This isn’t fun, but I’m stubborn

Warning: i realized after writing, that this post is whiny. But, not every adventure turns out to be all rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes, things just go wrong and it just isn’t fun.

I have been so eager to get the camping/kayaking/hiking/outdoor summer fun season started A couple weeks ago, I booked two nights at a campground I’d found online, near Cheboygan, right on Lake Huron. Seriously! I’m going to fall asleep tonight, in my truckbed camper, to the sound of crashing waves.

And rain. And wind LOL

I’d like to say “I’m having so much fun camping!” but honestly, the weather is crap. Low 40’s which doesn’t sound that bad, but it’s windy as hell, raining like crazy. It took me an hour to put my truck tent up, in the cold blowing rain. I broke one of the tent poles, and had to rig it up to keep it in place. I put the rain fly on sideways LOL and had to redo that. I was soaked and shivering by the time I was done. Then i realized I had left the tailgate open the whole time i was setting up, so the first foot of the inside the truckbed – and everything i had sat there – was also soaked. My 6-pack plug (so i could run a heater and keep my phone charged), soaked. My Bluetooth speaker, soaked. My cute little ceramic heater, soaked. The foot of my bed, soaked. I obviously couldn’t plug in anything that had gotten wet. So I laid it all out on a towel, then wrapped my shivering self in blankets while i waited for it to dry. An hour later, shivering uncontrollably, I had an epiphany. I could take all my wet stuff inside the cab if the truck run the truck for a while WITH HEAT! I’d be able to warm myself up, and dry some of my soaked stuff. Why did it take me an hour to remember I had an alternate source of heat?!?

So i grabbed my six pack plug, and my heater, and my phone (for something to do while i warmed up) and headed to the cab if the truck. It took a.minute to warm up but then…..heat! Oh glorious heat! I started to get feeling back in my fingers and toes LOL I stuck the plug and the heater up onto the heat vent, then sat back to relax and get warm. An hour or so later (how much gas does that waste?) everything was dry and i was toasty. So i turned off the truck and headed back to the tent. Cautiously plugged in the six-pack. Phew, no sparks, no blown fuse. Then i carefully plugged in the heater. Same thing, no sparks, no blown fuse. Then i hit the on switch and…..nothing. nada. Zip, zilch. The poor little thing was dead. Damn. Now what?

Back into the cab if the truck. I have 4 warm blankets in my bed, in the back of the truck. If i could get myself really warm, then get under those blankets before losing too much of that heat, my body would warm up the bed, and then the bed, in turn, would keep me warm for at least a little while. So that’s what I did. I sat in there with the heat full blast, until i was overheated and couldn’t take it anymore. Turning off and locking the truck, i scrambled to the back again, and got myself under the covers as quickly as I could.

And so, here I am. Actually a bit TOO warm, but i don’t want to do anything to lose that precious heat, and risk being cold again later. I know, even with 4 blankets, all that heat will slowly dissipate, naturally. I’m not about to help it along. Shivering when you’re trying to sleep is not great. I’m listening to the rain on the capper. The wind has settled and so have the waves a bit. Tomorrow, it’s not supposed to be rainy. But the wind is going to be back. So I’m trying to decide if i want to try to stick it out another not-so-fun day, just because it’s camping and I’m stubborn and i don’t want to give up or quit. Or should I just say F* it, cut my losses, pack up in the morning, and go home? Because, i love camping, but this? This is not fun.

🎶🥁 should I stay or should I go? 🥁🎶

Penny Flip Road Trip

April 23, 2021

As promised, I’m back with a run-down on my family’s penny-flip drive last year. Since the last post was so, so, so long, I’ll keep this one short and sweet. Deal? Deal!

We all had the day off, and got bored sitting around at home while everything was shut down. We wanted to go do something, anything! We just had to get out of the house, but we wanted to be “good” and do something that was “social distancing” approved. So, we all piled into the car, to go for a short drive. I had a coin in hand. Every time we came to a stop sign, I flipped the coin: heads we turned right, tails we turned left. We figured we’d go on a crazy drive around all the backroads in and around Petoskey. But the coin had a different plan.

