A visit to the Painted Lady

Day 42

LOCATION:  Manistee, Michigan, on west coast of the state
CAMPGROUND:  Bluffs at Manistee Lake RV and Motorhome Park
WEATHER:  Very nice  Windy.  High 80

The highlight of the day was lunch at the Painted Lady Saloon, the oldest saloon in Manistee.  It was built in the late 1800s, and was formerly a brothel

This is the original side which must have been just a bar……note ceiling

It has now been expanded to more of a restaurant.  Every inch of the walls is covered with pictures.  Marilyn Monroe’s pictures are prevalent.

Lots of people had recommended this place, for their tasty food and inexpensive prices.  We shared today’s special – grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of soup – $8.95.  The high-end craft beers were $3.  It  was very good, but very heavy.  I think I gained 5 pounds!

The afternoon was spent doing laundry.  It is an honor system here.  The machines are not coin-operated, and they just ask you to drop off $ in the office.

DINNER:  Last of the rotisserie chicken.  I marinated it in a fajita sauce along with grilled portabellos and the peppers we had charred last night.  George warmed it all up on the grill.  Side was black beans with onions, peppers, and a lot of spices like chili, cumin, and chipotle.  Good! 

BOOK:  “When the Music’s Over” by Peter Robinson.  This is my fall-back series when I am waiting for other books to become available online.  I like these who-dunnit books as they take place in North Yorkshire in villages next to where we housesat.  I am coming to the end of the series, so I hope the author continues writing!  4 stars out of 5

Focusing on food today….

Day 41

LOCATION: Manistee, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Bluffs on Manitee Lake RV and Motorhome Resort
WEATHER:  Much warmer.  High 75.  Sunny

We enjoyed our traditional Sunday morning routine – George’s grits, eggs, and bacon while watching “CBS Sunday Morning”.  The show today focused on the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.  Such a tragedy. 

We did some chores around the Airstream.  The front door has become difficult to open.  George worked his miracles, of course.

Then, off to downtown Manistee for lunch and a beer at the brewpub again.    We shared a veggie “power bowl” full of beans and rice, salsa, charred asparagus, and grated cheese.  Quite tasty!

Next up was grocery shopping.  There is a very nice supermarket here, so we stocked up for the next 2 weeks or so.  The refrigerator is now overflowing!

DINNER:  Grilled portabellos and other vegetables with some takeNbake rolls.  In an unsupervised moment shopping today, George picked up a steak.  That was NOT on my planned menu tonight, but he wanted some in addition to the portabellos.  I had him grill extra vegetables and portabellos for future dinners.

Kicking off the holiday weekend

Day 40

LOCATION:  Manistee, Michigan  – western part of state
CAMPGROUND:  Bluffs at Manistee Lake RV and Motorhome Resort
WEATHER:  Very pleasant.  High 68

Today was Manistee’s first Farmers’ Market of the season.  Since it still early in the season, there were mostly plants, syrups/jams, baked goods, and pottery.  We bought a little succulent to put on the picnic table.  Hope it survives the trip!

On to lunch at Manistee’s nicest riverfront restaurant.  The downtown is on a hill over the river.  This old building has been turned into an upscale restaurant/bistro. 

We sat out on the deck and watched the fishing boats come in.

Sitting in the shade, it was a bit chilly.  We had the place to ourselves!

We shared a sinfully delicious platter of warmed smoked whitefish topped with melted Guyure cheese and a bowl of French onion soup.  WOW

The downtown is really cute and people were out shopping for Memorial Weekend sidewalk sales

Back at our RV park, we got ready for a Memorial Day weekend picnic/potluck at the clubhouse.  Here it is before the people arrived….

They grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for us, and each couple brought something.  I brought stuffed grape leaves (thanks, Trader Joe’s!)  and celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese and bacon. 

We were able to sit outside to eat but then it started raining.  Time to go home!

A day of “due diligence”

Day 39

LOCATION:  Manistee, Michigan on west coast
CAMPGROUND: Bluffs at Lake Manistee RV andd Motorhome Park
WEATHER:  Still cool and overcast.  High 57

Today was a day trip of doing due diligence work to check out things to do when our friends come to visit us next month.  What a hardship!  (haha!)

