Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Big Island’s June27 Lava Flow and Hurricane Iselle

Hi!  It’s been a long time since I wrote!

When I was writing my Biggest Ball of String “adventures” more regularly, I was just finishing up my segment on the Big Island of Hawaii – all I had left was the Village of Kailua-Kona.  (I’ll come back to that.)Summertime

And, although I’ve thought of my blog often, and the unfinished Hawaii segment, and all the places we’ve been that I didn’t discuss, I was side tracked with “real-life” things.  Last time I wrote, I talked about one of the “real life” things, which was a Cottage we purchased on Lake Michigan! THAT has taken up so much of my time! and I love it! I am inspired to do thing for it – it’s like I have tunnel vision! Everything has to do with that one particular event/thing!

Because The Cottage is part of my new adventure, I’ve started a new blog for it.  It’s going to be very specific to that one place – the cottage, the area, the renovations & updates, local business – chocolaterias, wineries, pie & pastry shops, breweries, places to rent boats, etc.   Really, I hope there are people who “browse” and find it,  or maybe it’ll be people who come visit the Cottage and want to know what updates we’ve done, or maybe it will be random people… but, I also just want to remind myself of the journey, and this is a good way!  Come check it out!

Last time I wrote a blog about travel, and before we bought the Cottage, I was writing about Hawaii…

A lot is happening right now on the Big Island – including the relentless approaching lava toward the little village of Pahoa!

June 27 Lava Flow 1Kilauea’s newest lava flow is named for the date the lava began erupting from it’s new vent, June 27.   I don’t know much about it but the pictures on-line seem crazy and amazing!!   The National Park’s website says that, as of September 15, “The actual length of the flow, measured along the lava tube axis (so that bends in the flow are considered) is 17.7 km (11.0 miles).”

I did wonder (since the lava is advancing kind of slowly, I mean, compared to movies like Dante’s Peak) if there were plans to divert the lava… when I asked, the answer was basically “no”.  I had my own guesses as to the reason, but Huffingpost had this to say:

“But diversion methods can be risky, according to officials. Not only could they make the problem worse, there are also considerable cultural sensitivities at June 27 Lava Flowplay.”

Diverting the lava flow — whether by obstructing it, rerouting it or attempting to alter the terrain in its path — is seen as blasphemous to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes who is believed to live in the Halemaumau crater of Kilauea Volcano.

“This is a very sacred place,” Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira said in response to one Puna resident’s question about diversion, per footage of the community meeting posted online Sept. 3 by Big Island Video News. “It is important to recognize and respect the culture that was and is still here.”

Oliveira also explained that any kind of diversion could worsen the situation and unintentionally send the lava flow toward another community.”

Culture and uncertainty were my guesses.

Maybe something amazing will happen, and there will be a rift that doesn’t affect anyone, and the lava will just drop straight back into the earth and take an underground route to the ocean!

Methusaleh 1 So, speaking of Hawaii, and that side of the Island – did I mention that we have land there…?  The reason I bring it up now is because on that acreage was “Methuselah”.  Methuselah was an O’hia tree , estimated to be around 970 years old (hence, the namesake), and right beside the top of our driveway.

When we first put in our driveway, we took special care of the larger trees and made the road go around them.  Especially Methuselah.

O’hia trees grow up to be about 20–25 meters (66–82 feet), but Methuselah was probably around 50 feet tall, and had been broken in half by either wind or lightning at some point. Two people could not reach around his trunk.  There was an entire ecosystem growing in and on his trunk! He was covered in roots from other trees.  In his leaves near the top, you could see flowers and leaves from orchids living and growing in his bark.   He was magnificent.

This year, during Hurricane Iselle, he blew down.  Even now, writing it, it makes my eyes water.  I love that tree.Methusaleh 2

The people who told us that he’d fallen (and currently is blocking complete access to our driveway) know that I love the tree, and everyone has wonderful ideas: Maybe we can make it into a beam in our house. Maybe we can make it into a bench. Maybe we can lift it with a crane to the edge of the property, and let the branches grow into new trees (this happens in Hawaii…)

It’s hard to find someone with a crane who also appreciates how much I love that tree… also, when O’hias die, they turn to such hard wood, it’s almost like petrified and then …so… I need to decide soon…

Hurricane Iselle (a tropical storm?) did a lot of damage to the Island –  trees and power lines were down everywhere, and tens of thousands were without power for weeks, some communities were without running water, and some people were isolated because of giant trees down blocking the roads.  There are really great stories, though, about communities coming together to help others – which, despite these two major catastrophes, is a really nice part of the story!  It’s worth the Google.