We ended up on the Lake Huron side of the state, near Rogers City. We stopped to check out Ocqueoc Falls, Old Presque Isle Lighthouse, New Presque Isle Lighthouse, and a limestone quarry. And, of course, the kids had to practice their rock skipping skills. There was still snow on the ground in many places, there was mud in most other places. We hardly encountered any other people and we kept our distance from those few we came across. I think, now, a year later, if we visited the same places, we’d run into a lot more people. I have noticed one positive thing that the pandemic has done: it has gotten more people outside and exploring!

Have you ever done anything like this? If so, share with all of us how your Penny Flip Road Trip went! If you haven’t done anything like this before, what are you waiting for? Get the family, fill up your gas tank, and flip a coin! Happy exploring!

P.S. In my year-long absence, WordPress redesigned it’s blog-creating tools, and apparently removed all formatting that I already had in place. I’m working on learning the new editing tools so my future posts can look like the blog used to, with links to the different subjects I write about, links to my photo page where you can purchase prints, etc.

Year In Review: 2020

I’m back! And I’m jumping right in with a really, really, really, really long post.

Wow! It has been over a year since I was last on here, talking about all the fun adventures I have experienced, or exciting plans I had. My last post was full of excitement over new snowshoes, and hiking challenges, and optimism for the year. Then life intervened. The last year was it’s own kind of adventure, for all of us, wasn’t it? In the words of the Fresh Prince, our world “got twist-turned upside down” and nothing has been the same since. Concerts and festivals were cancelled in an effort to curb the rampant spread of the new, scary virus that no one knew anything about. We were encouraged, then required, to wear a mask to protect each other.

That is not to say that I didn’t have any kind of adventures last year. Some of them just looked…..a little different. As I go back through my facebook, reviewing 2020, I’m reminded of how much our lives have changed, and just how much I actually did, despite the effects the pandemic had on our world. Let me give you a quick rundown of my year, as remembered via my Facebook posts:

  • January and February: the beginning of the year was normal, life as we knew it. A snowshoeing event, wine tasting, getting dressed up to go to a performance with a friend, dining out with the family, etc. We met up with a friend to visit the Eben Ice Caves in the U.P.
  • March: the month started off with a visit to Tahquamenon Falls with friends and family. March 4 was my first mention of the coronavirus, with memes making fun of song lyrics that were now inappropriate, given the fact we had entered into a pandemic. March 10 is where the “fun” begins (please read that with a LOT of sarcasm!). The virus was confirmed in my own state, we entered the Great Toilet Paper Shortage, schools shut down, everyone but “essential workers” were ordered to stay home, bars and restaurants were shut down, gyms were shut down. However, people were encouraged to still get outside, get fresh air and exercise. So our family went on drives and walks frequently. One time we went on a “penny flip” drive. Essentially, you get in the car, with a penny in your hand. Every time you come to a stop sign, you flip the penny. Heads you turn left, tails you turn right. We ended up on the other side of the state, checking out lighthouses and skipping rocks in Lake Huron. I’ll write another post specifically about this trip. It actually turned out pretty cool, and we ended up exploring a part of our state we hadn’t before. OH! One of my favorite things to come out of March, and the pandemic, is John Krasinksi’s “Some Good News” – a lovely little project he started to bring positivity to a world that so desperately needed it. Every show brought tears to my eyes and restored a little bit of my faith in humanity. If you missed it last year, go look it up. I promise it is SO worth it. Go, right now. I’ll wait………….
  • April: pictures start surfacing of nurses from the front line, whose skin on their faces and behind their ears were covered in what I can only describe as friction burns from the long hours they were spending in masks. More “Some Good News” with John Krasinksi. Seriously – go watch the show! I am an “essential worker”. My job did not shut down during all of this. Our hours changed, what we were allowed to sell changed, and what we could order in a timely manner started to change. People’s attitudes changed, got nasty. I personally was called a f***** liar over the mandates our governor set on what could and could not be sold (only essential products and services were allowed for a while). I still see some optimism in my posts at this point. There was no way to know that we’d still be dealing with this a year later. Facebook added the “hug” reaction so you could show your friends how much you care, without trying to put into words. I remember facebook stating it was a temporary addition, unless it proved to be popular. A year later, we still have it, and I use it ALL THE TIME. More family walks, so many walks! I started an album called The Flip Side of Quarantine. My Krasinksi-esque attempt at bringing beauty to a world that seemed so ugly.
  • May: proms and graduations were cancelled (John Krasinski did both on “Some Good News”). Masks became a requirement for us at work. May 16 I said “I miss seeing all your smiles.”
  • June: the curve is flattening! According to clickondetroit.com Michigan, at this point, was one of only TWO STATES actually gaining traction against the virus. Some things are reopened! Hurray! Gyms are not one of them (boo).
  • July: 4th of July festivities were cancelled all over the country. There were at least three incidences of physical violence towards store employees over the mask requirement – two resulting in death. DEATH, people! Two people were KILLED because someone else didn’t want to put a flimsy piece of material over their mouth for the ten minutes they would have been shopping – suddenly making it a little scary to be an “essential worker”. On a positive note, my kayak and hammock got more use than in any other year. And I cautiously went north to visit family that I hadn’t seen since Thanksgiving the previous year, camping in my truck at the beach, and jumping into Lake Superior for my morning ablutions. That trip may get its own post later on, too.
  • August: At work, it was getting difficult to be an essential worker, and still keep up “service with a smile”. Things were becoming increasingly difficult to order. People were getting increasingly angry, unfeeling…..whatever the opposite of “understanding and empathetic” would be. It became the norm to be yelled at, over something totally out of our control, on a daily basis (and unfortunately that trends continues today). I made another trip up north to visit friends and family. A whole glorious week, worthy of its own separate post. Work was so stressful, that I cried on my last day of vacation, at the thought of having to go back.
  • September: School resumed face-to-face teaching (at least in our district). My daughter began her last year in high school. It was suddenly senior picture time. The media finally picks up on the appliance shortage that I, and my coworkers, had been dealing with at work, and wrote an article explaining why it was happening. It gave us some good explanations to give to customers – it didn’t help their attitudes much. Did some local wine tasting – this time with masks. Went to a movie because (hooray) we could. I started to experience a level of depression that I had never been to.
  • October: with work being as stressful as it was, throughout the summer and fall I started visiting the local batting cages to take out some of my frustrations. My daughter had her last marching band performance. A friend came up from downstate and we did some (more) local wine tasting. I went for some tattoo therapy. My shoulder now says “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Halloween, my absolutely favorite holiday of the year, sucked. No Halloween parties to speak of. Michigan was experiencing another virus surge.
  • November: Virus cases continued to rise in Michigan. My family and I tested positive for Covid. Cue two weeks at home: no work, no in-person human contact. Thank goodness for grocery delivery. My son had zero symptoms at all. My daughter and husband had mild cough and chest congestion, and felt mostly better by the time our two weeks was over. I had the worst symptoms. I went back to work as soon as the required isolation time was up, but I was still easily tired, exhausted midway thru the day, I experienced regular dizzy spells, and I was still coughing a month later. To this day, I still feel like I get winded a lot easier than I used to. Just as we were about to be released from quarantine, the governor shut things down again in an attempt to control this surge. My depression hit its peak. My husband and I quietly began a trial separation. Thanksgiving was not the big, rowdy gathering of my parents, my siblings, and all our children (all the cousins, all in one room!). With the surge in cases, we decided as a family, to not get together.
  • December: bars and restaurants stayed closed. I made a solo, whirlwind, overnight trip to the U.P. for what I called some “bestie therapy”. I finally let my best friend in on what was going on in my life. This, I think, was the turning point in my depression. I discovered that keeping your emotions to yourself, not letting people in, not letting people help, trying to deal all by yourself – it’s not good. So , a quick PSA from someone who has been there…..if you’re having difficulties, find someone you trust and talk to them. It’s easier said than done, I know, but do it anyway. Christmas was a quiet event, spent with the family. My daughter and I went up north for the New Year. I’ll make a post about this trip too. It was mostly relaxing, but we got out snowshoeing a couple times. Goodbye 2020. Hello 2021. Be better, ok? Please?
  • January, February, March and April of 2021 have been fairly quiet. People seem to be coming to terms with the state of the world, so the amount of meanness I’ve been experiencing at work has been decreasing (I think…..or am I just getting numb to it?). I asked my husband for a divorce. I took my very first ever solo trip – I am SO excited to write a blog post about that trip! I got my covid vaccine.