First we drove to the town of Beulah which is right on Lake Michigan.  We had lunch at their brewpub there, a very friendly atmosphere.  Check!  We will return here with our visitors.

Next was Brose Brewery/St Ambrose Cellars, a beautiful outdoor venue not far from Beulah.  It was too chilly to sit outside.  We asked the waiter to turn on the heater for us, and had drinks on their porch.

Check!  We will return here with our visitors on a day when we can sit outside and enjoy one of their bands.

Third place to check was Iron Fish Distillery.  We have been here before.  It is a Harvest Host site, but we have never been able to coordinate our stay here with the dates  they are open.  Again, a super friendly staff.  We sampled, and bought, one of their whiskies. The manager gave George a tour of the distillery. I just had to try one of their Manhattans.   Check!  We will return next month with our visitors

DINNER:  Spam.  Don’t laugh….we really do like it!  George grilled it on the grill which made it tastier.  I made scalloped potatoes, and served a salad with marinated chick peas.  All good. 

BOOK:  “The Overstory” by Richard Powers.  I am trying to decide whether I liked this book or not.  It is very strange.  Each chapter is about a different character and involves the understory of trees.  At the end, all of the characters’ lives become intertwined, all with the backdrop of saving trees.  3 stars out of 5 (I think)

Lively Manistee

Day 38

LOCATION:  Manistee, Michigan – on west coast
CAMPGROUND:  Bluffs at Manistee Lake Motorhome and RV Resort
WEATHER:  Cool-ish.  Some rain.  High 68

It rained all last night.  We like listening to the rain bouncing off Joy while we are safe and sound.  We happily woke up to dry floors – no leaks. 

This RV park/community  really amazes me.  A few work campers keep the place super well-maintained.  The toilet paper in the bathrooms is folded with a point on the end like they do in first-class hotels.  The showers are stocked with high-end shampoos, soaps, etc.  Just like a real resort!  They are preparing for more people starting in June.  I saw a flyer with weekly events.  Maybe we can stay longer next time to take advantage of these things. 

Since we stayed inside all day yesterday, we were getting a bit of cabin fever so we went in to town.  Where to, you might ask?  The brewpub, of course! 

North Channel Brewery is very nice and has a great food menu.  We shared a plate of blackened walleye tacos.  Delicioso!

We chatted with the bartender about the economy.  She said (surprisingly happily) that she makes $5/hour when she bartends and $3/hour when she is a server.  Many people don’t realize that wait staff  generally make half of minimum wage as restaurants assume that they will make up the difference with tips.  What a crazy system!  She said she does ok in the summer, but struggles in the slow winter months.  She said this makes it impossible for her to afford any rent in Manistee.  The cheapest she can find is $1300/month rental.  The downtown is really up and coming with a very nice riverwalk.  The bartender said that Manistee continues to grow and develop quite quickly.  It really hops in the summer and this river is full of boats.

This RV/retirement community is growing quickly, too.  The landscapers are busy setting up new RV sites and they have cleared several lots for new homes.  As we were enjoying our late afternoon at the picnic table, this new manufactured home went by.  We toured the open house – $149K for a cute 2 bedroom, 2 bath cottage.  Something to think about!

DINNER:  Meatballs in a tomato veg sauce over pasta.  This was mostly meat and veg, and very little pasta:  I sauteed onions, leftover charred bell peppers, mushrooms, and garlic.  Then added big chunks of leftover grilled hamburger pieces as meatballs.    To make it saucier, I added some very ripe tomato pieces and red wine.  Lots of Italian herbs.  Served over rotini pasta.  Bon apetito! 

Hunkering down with Joy

Day 37

LOCATION:  Manistee, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Bluffs at Manistee Lake Motorhome and RV Park
WEATHER:  Rain!  High 65

The weather forecast was rain all day starting at about 11:00.  So, this morning, we hiked around the RV park.  In the back of the park, the bluff overlooks the lake which flows out to Lake Michigan. 

We were looking for morels, but didn’t see any.  Maybe after today’s predicted rain they will pop out?