I was going to talk about Kona this time, but I think I’ll save it for next time…which will be sooner than later! (It’s mostly written anyway – just need to add pictures!

Stay tuned!

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LakeShore Haven, our cottage on Lake Michigan

You may or may not have noticed, but I haven’t written a blog lately…

www.vrbo.com/511943

Last time I wrote, though, we were on a boomerang trip to Michigan (visiting Richard and Shannan, and family – they come up in my blogs from time to time) where we stayed for a month.  (More about that trip later.)

One night, during our visit, we were all sitting up having some inspirational drinks (wine for the girls, scotch for the boys) and having one of those inspirational conversations that people often have at 2:30 in the morning, and it went something like:

Summertime“Hey! You know what we should do? We should all by a house together and rent it out!”

“YEAH! LET’S DO IT!!”

and then, it didn’t come up again – I completely forgot, until on the way home.

I said to Peter: “I wonder if they thought we were serious about that? Or if they thought it was just one of those fun-to-talk-about-at-the-time conversations?”

Not too long after that, we got a text: “Look what we found!”

Maybe just the cutest cottage EVER!

It’s 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom cottage walking distance (maybe 3-5 minutes) to Lake Michigan.  We can see The Lake from the living room window.

beachIt’s right beside a nice park with a playground, and 630 feet of white sand beach!

Richard’s family already has a cottage here and he’s been coming for 30+ years to visit the area.  So, we know all the ins-and-outs of the place – where’s the best restaurant, where’s the nearest golfing, where can you find a local chocolateria, and don’t forget the wineries!!   (Also, Michigan has recently voted a #1 place to come for beer connoisseur with all of their local Craft beers!)

Basically, there’s something for everyone in Michigan, and especially at our cottage! 😀

Let me tell you all about it! (This has been all-encompassing for me, which is one reason I haven’t been around in blog-world.)rag quilts

As soon as we decided to purchase it, I decided I had to make a quilt. Having never had made quilts before, I decided the best thing for a LakeShore cottage was a “rag quilt”.  I could go on and on about rag-quilts, but then my Upstairsblog would be about quilting.  Suffice it to say: I bought a sewing machine and made my first quilt, and now it’s in Michigan, in the main bedroom.

As mentioned, the Cottage has 2 bedrooms. One is on the main level with a super comfy queen size bed, and the second is kind of like a loft bedroom with 4 (also comfortable) twin size beds.

The most picturesque thing about The Cottage is that it has an enclosed front porch solarium area with summer screen windows – I cannot wait to have a nap out there in the summer.   That is, if the hammock (which will hang between two of the oak trees) is occupied!

Right now, the Cottage is a one bathroom place, but we have big plans for that second bathroom, and there’s talk about an outdoor shower, too.

The area is mostly known for summer activities (wine tours, bicycling, hiking, walking around the cute little character towns – Saugatuck, South Haven & Douglas (we are about 5 minutes from Saugatuck, 3 from Douglas, and 10-ish from South Haven) but we all agree that it is gorgeous in the winter and people should be invited to come – maybe cross country skiing, snow shoeing, snow fort building… possibilities are endless!!  (To this end, we’ve added a gas fireplace – well, like a wood stove fireplace.)

We have a currently undeveloped basement (home of a future bathroom), but it does have a laundry utility room down there, and we are working on converting the rest into a social place for kids.  (One portion for a TV, DVD player, books, etc – a movie area – and the rest for a playground for smaller children.  So far (because we just have arrived Thursday night and are leaving Monday), we have added those rubber prime colored square puzzle flooring pieces, and it seems to be a hit with Shannan & Richard’s 4-year-old son, so yay!!

We’ve installed cable, Wi-Fi, and free long distance phone calls.

