucky for us, there are still a lot of cherries on the trees.  George picked a few for our breakfast.

Even though this winery is remote, we had good cell service.  So, in the AM, in no big hurry to leave, we stayed around doing some internet work.  Our daughter and I are going to Puerto Rico in November, so I am looking at things to do, flights, hotels, etc.  If any reader has any suggestions, please let me know!

We took an alternate route from the winery to Petoskey to avoid the tourist cities/traffic along the coast.  That put us in a cute little town called Bellaire for lunch.  Lucky us – Short’s Brewpub to the rescue!  Short’s is one of Michigan’s most famous craft breweries.

We shared a mini pizza – a mushroom combo – delish.  George tried a couple of beers, since I was driving. 

Bellaire has lovely little alleys, all filled with flowers

There is a river that runs through town, leading to one of the many lakes nearby.  This historic inn sits right on the river front

It took some maneuvering to get Joy parked in our campsite.  Very tight.  George always does an excellent job while I try to be helpful.  (At least we don’t yell at each other like most couples do! Once we got settled in, we took a hike on a really nice bikeway.  There are bikeways throughout Petoskey, and in between towns. Many, like this one, used to be a railway bed.

And…..what did we spy from the bike path?  A brewery! 

We snacked on a thick pretzel at the bar.  I sat next to a young lady who had just hiked 29 miles today on the North Country Trail.  She is hiking the state from top to bottom.  I heard her talk to the manager to see if she could pitch her tent behind the brewery for sleeping tonight.  Brave woman!

DINNER:  Soy Ginger Chicken, another recipe I had clipped from a magazine.

  I marinated the chicken (I cheated and used frozen rotisserie chicken) in a combo of soy sauce, lots of minced ginger and garlic, chili paste, and sesame oil.  I sauted some finely chopped cabbage and onion and set aside.  Then, I fried some leftover rice in sesame oil with more garlic and ginger.  I mixed together the fried rice and chicken (including all of the marinade) and cooked some more.  To serve, I poured the rice/chicken over the cabbage.  It was quite easy since the chicken was already cooked.  And success – I finally got rid of the big head of cabbage! 

COOKNG HINT – The last time I shopped, I bought a big knob of ginger.  Google’s advice, on preserving the leftover chunk,  instructed me to store it in some sort of alcohol  – either vodka or rice wine.  Tonight, I used some of the vodka-preserved ginger and it was just like fresh! 

BOOK:  “Promise Me” by Harlan Coben.  Coben is one of the better detective authors out there.  Another book I picked up from an RV park exchange library.  4 stars out of 5

Day #139 – Lakefront property purchase?

LOCATION:  In the middle of nowhere in northern Michigan (lower peninsula).
CAMPGROUND:  Cellar 1914 – a Harvest Host winery.  We are in a huge field that could accomodate 20 RVs, but we are the only ones here.  A family farm, founded in 1914.  We are surrounded by cornfields and 1100 acres of cherry trees.  Nice tasting room.  Very friendly.   Level spot on grass.  5 stars out of 5.  Decent wine
WEATHER:  Rain overnight, clearing to becoming sunny in PM.  High 73

It is like Camelot here – it only rains at night!  And boy, did it rain overnight!!!   Lots of thunderstorms.  Locals said it was the biggest storm of the summer.  Our tarp held tight, and we didn’t get any leaks.

While still at Wilderness State Park (outside of Mackinaw City), we met up with a realtor to look at a house!!!!! We had passed it the other day and it looked super cute. 

It turns out that it is more of a cabin than a house.  It is even tinier than our tiny house in Texas – 225 sqaure feet.

The view/location is everything.

This is the deck -with the view from the main (only) room

The owners lived in their RV while here, and used the house as a living room. 

The downside is that there is no bathroom (as they used their RV’s).  There are RV hook-ups (but no sewer).  $225K.  It is a bit tempting, but too many downsides.   There is no real kitchen either…

So, no – we will  keep on looking.

Then, on to tonight’s stay.  Our route provided beautiful lakeshore views with amazing houses.  Where do all these people get their money?  We drove through popular Petoskey and Charlevoix.  We will be returning to both.  People, people, everywhere! 

This winery is out in the middle of nowhere.  The main highway is closed for construction, so our GPS took us down country roads, 1 mile and then a left, 2 miles then a right, another 3 miles and a right, etc etc.  All were paved except the last road.  A highway road truck was dumping sand on the road as we neared that last stretch.  I had to gun it to make it through the loose, soft sand. 