It was a nice, quiet day and we were high and dry tucked into Joy.  We are glad that we aren’t in a grassy, wet area.  It would also not be a good day for a Harvest Host stay.  So, we are happy here.  I read a lot once the rain did come. 

To makes things cozier, I made some chicken stock with bones of the rotisserie chicken.  The steam and aroma made things nice inside.

DINNER:  We started with steamed edamame (soybeans) as appetizers.  Main course was Japanese soba (buckwheat noodles).  I made it with this afternoon’s stock, some diced chicken bits, onions, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, and frozen Asian vegetables.  Hearty, but healthy, I think! 

55 and Better!

Day 36

LOCATION:  Manistee, Michigan on NW coast of the state
CAMPGROUND:  Bluffs of Manistee Lake Motorhome and RV Resort.  Paved, flat sites.  Picnic table.  Nicest showers/bathrooms ever.  Swimming pool, pickleball court, clubhouse.  Super friendly staff (volunteers).  $47/night.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Still chilly.  Sunny.  High 68

We had a quiet night sleeping among the alpacas at the Northern Blessings Alpaca Farm (through Harvest Hosts).  The only noise was the occasional bark from their guard dog – who keeps predators like coyotes away from the alpacas.  This morning, we walked around the cherry trees and watched the cutie alpacas some more.

Again, since we didn’t have a long distance to drive, we took our time taking the scenic route through Manistee National Forest.  We stopped at a brewpub in Cadillac for lunch – ahi tuna bowls.  I am so glad to see light options like this in brewpubs instead of the typical heavy pub food. 

On to the Bluffs of Manistee……We stopped by this place last year to check it out.  It is very similar to our community in South Texas where we spend the winters.  It is a “55 and better” community.  There are several options – modular housing, regular houses, seasonal RV sites, and sites like ours – nightly or weekly.  Everything seems brand new.  The clubhouse is beautiful with games and an exercise room, plus a kitchen for events.

The sites are nicely landscaped and the seasonal campers have small storage sheds.

The pool is heated and large; nice hot tub, too.  Two pickleball courts (which I hope to use!)  Free Roku TV and excellent wifi.  Beautiful laundry.   We will be here a week – again, kind of a “test” to see how we like longer stays. 

We arrived in Michigan two weeks ago, after riding the car ferry over from Wisconsin.  Since that time, we have stayed in the Northwestern section of Michigan’s lower part.

We will continue to stay around this area for another 6 weeks or so.

DINNER:  George grilled the last of the walleye fillets that our fishing friend Theresa had given us.  I did a stir-fry with mushrooms, charred peppers, and green onion, adding cooked couscous at the end.  Very tasty. 

BOOK: “Camino Winds” by John Grisham. This is a lighter type of book for this author who usually writes more serious books about the law. This one is a “whodunit” featuring a bit shady and very likeable millionaire. Very light reading – I finished it in a day! 3 stars out of 5

Adorable alpacas!

Day 35

LOCATION:  On a farm outside of Rapid City, just east of Traverse City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Northern Blessing Alpaca Farm – a Harvest Host site.  Room for just one RV, we are parked in a grassy, flat driveway with the alpacas right in front of us.  Lovely setting!  Super quiet. Very personable host/owner.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cold this AM warming to 55 in PM.  Sunny
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  45 minutes

It got down to 34 degrees overnight and we were cold this morning!  When we are boondocking, and trying to conserve the battery, George lights our catalytic heater to warm things up.  It does the job!

We had a very nice and quiet overnight stay, sleeping in the vineyard.

This morning we took a hike around the vineyards.  Some workers were pruning the vines.

With another short drive today, we took our time getting to our next location.  We stopped for lunch/beer at a brewpub outside of Traverse City – Stone Ground Brewing.  We can now proudly say we have visited every single brewery/brewpub in and around that town.  The brewery has an indoor food truck serving Mexican vegan street food.  Outstanding!  We shared a soyrizo burrito bowl.

Then slightly north and east to this alpaca farm.  We drove past Lake Michigan and several other lakes, including Torch Lake which National Geographic named “the most beautiful lake in the world”. 

We got set up in the driveway leading to the pasture where the alpacas live.

The owner joined us and we spent about an hour gazing at the 25 alpacas.  They are so cute!  They were just sheared so several of them were wearing jackets. 