Let me see… what else!!? Well, I’m sure I’ll have more to say the more I get to know the place and the more the updates continue, but for now:

JUST COME VISIT!!

http://www.facebook.com/lakeshorehaven1
www.vrbo.com/511943

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A Slingshot Trip

Taking a break from my blog about Hawaii, the Big Island, Kona conclusion – onlyMichigan because I’ve run out of time for now, and because I’m going to be without wi-fi for … who-knows-how-long – I am diverting temporarily to our upcoming trip.

We are “sling-shotting” to Michigan to visit friends (Richard, Shannan, Evan & Jack), and, for the most part, travelling a road we’ve already gone AND I’ve already talked about in my blog at some point.

Which is good, because we don’t have time to stop anywhere, so I won’t be pouty that I can’t stop to see the Roadside Attractions.

AirstreamThe plan is – get to Michigan as quickly as possible, by the most direct route, according to Google Maps. (The most direct route is approximately 3,000 kms/close to 1900 miles.)

The “adventure” part of it is that I’ve decided that, rather than hotel-ing, we are going to bring the Airstream, so that we have our own “home away from home” while visiting Richard and Shannan. Since it’s off-season, most campgrounds are already closed, so we plan to stay at Rest Areas, parking lots of places like Wal-mart, and truck stops.

We’ve never done that before (rest-stops, truck-stops and parking lots.) Makes me nervous. And, a little excited. Normally, I have the route carefully planned, campgrounds or hotels booked well in advance. A book with confirmation numbers, addresses, and phone numbers.

This time, I have a “hope for the best” mentality and a website (www.allstays.com) which lists every truck stop (including which have showers, restaurants and lounges), rest stops (including whether they are East/West or North/South bound), and parking lot that allows overnight stays, for every interstate in the United States.

Here’s what we’ll be passing:

1) We will be going through Medicine Hat, Alberta, which is home of the World’s Largest TeePee. This I haven’t seen AND we will be stopping for pictures.

2) Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, home of the World’s Largest Moose, and a townWorld's Largest Moose which actually has a few things I do want to do that I missed last time (the Al Capone tour and the Underground Tunnel tours), but we don’t have time. I will eventually be back there for those tours.

3) Dog River/Rouleau, Saskatchewan, filming location of “Corner Gas”.

3) Weyburn, Saskatchewan, home of what could be the World’s Tallest Wheat. (Same link as #3, Dog River)

The World's Largest Buffalo4) Minot, North Dakota, whose motto is “Why-not Minot”….

5) Jamestown, North Dakota, home of the World’s Largest Buffalo AND albino buffalos. (Same link as #3, Dog River) I might try to stop there for a better picture of the Albino Buffalo, actually.. Which reminds me. I should bring the big camera….

6) Fargo, North Dakota, home of the Infamous Wood Chipper, and the Fargo Walk of Fame.

7) A Continental Divide, not THE Continental Divide.Alexandria's Runestone

8) Alexandria’s Runestone. (I did say if we were ever there again, expecting we never would be, I’d stop and see the real one in the museum, instead of the replica… but that won’t be this trip…)

Skimming passed Minneapolis and St. Paul (tons more I need to see there, too, but I didn’t even get that all done last time I was there, and I was there for … 2 days, not 3 minutes…or probably an hour? that it’ll take us to “skim passed”?

Once we get to Wisconsin, though, we will be on a part of the highway we haven’t been before.

Here’s what I’ll be missing (maybe):

1) In or around Eau Claire: Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum, a Ship-shaped CarPaul Bunyan Wash, and a Transmission Man.

2) At Mauston, the Kwik Trip sign is apparently a hanging semi-truck… Might be able to see that from the road if I’m looking!

3) Wisconsin Dells – now the home of the Russian MIR Space Station… hmmmm… maybe we can stop on the way back… Looks like there’s also an Upside-down Whitehouse, Storybook Gardens (more research required to see if this still exists), a Muffler Man that looks alot like Burt Reynolds, Paul Bunyan restaurants (might need to stop there), and the World’s Possible Largest Flamingo….

4) DeForest – home of Sissy the Cow and Ehlenbach’s Cheese Chalet. … Actually, now that I know there’s an all-things-cheese place, might need to stop there for sure. (I mean – at some point, we have to stop at a Cheese Tourist thing – it IS, after all, Wisconsin!)