I’m looking forward to the year ahead of me. The world is still dealing with the pandemic. Who knows when that will come to an end. I am currently in the planning stages of my first camping outing of the year. I just scheduled a week vacation in August. When my daughter graduates, she will be joining the Navy. So, as an empty nester, I am trying to figure out what my future holds. At this point, the possibilities are endless. I will share with you, in detail, some of the things I mentioned above. And I look forward to sharing with you whatever adventures I find in 2021.

January Hiking Update

Hello everyone!  I’m running behind a bit, so please bear with me as I catch up.  This post is going to be a quick run-down of my January hikes. Remember my gear update at in mid-January, where I told you all about my new snowshoes?  Well, I put them to work a couple times this month.  I did three hikes total, two on snowshoes and one with ice spikes.  Eek, I can’t wait to tell you about that one!  But I’m gonna start at the beginning.

IMG_20200120_143700_MPHike 1 of 2020 – So I am starting over again with the 52 Hike Challenge and the North Country Trail’s Hike 100 Challenge.  This hike covered 2.5 miles along the NCT, from Round Lake, to Spring Lake and back, in Petoskey. In the summer, this section of trail is a paved path for walking, running, and biking.  In the winter, it’s used for snowshoeing and snowmobiles.  Have no fear though, it’s mostly a long straight stretch, so you’d see a snowmobile coming long before it reached you……if you didn’t hear it first. It was a chilly, partly cloudy day but I worked up a sweat, and had to remove a layer or two along the way.  The sun did peek out for a moment around my halfwayIMG_20200120_143715 point.  This was the first time on the new snowshoes.  Everything was great for the first mile and half.  But my baby toes started complaining about being rubbed on by the binding.  I decided I probably had my feet too far back in the binding, causing the rub. I adjusted on the next hike.

IMG_20200120_144319Hike 2 of 2020 – I continued along the same trail as hike 1.  This was a little bit shorter, going from Round Lake to West Conway Road.  I stopped there, thinking the trail went up West Conway Road, and I didn’t feel like doing any road walking.  Turns out I was mistaken.  The trail goes up North Conway Road. So there’s .2 of a mile that I missed before the trail starts following the road.  I’m going to leave the road section of the trail for the summer.  In the winter, the snowbanks don’t leave much room for walking along the road, and the snowbanks IMG_20200120_144808_MPthemselves don’t make for great walking surfaces.  My snowshoes didn’t rub on my toes so much this time, as I positioned my feet farther forward in the bindings.

Hike 3 of 2020 – This was my favorite hike of January.  Also, the most strenuous, but totally worth the effort.  We met up with friends from our hometown, and hiked in to the Rock River Canyon Ice Caves, near Eben, MI.  Better known as the Eben Ice Caves. Thanks to some other bloggers, we had an easy time finding the trail head.  “Just set your GPS for Eben Junction, and then follow the IMG_20200126_133417signs.”  It really was that easy!  We got lucky in that there weren’t a whole lot of people there that day.  We were able to park fairly close.  I’ve seen some more recent photos where people had to park a mile or so away. Three miles round trip, this walk is hilly and icy.  I highly advise against doing it if you don’t have some kind of traction device on your feet like ice spikes, yak traks, or ice cleats.  I also brought my hiking poles and found IMG_20200126_134659them to be super handy in several places.  Be prepared for a short, but steep climb once you’re there.  It’s steep enough that, on our way back out, I decided it would be easier to just slide down.  The ice caves are formed by giant icicles, which are created by the trickling water of a small river.   You can walk inside the caves, but be careful doing so.  Even with my ice cleats on, I was sliding a bit and ended up on my rear end IMG_20200126_135845once.  Oh!  We also took advice from a sign at the parking lot and had lunch at the Village Pub.  The food was pretty darn good!