She told us that this one had been born this morning.  He is wearing a jacket to keep warm.  Mom (the black one) hovered around her new baby.  He was wobbly but walked and explored the pasture.  So cute!

To support the Harvest Host farm, we checked out her farm shop and bought some dryer balls made from alpaca wool and some body lotion the hostess made from lavender. 

We pulled out our chairs and spent more time watching the alpacas.  It is very hypnotic. 

DINNER:  I warmed up some rotisserie chicken breasts and added them to an Indian grain/lentil dish (compliments of Trader Joe’s).  It was very good.  Since we are boondocking, I didn’t want to make anything too complicated – I can’t wash too many dishes as I need to conserve water. 

BOOK:  “What’s Bred in the Bone” by Robertson Davies.  George had recommended this to me.  It is a story about the life of an artist.  I just couldn’t get into it, but did plow my way through.  1 star out of 5. 

Vineyard camping!

Day 34

LOCATION:  Just north of Traverse City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Brengman Winery, a Harvest Host site.  We are parked away from their tasting room, nestled among the vineyards on a bluff.  Incredible!  Good wines and friendly staff.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Cool –> Cold.  Mostly sunny.  High 50
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  15 minutes!

It was a cool morning, so with only such a short drive to make today to a place without electricity, we asked for a late check-out at Holiday RV Park.   We ran the heaters, cleaned up, and packed up leisurely.  This has been a great, relaxing stay.  This is part of our “test” to see how we do staying in places longer than 2-5 days, which has been our norm.  So far, so good.

I belong to a Facebook group called Gourmet Camping. Today, I was notified that my asparagus/polenta recipe and photo is their cover photo for the week. I am proud!

We arrived at this vineyard and got settled in.  There is one other Harvest Host camper here – a single woman traveling in a Class B van.  We invited her over to chat, and then walked down to the tasting room for some wine.  It is a beautiful setting.

The tasting room had a fire going and was very comfortable.  We stayed at the bar, chatting with the servers. 

We always support the Harvest Host sites by buying something.  In addidtion to the wine-tasting, we had planned to buy a pizza for dinner.  However, they were out of dough, so we bought a bottle of wine and went with Plan B for dinner….

DINNER:  Chili con carne.  I opened a can of chile and added some frozen grilled hamburger.  Crushed  tortilla chips and a little cheese were the toppings.   Hit the spot on this chilly evening! 

Even without electricity, we can watch TV using our inverter.  (I don’t understand this, but it works).  So we caught some good PBS shows and cuddled up with blankets. 

Squeezing in a few more wineries

Day 33

LOCATION:  Outside of Traverse City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Holiday RV Park
WEATHER:  A bit chilly, but nice.  High 57

After eating our delicious Cornish pastie for breakfast, I took a brisk walk all around the RV park  to burn off some of those calories!   For fun, I counted the number of Airstreams – 20, including three 5th wheels.  I had never seen Airtream 5th-wheelers before, so looked it up… Only a few were made –  around 1990.

Then, off again to explore this side of the Leelenau Peninsula.  First up was Rove Winery, perched high on a bluff.  It is still really early in the season, but the vineyards are greening up.   With our Traverse City Uncorked ticket, our tasting was half-priced.

There was a bachelorette party in full swing….

We returned to one of our favorite breweries – Farm Club – for lunch.  They were having an outdoor market selling baby plants from their greenhouse.  The  food there is so fantastic. The last time we were here we shared their panzanella (warm bread salad).  Today we had their cacio e peppe dish (cheese and pepper) pasta.  Out of this world!

One more winery for the day. This was Shady Lane.  Since it was a bit chilly, they brought out their firepits (after putting them away when they thought cool weather was over).  With our ticket, our wine was only $5.  It was very pleasant around the fire.

DINNER:  Back at the RV park, George got a roaring fire going.  By this time, temps were down in the 40s.  We bundled up and enjoyed the fire.  He roasted some rotisserie chicken pieces, and charred some bell peppers (for future use).  I made a loaded baked potato – with peppers, onions, and cheese which we wrapped in aluminum foil, threw on the fire, and baked as a side dish.  All very tasty!  Our last fire here.