5) A bunch of sites in Madison, including Otis Redding’s Plane Crash site…

6) An Apple Water Tower at Edgerton.

7) Janesville – Bessie the Cow (apparently in a Fruitopia commercial?) and a 2-story outhouse,

SPAM Museumm8) Beloit – A Giant Bulldog and a Giant Hormel Can…

Speaking of Hormel – last time we were here, we visited the SPAM Museum, (SPAM being a Hormel product). This time, I am in search of La Victoria Chunky Jalapeno Hot Sauce – apparently this is the best hot sauce on the planet – if anyone knows where to find it… Originally, we found it at a little store in Sandpoint, ID (future blog topic), but can’t find it again. I did email to MegaMex Foods (which is “a joint venture between…Hormel Foods and Herdez del Fuerte“) and they are searching. (It IS available on-line, if I can’t find it any other place.)

ENTER Illinois. Still on a “fresh road”.

Oh too bad. I’m out of time.  See you later!

Thank you to our wonderful friends for house-sitting for us, too! Mwah!

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Crazy D’s, Buffalo Wings and more fireflies – Michigan to New York

After Chicago, we headed for Michigan to see Richard and Shannan, and their baby boy Evan.  We had a nice time there, and did visit-y things – wentMore Corn out for dinner, met Richard’s parents, etc – but really nothing touristy.

From there, we went to Indiana to visit some other friends that I’d known from high school days.  There, we also did visit-y things – went for dinner,  etc. etc.  Again, nothing touristy.

In each state we were in, I tried to buy a postcard for my scrapbook. (This was before the days when on-line photobooks were convenient ~ but not THAT long ago!! Don’t get sassy!)

So, as we were leaving Indiana, and headed for Ohio, I suddenly realized I had no postcard, so we pulled over at the first available gas station.

I ran in to check out the postcard supply (the gas station was on the interstate, and just passed Indianapolis, so I thought it’d be a successful search.)

The gas station attendant, missing at least one tooth, dressed in overalls, with the classic one-broken-strap, and covered in…oil?  Very friendly and helpful, he said, “How kin ah hilp yeh?”   (I’m sorry, Indianans (er Hoosiers?) – this is really what he said.) I said, “oh! Actually, I need to buy a postcard that represents Indiana.”

He steered me to the postcard display, and picked out a postcard OF the gas station.

Crazy D'sI wasn’t completely certain that THAT was the postcard I had in mind, until he said, “This par-TICK-ular pick-chur’s of this here gas stashun frum wee-in it first opened up.”

Oh! That IS interesting! It was all faded and worn out, and looked like those postcards from 50’s, so I said, much more intrigued! “OH! Wow! Ok! I WILL buy that postcard. When did the gas station open?”

He said, “See-ix munce agoooo”.

Oh goodness! Best part of my day! I will NEVER forget this!Indiana

We spent a night in Dayton, Ohio, with some friends, and then headed off towards Buffalo, New York.

We drove along Lake Erie for about 3 hours.  I meant to stop in Hamburg for a hamburger.. (technically, “hamburgers” are said to originate in Hamburg, Germany, but Hamburg, Pennsylvania, is named for Hamburg Germany, sooo, having a hamburger there seemed appropriate.)

But, we were heading for the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, which was only 26 miles away – so…I forgot about Hamburg, until we were long passed.  (While we’re talking about places to which we didn’t go, we also didn’t go to Niagara Falls, even though we were only about 1/2 an hour away.  BUT,  that is because 1) we had to be to Maine in time to catch our ferry to Nova Scotia, and 2) we’d already been twice  (future blog) (although it’s definitely worth seeing over and over!!) so it was easier to not go…if we hadn’t been there, we would’ve gone FOR SURE!! (and so should you, if you haven’t been before.)

The Anchor Bar is the place where Buffalo Wings were invented (in Buffalo), by Teressa Bellissimo, in 1964.  She happened to have some chicken wings that she was, it seems, going to be used in soup, but her son, the bartender, Dominic, and a bunch of his friends were hungry.  So, Teressa threw together some ingredients and deep-fried the wings, and Voila ! Buffalo Wings!