In summary, I completed 3 of my 50 hikes for the year.  My mileage for the month was 7.75 miles, 4.75 of which was on the North Country Trail.  Tell me, in the comments, if you’ve been to the Eben Ice Caves, or any other ice caves!  See you next week!

A Whirlwind Visit to the Windy City

My husband and kids are really into Pokémon.  Me, not so much.  So, when the Pokémon Go festival came to Chicago last year, and they got tickets, I wasn’t sure if I was going to go with them.  What was I going to do at a Pokémon festival?  The festival was being held in Grant Park, which is a block or two down from Millennium Park where the famous giant bean is. Really, it’s all just one giant park.  I found a huge list of things to do, within easy walking distance from Grant Park: a huge library, a quirky toy store, museums, rooftop bars where you can see the city for just the price of a drink. I decided to tag along after all.

IMG_20190615_113819357We went a day early to have some extra exploration time.  Our plan was to spend most of the day at the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free to visit.  However, it ended up being a cold, rainy day, so we had to find indoor activities instead.  We visited the Engine 18 firehouse, which is used as the set for “Firehouse 51” on NBC’s Chicago Fire.  Hubby is a HUGE fan of the show.  His reaction to visiting “Firehouse 51” could totally be defined as “fan-girling”.   He was completely star-struck, despite the fact that they were not filming at the time, so we didn’t get to see or meet any of the people on the show.  Engine 18 is very welcoming to visitors.  You can walk around most of the firehouse, sayIMG_20190615_114852290~2 hello to the crew, and even purchase souvenir stickers and t-shirts.  They even have a couple of the props from the show.  Spoiler alert: the prybar is actually rubber so no one gets hurt.  We had planned to have lunch at Lottie’s Pub, which is set for Molly’s Bar on the show, but apparently everyone else had the same idea, because there was no parking available within at least two city blocks in any direction. So, we settled for a drive-by and had lunch elsewhere.  We spent the next several rainy hours exploring the Chicago History Museum.  We learned about the Great Chicago fire; there was an interactive exhibit on all the musicians who came from, or frequented, Chicago; they had a huge exhibit on Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement (I think we spent more time on this one than any of the other exhibits); one exhibit followed the timeline of fashion on the silver screen and showed how it influenced everyday American fashion.  It was fun. There was a lot of interactive bits to keep kids interested.  Although my daughter, at 15, was a bit old for all that, she did it all anyway. IMG_20190615_192621160~2We finished our day off with a fancy dinner at The Gage.  We couldn’t not eat there, at least once.  I mean, Gage is our last name after all.  We joked with the maître d’, as he seated us, about getting a family discount.  BTW, that was a big fat no, haha.

The next day was the festival.  We all took an Uber from the hotel to Grant Park, but once they were checked in as festival guests, I bid them adieu and headed to The Art Institute of Chicago.  I spent ALL DAY there.  Can I give you a tip?  Make sure you have a map, because this place is HUGE.  Like, huge. To help you keep track of where you are, all the rooms are numbered and those numbers can be found on the map.  Another tip, if you’re with a group, and someone needs to take the elevator, you should ALL take the elevator.  Why, you ask? Because the elevators and the steps don’t necessarily go to the same place, even when it looks like they would.  I didn’t have to worry about that, because I was on my own, but I did get lost trying to find food when lunch time came around.  One more tip: there are benches throughout to rest – use them.  Even if you don’t think you’re tired yet, take a quick sit down.  Did I mention this place is huge?  If you’re not tired yet, you willIMG_20190616_120932973~2 be.  SO take advantage of the benches.  I didn’t right away and began to regret it about halfway thru the day when my feet, legs and back started to ache (wow, I sound like on lady LOL).