As we entered the farm, a nice man came out to meet us.  He is the great-grandson of the original owner who founded the farm in 1914.  He directed us to a field to park Joy.  After getting set up, we returned to the winery for a tasting.

It is all a family affair.  This is another great-grandson pouring wines. 

In addition to making wine, they do a lot of events for children – like a corn maze, tours of the farm, games out in the field.

We are at least 20 miles from the nearest town, so we were surprised that they were so busy.  All locals, who all seem to know each other. 

We always support the Harvest Hosts, so we paid for some tastings and bought a bottle of red wine. 

DINNER:  Leftover gnocchi to which I added zucchini, onions, mushrooms, garlic, and tomatoes.  At Harvest Host sites, we have to cook inside.  This was an easy option. 

Day #138 — I LOVE Harbor Springs!!!

LOCATION:  Mackinaw City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Wilderness State Park
WEATHER:  Another beauty.  Sunny.  High 80

What a FUN day! 

In the morning, we wanted to get some exercise so we took one of the many trails around the park.  It was about a 4-mile hike, all very nice except the mosquitoes found us in some of the swampy areas. 

Then, we were off for the day…..We drove a big loop around the lakeshore (Lake Michigan).  A friend who used to live in this area gave us some suggestions about places to see.  Wow! 

First we drove through the “Tunnel of Trees”.  Aptly named – it is a 20-mile stretch through the forest with Lake Michigan below.  The road is very narrow – so that when another car approaches, one car has to stop to let the other go by.

Halfway in, we stopped at a little town established by the Polish years ago.  There is a famous little restaurant there with interesting architecture and a fantastic view of the lake.  Unfortunately, they were closed on Mondays so we missed a Polish sausage lunch.

Besides the beautiful scenery, I enjoyed looking at the gorgeous homes nestled in the woods, many of which were actually under us hugging the hills over the lake.

Then…ta-da!  Harbor Springs!  I could not believe it.  It is a very high-end beach town, reminding me of Newport, Rhode Island or some exclusive south Florida beach area. 

The downtown is super cute and we stopped for lunch in a downtown cafe that has been a family business for more than 100 years.

There are flowers everywhere..

The town beach was full with sun-seekers

We followed our friend’s suggestion and visited her friend’s glass-blowing shop.

As we walked around downtown, we noticed that everyone was munching on ice cream cones,  a must-do in a beach town.  George had to join the group…

At the harbor were HUGE yachts and sailboats getting ready for a regatta.  This one belongs to our daughter Alexis (NOT!)  …

Here is George looking nautical in front of ours (haha)

Harbor Springs seems like a very upscale place.  We drove around with our jaws dropped gawking at the many, many lakeside mansions, all spilling over with flowers and beautiful yards.  I could absolutely live here.

Then, continuing our loop, we drove back to Mackinaw City where we stopped at a fish market.  We bought some fish sausage that we would like to try, some whitefish pate’, some in-house smoked jerky, and tonight’s walleye dinner, freshly caught from Lake Michigan.

DINNER:  We cooked up the walleye over the campfire.  Sides were steamed rice and a salad. 

Day #137 – Exploring the town of Mackinaw City

LOCATION:  Mackinaw City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Wilderness State Park
WEATHER:  Sunny and warm – High 82

We hiked around the park this morning and then headed to town for lunch.  George liked the Belgian brewery so much that he wanted to go back.

This time he had a farmhouse ale and a Belgian light beer.  A different food truck was there today, so we shared one of its hamburgers.

We drove around the town of Mackinaw City.  Its downtown is full of tourists and tourist-y shops selling fudge, taffy, sweatshirts, ferry tickets, and souvenirs.  We went to the old fort with its lighthouse

You can see the bridge in the background.  Here is a view of the bridge from the fort’s park.

We drove out to a point with another pretty lighthouse.  Most of the lighthouses switched to automatic lights in the early 1900s. 

I had to stick my foot in to see how cold the Straits of Mackinaw/Lake Michigan are – very cold!

DINNER:  George got a good fire going and grilled a rib-eye steak.  Sides were homemade cole slaw (my first attempt to make it – wanting to use up the cabbage that is hogging the refrigerator), and mashed potatoes. 

Day #136 — Historic Mill Creek

LOCATION:  Mackinaw City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Wilderness State Park.  Two sections – busy lake-front one and more relaxed piney woods one.  We have electricity only, although there are some full hook-ups available.  Very popular.  Good bathrooms.  Level, paved sights.  Standard Michigan State Park-issue fire pits.  Picnic table.  $38/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  RAIN!  It rained all throughout last night and all day today.  High 72
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  Our shortest drive between parks yet- 20 minutes!