Anchor BarOf course, lots of places claim to sell “Buffalo wings”.  But, as always, it’s pretty tricky to compete with the original.  Frank and Teressa’s wings apparently hold the title “Best Wings in the World.”  And that’s how it should be.  Since their recipes are a “closely guarded secret”, there is the option to buy their sauces.  (Currently, anywhere in the Continental United States, the shipping is a flat rate of $9.99, but they also ship to Canada and some other countries – you can contact them for additional costs for each country.)

Buffalo WingsTheir site also includes recipes people have sent in, with meals that include their sauces.

Delicious and yummy.  The ambiance was fun – exactly as it should be. The owners were mingling, the regulars were dressed up in velvet suits, and wearing hats (one even with a feather) like from the 1970’s….if you are getting the mental picture…

We camped somewhere east of Buffalo, and spent the rest of the evening counting Fireflies!

Wednesday, on to Boston.

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More about Michigan – Grand Rapids

On that 2004 cross-country one-way road trip I’m always talking about (just mentioned again in my January 20th blog), after we left our disposable car in Omaha, Nebraska, we Ada Bridgeraced across Iowa to the Bridges of Madison County – trying to get there before sundown. (Again – a story for another time.)

With that theme in mind, I was happy to find out about the Bridge of Kent County, the Ada Covered Bridge, built in 1867, across the Thornapple River.   It’s 14 feet wide, and 125 feet long.

I’m not sure why I’m drawn to covered bridges, but I’m not alone.  There is a “National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges“, which publishes a World Guide to Covered Bridges, a quarterly magazine, and a newsletter.  And, for me, it’s not because of the movie (“Bridges of Madison County“), which I haven’t seen…but I do confess – I did read the book…a devastatinglty romantic story..  BUT, I read the book AFTER I’d been to Madison County in Iowa…sigh….Playing on the Bridge

Technically, it seems, the Ada Bridge is a replica – the original being destroyed by fire in 1979 – but this one is so great! it looks old and weathered… I guess 1979 is on the “older side”, but compared to 1867, it’s brand new!

According to this website  there are 7 in Michigan, and ANOTHER one really near by that I didn’t know about… will have to check it out next time…

Ada BridgeAda Bridge

We got to go “Root Root Root for the Home Team” at a hockey game – Grand Rapids Griffins vs. Toronto Marlies…

The Griffins are the farm-team for the Detroit Red Wings.  Being from Calgary, I can’t really offer an opinion about the Red Wings, but since Abbotsford Heat wasn’t playing (apparently, they are the farm-team for the Flames), I could feel perfectly fine about rooting for the Griffins!  (Marlies are the farm team for Toronto Maple Leafs.)

The game was FUN!!! So much energy – the crowd was good, the players were good…

The only moment of tenseness came when Peter stood up, cheering loudly for Toronto’s scoGriffins win!re.  He was the only one in the stadium.  So funny!
I laughed until I could barely see the game!

AND THE HOME TEAM WON!!! WOO HOO!! (Sorry Peter.)

Fight?Score?

Grand Rapids, which, according to the 2010 Census has a population of 188,040, and a lot to do there. The http://www.experiencegr.com/ website talks about beaches, and parks, and art.  Golf, historic sites, nightlife, and family fun.

As discussed, January 20th blog, we did see frozen beach on Lake Michigan, and we have experienced all kinds of family fun!!
____

It’s tricky to blog about a trip that was mostly about visiting friends, and less about sight-seeing… I mean – if my blog was ABOUT visiting friends, that’d be easier… but since it’s primarily about places we’ve been, I’m finding it…well – difficult.

We were in Michigan for about a week and did so many things! But mostly visit-y stuff.

On our last night in Michigan, Shannan invited over our closest Michigan friends.  (Yes, this was our first real visit to Michigan, but surprisingly, we’d accumulated a good social group, mostly while we all happened to be visiting Alaska!)

So, two of the girls at our Going Away Party, were Rachel and Kate. (To avoid confusion between me and the other Rachel, we Alaska crewhad to find her a nickname…which we did… but only after I vetoed ME being called “Big Rachel” and “Old Rachel”.)

These two are probably in my Top 5 FUNNIEST people I’ve ever known in my entire life. (I would say they were THE funniest (along with Shannan, of course), but I don’t want to be in trouble with the others who would make the list.)