I spent way too much time in the miniatures exhibition.  I was just so amazed by the amount of detail that went into each and every tiny room.  Period appropriate furniture, rugs, portraits, dishes, chandeliers……you name it, those little bitty rooms had it.  And there were so many of them, spanning centuries of décor from many different countries. There were exhibits of Muslim art, ancient art, modern art (I rushed through that area – I don’t care for modern art. I think it’s weird, and makes absolutely so sense), Van Gogh’s self-portrait was there, as well as “A Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte” which was way bigger than I ever imagined. I spent a lot of time looking through the older paintings like “Venus and Mars with Cupid and the Three Graces in a Landscape” painted by Domenico Tintoretto sometime between 1590 and 1595….. or “The Allegory of Peace and War” painted by Peter Paul Reubens in 1776, which was one of my favorites…..or “Odalisque” painted by Jules Joseph Lefebvre in 1874, which was another of my favorites. I love these old, moody paintings.  The colors of them are amazingly still so clear and vibrant, especially when you consider how long they’ve been around.  I love how all of today’s body “imperfections” are painted beautifully in these old paintings: full curvy figures, less-than-flat bellies, rolls and lumpy bits.  They are all perfect in their imperfection. As the owner of a Rubenesque body, this art is a balm for my soul.

**Caution: the slideshow below shows the paintings I mentioned above, some of which contain nudity**

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My last tip for this museum?  Plan to be there the whole day.  Like, the WHOLE day.  There were a few areas I didn’t make it to, and I was there from open to close.  The museum just happened to close at the same time that the festival wrapped up for the day. IMG_20190616_193433662~2So, I met up with the fam, and we got an Uber back to the hotel.  After a long day of walking, for all of us, we just decided to order pizza and chill in the hotel room for the rest of the night. I don’t know if Chicagoans would say this is “THE place” to get pizza, but deep dish, Chicago style pizza from Giordano’s is amazing (I mean, just look at all those layers of sauce and cheese! yum!) and they deliver! We spent the remainder of our evening watching the city from our room on the 17th floor!

Oh!  It was foggy almost the whole time we were in Chicago, so we didn’t realize it until the fog cleared up just before we left, but our room had a view of Lake Michigan!  Would have been a gorgeous view on a clear, sunny, summer day!

What’s your favorite thing to do in Chicago? Do you have any cool, off-the-beaten-track places you would recommend?  Those are my favorite kind of places, the kind that most tourist don’t know about, but they’re totally worth a visit.  I’m sure I’ll be back to Chicago again someday (I’ve already been there three or four times) so drop your suggestions in the comments, and maybe they’ll end up on my next Chicago itinerary!

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Touring in Traverse City

Let’s talk about a different kind of adventure this week. An adventure I had last winter with my mom, her best friend, my sister and my best friend. It wasn’t like the typical adventures I write about – all outdoorsy and campy with hiking and stuff –  but it was an adventure nonetheless!  We had ourselves a wine-tasting girls’ weekend in Traverse City.

I am a thrifty traveler.  My husband would say I’m cheap.  I like to do fun things but I don’t like spending a ton of money., so I look for great deals  I found us a lovely little suite, right on Lake Michigan, at the Sugar Beach Resort.  We didn’t get a lake view room, but that’s ok since it was January, and all we would have seen was snow, ice, and more snow.  The suite was cute, and clean, and super roomy.  It slept all of us, with room to spare, and it was very reasonably priced at about $120 per night.  Since we split the cost between the five of us, it only cost each of us about fifty bucks to stay for two nights!

I then signed us up for a wine tour on Old Mission Peninsula in the afternoon and a Wine, Beer, and Spirits tour of Traverse City in the evening.  The tour company was great.  They picked us up right at the hotel. You can set up private tours with them if you want, but we picked a “join-in” tour which meant we had about 15 to 20 other people on the bus with us.