Mill Creek Campground is gearing up for a “Christmas in July” celebration.  They are hanging up Christmas lights and decorations. 

We had to check out from Mill Creek Campground by 11:00, and couldn’t check in to Wilderness until 3:00, so we had some time to kill (poor planning on my part)..  So, went to Mill Creek Discovery Center where there was a big parking lot (for Joy).  We toured the center, which is very nicely done.  They have reconstructed the mill, millhouse, and outbuildings to look like they did in the 1800s.  Lumber was big.  The sawmill provided lumber to Mackinaw Island – for the residents and the fort there. 

Since it was a rainy day, we were the only ones there.  The ranger gave us a private show describing the workings of the milll.

While sitting in their parking lot, I made some soup for lunch – clam chowder, to which I added some chunks of smoked whitefish.  Yum. 

It was a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon.  George watched golf on TV and I read.  We munched on some microwave popcorn.  Quite cozy!

DINNER:  I tried another new recipe….Shrimp and Kale with Burst Tomatoes

Garlic, minced
Onions, diced
Red chili flakes
Kale – I used half of a big bunch (really cooks down)
1/2 container cherry tomatoes
10 shrimp, shelled
Spaghetti – enough for 2 people

Saute the garlic and onions with the chili flakes.  Add tomatoes and cook until they burst. 

Meanwhile, cook spaghetti until al dente.  Add kale during last 2 minutes.  Drain.  Mix spaghetti and kale into the tomato mix.  Right before serving, add the shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes, until pink.

Quite tasty, and was a good way to use up the kale that I had from a recipe I made a few nights ago (which was taking up too much room in the refrigerator!) 

BOOK:  “Still Life” by Louise Penny.  One of her earlier books that I had missed about Chief of Police Armand Gamach.  Well-written as all of hers are.  I really want to visit that part of Quebec, where the stories take place, if we can this fall. 

Day #135…Good Michigan food….and drink

LOCATION:  Mackinaw City, Michigan
WEATHER:  Mostly sunny.  High 76

Michigan cherries for breakfast!  Yum!

In the morning,  I spent several tense hours on the phone and on the computer trying to get camping reservations for 2 weeks in August, before we go to Canada.  In previous years, I have not made many reservations – as we like to “wing” it…..If we find a place we like, we stay longer, etc.  This year, campgrounds are bursting at their seams.  I made Michigan camping reservations back in February for the months of June, July and up to mid-August.  I was “on hold” starting in mid-August, waiting for the Canada border decision.  So, today I needed to book the 2 week gap. I looked at everything – state parks, Harvest Hosts, commerical parks.  I was even willing to pay $125/night in one of the RV resorts, but still nothing available!!!  Finally, finally, I got us booked. One of the Friday night was the most difficult. It was my final call, and they had 1 spot left.    I can breathe again….

George wanted to check out a microbrewery outside of town for lunch.   This one is very authentic, and appeals to serious beer drinkers.  They serve mostly Belgian and French-style beers. 

I had a Scandinavian IPA and George tried 3 different kinds (short glasses) –  imperial stout, farmhouse ale, and a strong, dark Belgian. 

They used to serve food, but they closed their kitchen because they cannot get staff.  (This is something we are hearing a lot).  So, they have a food truck instead.

We snacked on their potstickers while we sipped on our beers. 

Then, we checked out a fish store that we had spotted.  They have a great selection of fresh and smoked fish.  We bought a smoked trout and smoked whitefish spread.  The smoke aroma was fabulous

DINNER:  For an appetizer, we had the smoked whitefish spread on some toasted flat bread. 

The main course was a take-off on Swedish meatballs:  I sauteed some onions and mushrooms, then added some hamburger (previously grilled and frozen) and sour cream.  George heated up the mixture in the iron skillet over the campfire.  Sides were sweet potato and Michigan corn-on-the-cob (which we had bought at the vegetable stand yesterday). 

Day #134 – Checking out northern Michigan

LOCATION:  Mackinaw City, Michigan
WEATHER:  Cloudy and cooler.  Still nice.  High 69

We putzed around the campground and trailer this morning.  I took a long walk around this huge park.  There are more than 600 camping sites and 65 cabins.  Along one side is the primo section – right on Lake Huron with views of the Mackinaw Bridge and the Grand Hotel over on Mackinaw Island.  Even though I booked this place 6 months ago, those primo sites were already taken.

