Day #144 – Walking and drinking our way around Traverse City!

LOCATION:  Traverse City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Traverse City State Park
WEATHER:  Rain in the AM, clearing to be a very nice day.  High 78

We discovered a sweet back-door gate to the campground that leads to the beach and to the bus stop.  The city offers free bus rides which we could not resist – nice not to have to fight the traffic, find a parking space, pay for parking, etc.  So, off we went!  We were the only riders so of course George struck up a conversation with our driver.

He told him that we were looking for lunch and beer, so the driver took us to his favorite brewpub.  What service!  Unfortunately, the brewpub was closed on Sundays…..:-(

So, we whipped out the phone and found another brewpub (Traverse City is full of them.)  We wanted to get in some good walking exercise, so we headed on foot to Traverse City’s Old Town District.  The brewery was great – really friendly people.  We had a portobello sandwich from their food truck.

Stop #2 was a distillery we had spotted previously, so we got out the GPS and started walking there.  Many of the streets in the residential area are closed due to construction.  There is a river going through town, and several bridges are being rebuilt.  This meant a bit of confusion for us and a lot of walking detours.  But, we made it!

Not done yet…..one more brewery — Right Brain.

  We have been here before during a previous visit to Traverse City.  It is really funky – a warehouse-type atmosphere. 

How lucky we are….A jazz band was playing on their patio.  They are from a music school in Connecticut, with ties to Right Brain.  They were excellent!

By this time (2 breweries, 1 distillery, and 10,000 steps), we were pooped.  We walked and walked some more, and found a bus stop.  It dropped us off right in front of our campground. 

What a good day!  It was topped by finding that our noisy neighbors have left and have been replaced with some quiet, older folks. 

DINNER:  Mediterranean Chicken Bowl

I am trying to go through the many recipes I have clipped from magazines, and this is another one.  Pretty easy and tasty……Combine chicken breast or thigh pieces, diced onions, olive oil, sumac, salt, pepper, oregano, cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  I just put everything in a baggie to mix.  Then, George put the mix in our iron skillet and cooked it over the campfire. 

Since we are here for a week without water hook-ups, I am trying to be careful about water usage.  Mixing in a baggie means one less bowl to wash.  The recipe calls for serving on top of quinoa.  I substituted farro, which I have on hand. 

Side was more fresh food from yesterday’s farmers’ market – a salad with cucumber, tomato, and basil. 

Day #143 – Running errands all over Traverse City

LOCATION:  Traverse City, Michigan
CAMPGROUND:  Traverse City State Park
WEATHER:  Cooler and overcast.  High 70

Today’s schedule was full of errands:

1.  Hair cut for me.  This is always a scary event while traveling.  The lady today did ok, but didn’t cut it short enough. 

2.  Farmers’ Market.  We are always happy to find local farmers’ markets when we travel.  Usually, we see a sign on a Friday saying that a town’s market was on Thursday, or something like that.  This one had lots of fruits and vegetables available.  We stocked up – corn, beans, garlic, potatoes, kale, cucumbers, gourmet mushrooms,  heirloom tomatoes, basil, and peppers.  George even found a piece of rhubarb bread for breakfast.

3.  Errand #3 was to get gas.  When I’m driving, I like to fill up often when not pulling the trailer.  Lining up Joy  next to the pump can get a little dicey.

4.  Laundry.  We had a lot to do, so it was a major production.

Then, we were rewarded with lunch at this brewpub. 

5.  Grocery shopping.  Again, we haven’t shopped in about 2 weeks, so we really stocked up. 

Errands complete, we returned to the campground to relax (after putting everything away). 

DINNER:  I modified another new recipe to cook over the campfire —   Steak in Mushroom Gravy with Kale. 

I used up a lot of the bounty from today’s farmers’ market…

I cooked the kale up (although the recipe called for spinach)  in an iron skillet, then removed.  Then, I sauteed some whole garlic cloves, minced garlic, and minced rosemary in the same skillet, adding  chanterelle mushrooms and steak slices (previously grilled and frozen ribeye).  I added sour cream, dijon mustard, and white wine to make a gravy.  Finally, I added the cooked kale back to the mix, gave it a stir to warm back up, and served.   I served it over some baby red potatoes cooked in the campfire coals wrapped in aluminum foil. 
Another side was corn on the cob.  While I was at the beauty shop, the hairdressers and I compared notes on the best method for cooking.  One lady said she soaks the entire cob, still with its silks and in the husk, for an hour in water, and then grills them directly over the fire.  We tried that method, and it turned out great.
Yet another side was a basil and heirloom tomato salad – the flavors of summer! 

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
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  1.5 hours

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
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  1.5 hour

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
DISTANCE DRIVEN:  2 hours

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
CAMPGROUND:  Mill Creek
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).