Kate (who, by the way, is an avid traveller and has many, many adventures – In fact, judging from her Facebook status updates, she can have adventures driving from her house to work each day) made me laugh SO HARD at the party, that I couldn’t even talk to say “I can’t breathe – someone get my inhaler.”  It was completely worth it.

And, what did she do that made me laugh that hard? She was doing an impression of ME,  of something that Iditarodhappened in Alaska.  A million times, I’ve told this story (of her doing the impression), and I can’t do an impression of me, as funny as she can.

It goes something like this (this is the background/setting):  We were out on a lake, in the freeeeeeezing cold, waiting for the dog sled teams & mushers to go racing by (during the Iditarod – topic coming up very quickly in my future blogs).  The Iditarod 2 years before, I was SO COLD the only thing that warmed me up was Peach Schnapps.  So, this year, we came prepared (although it turned out to be much warmer anyway.)

Back to the story – Kate (being me) says: “Peter….” (Peter was standing about…20 feet from me, from what I can remember.) No answer. “Peter.” No answer.  “PETER!!” No answer. FINALLY “PEEEEEEEEEEEETERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!” Peter says, “What?”  and Kate, with my best, whiny, hair twirling voice: “I’m thirrrrrrrsteeeey!!”

… SEE?? It is not NEAR AS FUNNY when I tell it!!!!

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DSC07581Speaking of “thirsty”,  we had drinks at The B.O.B. Brewery, before the Hockey Game. “B.O.B.” is an acronym for Big Old Building, which is surprisingly more original than I thought!  (It IS big – 70,000 square feet (21336 square meters) – and it IS old – built in 1903!)

It was originally built as the Judson’s grocery warehouse ~ now, there’s an array of lounges, a brewery and a restaurant.

We also went to San Chez Tapas Bistro. I can’t remember – it sort of seems like that was the same day, too.   That was my first time with Tapas, and I’m happy to have been initiated into the Tapa World there!
San ChezTapas
And, at some point, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the same day, we had SUPER YUMMY and very picturesque sushi at Seoul Garden.
Yummy sushiYummy Sushi
After a lovely time, which always seems to be too short, we eventually had to leave.   Sometimes, you have to go home, just to have a chance to sleep!
Minneapolis, I thinkCalgary Airport

Besides, our puppies were at home, waiting patiently for us. (Not so much – they always have puppy sitters, and I imagine that, though I miss them terribly, they miss us for..maybe a day… It takes us 3 days to break the good habits that they’ve developed while we’re away!! 😀 )Daisy & Coco

Sunday, I think we’ll be talking about something Calgary.

It is the Ice Sculpting Festival at Lake Louise, still, this week/weekend. I’m not sure if we are going or not, but I might have that to talk about!!

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Michigan

Once upon a time (2004), we went on a roadtrip from Calgary to Nova Scotia, one way, through the States.  Our plan was to drive a “disposable car” there, and fly home.  Which, we did.. except that the disposable car only made it to Omaha, Nebraska, and we had to rent a car for the rest of the trip. (I did mention this before, if it sounds familiar, in my October 17, 2012 blog about the Jolly Green Giant.)The Sea

But that’s a story for another time.  The reason I brought it up now, is because, that trip, we drove passed three of the Great Lakes.  I took a picture out of the window as we passed Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario.

I had NO idea how immense they were, until the trip we took to visit Richard and Shannan (mentioned often in previous blogs), in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Pineapple and MeI met Shannan and her family, when I was 15 years old, and they moved to our little tiny town, in Montana. (Also briefly mentioned in my September 19, 2012 blog).  Shannan’s family moved to Montana, from Michigan.

In fact, in her lifetime, Shannan has lived in almost every state in the United States. (And, she’s still quite young! 😀 ) But, between States, she often moves back to Michigan. It’s her hub.

Which brings us to this trip. After she & Richard moved back to Michigan from Alaska (an upcoming blog segment), we decidedThe Cottage to go visit.   And, they took us for a weekend at the Family Cottage on the Lake.

And, by “Lake”, I mean the second Greatest Lake, Lake Michigan. (Don’t roll your eyes, like that’s obvious – the state of Michigan also borders Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and a tiny section of Lake Erie.)  Having never really spent any time staring at the Great Lakes, and since this one is especially great, I actually had to remind myself and convince myself that this was “just” a Lake, and not an Ocean.  I was in complete and total awe!