We get really good wifi here.  George can get it from our trailer; I walk up to the store to pick it up.  Now that we know that we can go to Canada, I have been busy making reservations for August, before we  head up that way.  In late August, we plan to go to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to visit our back-door neighbors from our winter home in Texas.  Then, back to the USA to go to the Airstream factory in Ohio to get Joy’s leak looked at.  From there, we will zip back up north and east to Nova Scotia.  We had hoped to reschedule the Airstream appointment so we could travel from Ontario to Nova Scotia through Canada, but there were no other appointments available…..until January!

Once our “chores” were completed for the day, we hopped in the truck for a spin.  First up was the town of Cheboygan (not to be confused with Sheboygan, Wi).  It is a cute little town.  We stopped at their excellent brewery…..are you not surprised?

The staff and customers there were super friendly.  They don’t sell food, but offer free popcorn.  The brewery goes back many years.

They were brewing today, and the aroma was in the air…

A lovely river runs through the town, making it quite scenic. We stopped at a marina for lunch.  We had beautiful views and yummy food.  Again, the staff were terrific.

We made a big loop to see what else this area had to offer.  We stopped several times at the many lakes so George could try fishing.   His record still holds…..not a single nibble!  Our GPS steered us down some roads that turned to dirt/gravel, but we managed ok.  We stumbled upon a vegetable stand.  The owner’s garden behind is really healthy-looking. 

We bought some of her corn, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes as well as some Traverse City cherries. 

DINNER:  Home-made ramen with chicken and vegetables.  Ramen gets a bit of a bad reputation due to the cheap, packaged stuff.  We ate it a lot when we lived in Japan, and still enjoy it.  It is a great way to use up leftover vegetables. For tonight, I added some of the rotiserrie chicken that I had frozen a few days ago.

2 T peanut butter or tahini
1 T rice vinegar
2 T soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T fish sauce
3 cups broth (I used miso/ginger broth)

Meanwhile, saute this mix up in some vegetable and sesame oil, and add to the broth:
1 cup diced, coooked chicken
1/2 cup diced green onions
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
More minced garlic
More grated ginger
Handful of frozen stir-fry packaged vegetables, thawed

Boil the ramen per the package instructions, drain, and mix in with the chicken/veg broth.  You could easily make this vegan by substituting tofu for the chicken.

Day #133 — Beautiful Mackinaw Island

LOCATION:  Mackinaw City, Michigan
WEATHER:  Beautiful.  Sunny.  High 78

Mackinaw Island, Mackinac Island – no matter how you spell it, it delivers!  Wow!  We had a super good day there today.

Only downside – PEOPLE everywhere resulting in long lines.  Our campground has a free shuttle to the ferry dock.  We stood in line starting at 10:00 for the 10:30 shuttle.  It finally came at 11:00.  The line for the ferry was very long, winding its way around the parking lot.  Two ferries came and went that we couldn’t get on.  We finally got on the 3rd one at 12:45. 

A pirate ship took a bunch of children and their parents to the island.  The kids were so excited, most wearing pirate hats.

The ride itself was nice – about 20 minutes.  We enjoyed the view of the bridge from the boat.

Here we are, approaching the island…

The streets are just packed with tourists – shopping, buying fudge, and waiting in lines in front of restaurants.  We got off the beaten track a bit and found a nice place for a quiet lunch.  (The Gatehouse – owned by the Grand Hotel, but not on their property)

What hit me most about the island is the flowers – they are at their perfection and are everywhere!  There are a lot of old Victorian homes that are now B&Bs, all with their pretty gardens

Some of the homes look like they are still private residences.

And, then there is the Grand Hotel.  It really is grand!

There are many smaller, quaint hotels, too.  All posted “no vacancy” signs.

Cars are not allowed on the island, so the modes of transportation are by horse, horse and wagon, or  bicycle. 

There are bicyclists and bikes parked everywhere!

We watched a horse-drawn cart deliver cases of beer and beer kegs to this restaurant.

And, this guy was getting ready to pedal his delivery bike, loaded down with luggage, to a hotel.

This is the view of main street as we got ready to return.  I think we were the only tourists not carrying shopping bags of goodies – mostly fudge and sweatshirts.  🙂 

We didn’t have to wait in line long on the return.  Right across the street from the ferry terminal is a brewpub.  We checked it out, and then hopped on the shuttle back to the campground.  A very nice day!

DINNER:  A meatless dinner tonight…..Grilled portabello sandwiches.  George grilled the mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion on the campfire.  I sliced the bell pepper and onion for the sandwiches, on toasted ciabatta rolls.  I will save the rest of the pepper and onion for future dishes.