Located along the US and Canadian border, the Great Lakes provide 21% of the world’s surface fresh water supply! and are connected by The St. Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean.

I think we were even looking from East to West across the water, which is the narrower view – and I still couldn’t see the other shore! It’s so huge, you can see the curvature of the earth. There are waves I’m sure you can surf on. Over and over, I had to remind myself that the water is “fresh water”, not salt.  I kept imagining that there must be a tide. But there isn’t.  (If you think I’m crazy, it can only be because you haven’t been there – go there, and you will see what I mean!!)

Settlers of CatanWe spent the weekend at the Family Cottage playing Settlers of Catan…at which…I’m terrible… For one thing: I feel bad about wrecking someone else’s goal…and I build my “walls” or whatever, based on patterns and designs. Needless to say, I lost.

One of the days, we spent the entire day making Boeuf Bourguignon, from Julia Childs’ cookbook on French Cooking.  It was delicious! and worth the hours dedicated. In fact, I make it regularly now, and even though I’ve found a faster “cheater” way, I won’t do it – the original way is, in fact, the best way.  (“Boeuf” means “Beef”, and “Bourguignon” means Julia Childs, French Cooking“Burgundy.”  I guess that’s for the bottle of wine that goes into the meal… And that’s not including the wine you drink!)

Did I mention that we were there in December?  It was COLD! Not Alaska cold, but cold.  It was the first time I’d ever seen frozen sand.  Again, with the ridiculousness, I collected frozen sand, and for some reason was expected to bring home dry, yes – frozen – sand.. I got home with a bag of really wet sand in a puddle.  (I know, its not that frozen sand is rare… just normally when we travel in winter to a place with sand – it’s Hawaii.)

Speaking of shorelines, though – It turns out that Michigan has the longest freshwater coast line in the world! and its borders, as I mentioned, touch 4 of the Great Lakes! (Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie.)  And! it has almost 65,000 lakes and ponds…(what qualifies as a pond, I wonder? that is ALOT of water!)

Lake shoreAlso, the state is cut in half by Lake Michigan, and it’s two halves (the Upper and Lower peninsulas) are attached by way of the Mackinac Bridge.

The word “Michigan” comes from an Ojibwa word “Mishigamaa” and then adapted by the French.  “Mishigamaa” means “large lake.”  That makes sense!!! (More sense to me than “Saskatchewan” meaning “fast flowing river”, running through an almost completely flat province…as per my September 26, 2012 blog.)Winery

During our stay at The Cottage on the Lake, we spent a day going wine tasting and to a little town called Saugatuck.

Wine tasting was, of course, delicious, and we all came out with some new favorites!  Since we can’t get the options here, I only can dream about my favorite, which was the Vignoles Reserve.  http://www.fennvalley.com/

vatsWinery art
The little town of Saugatuck is one of those little towns you just walk around and around and up and down. It’s right on the water – a marina and beach, I guess. I think it’d be amazing, high energy, and super busy there in the summer, but since we were there in December, we really had almost the entire town to ourselves!! (According to the 2010 Census, less than 1000 people live there, and (including water) covers 1.47 square miles!)
Saugatuck StreetSaugatuck Street

Not knowing, at the time, that I would be starting a travel blog sometime in the future, I didn’t really take careful notes of what we Shannan's glassdid and what we saw… Here’s what I remember:

  • ~ there is a DELICIOUS candy store – chocolates, candied apples, chocolate…
  • ~ I remember a wine accessory store, where Shannan bought the most beautiful wine glass, which I (in a funnier-than-it-sounds story) promptly broke…Butler menu
  • ~ a quirky little clothing store for children – it could’ve been a toy store, but I definitely remember some little tiny hand crafted clothing
  • ~ and we ate at the Butler Restaurant, which, it turns out, is famous for its Butler Burger! I had a super YUMMY burger there – I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the Butler Burger, though! But, where’s my picture!!? I can’t find it..I hope I didn’t delete it…

Saugatuck PierSaugatuck Pier
On Wednesday, we will be back in Grand Rapids, for more Adventures with Richard and Shannan.

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