FB_IMG_1582053987911Our wine tour consisted of four wineries along the Old Mission Point: Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, Chateau Chantel, and Chateau Grand Traverse.  We had almost an hour at each stop to relax, taste the wine and explore the venue.  There was some other big wine event happening the same day, so we just kinda blended FB_IMG_1582054149708in with all those people.  Brys Estate had several tasting spots set up so that you tasted several of their wines while following a walking tour of the winery.  The whole place was beautiful, but because of all the people, and the assembly line setup, I did kind of feel rushed through this one.   Bowers Harbor had nice big indoor and outdoor tasting areas, as well as a big gift shop.  We were able to do more looking around at our own pace.  The view from their FB_IMG_1582054156699patio is amazing, and I hope to go back there someday to see what it looks like when it’s not covered in snow.  Chateau Chantel was a nice place, kind of set up like a restaurant.  You walked in, waited to be “seated” at the bar. I think the guy working that day was a bitFB_IMG_1582054253247 overwhelmed, as he was not the most polite.  But it was here that I found my favorite of the day: Naughty Cherry Cider.  Oh my!  It tastes like cherry soda.  Yummm!  The last stop was Chateau Grand Traverse.  I had had their wine before, and since.  After all, it’s sold all over Michigan.  You can even find it in my tiny home town of Grand Marais, at Bayshore Market.  Their Late Harvest Riesling is my favorite.

The bus dropped us back off at our hotel.  We had bought quite a bit on the tour, and we had just enough time to drop it all in our room, before the next bus picked us up for our second tour.  Our Wine, Beer, and Spirits tour consisted of four stops around Traverse City: Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City Whiskey Company, 7 Monks Taproom, and Mammoth Distilling.  This was a much smaller bus, and there were only two other people touring with us, but the driver was out to make sure we had a good time!  Right Brain Brewery had a warehouse feel to it.  A live music act had just wrapped up their set when we arrived, so it was pretty busy.  The walls were decorated with local art. We all shared a flight of six beers.  I’m not a big fan of beer, but I keep trying them, thinking I’ll eventually find one I like.  This was the night. FB_IMG_1582055017750 I really enjoyed their Nitro Girl Stout. The thing that turns me off of beer is the flavor of hops, but this stout hardly had any hop flavor. It was creamy and chocolaty instead.  Traverse City Whisky Company was a cool little place.  However, I skipped the tastings here, as I am most definitely not a whiskey fan.  At this point, we had spent all day sipping alcohol and only nibbling on little snacks here and there. We begged our driver to modify his plan for the night to include somewhere we could get a real meal, which is how we ended up at the 7 Monks Taproom.  Our tour companions, who turned out to be loads of fun, ate dinner with us. The food was really really good (or maybe we were just really really hungry? We did all eat like we hadn’t seen food in weeks LOL).  Our last stop was Mammoth Distilling.  They make their own gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon, rye, and rum.

The whole experience was a complete blast.  So much so, that we are currently in the beginning planning stages of our second girls’ weekend. This time, we’re looking at Petoskey.  The wine and beer culture has exploded in Petoskey, and the surrounding areas, in recent years.  Currently the Petoskey Wine Region consists of thirteen wineries, and I can think of three breweries off the top of my head.  Since I live here, I have visited most of them already, and I definitely have my favorites, but I can’t wait to tour some of them with the rest of the girls!

 

Barefoot Sisters Walking Home

9780811740128_p0_v3_s550x4062247078805375554665.jpgThis book, by Lucy and Susan Letcher, tells about the two sister’s journey as they walk northbound along the Appalachian Trail, after already completing the trek, southbound.

Let me start off by saying that this is the second book by the barefoots sisters. I did not read the first one. Turns out that’s important. This is definitely not and stand-alone read. The authors refer back to things they saw and did, places they visited, and people they met – without any further explanation. I pushed through anyway, but I spent a lot of time very confused.


The writing style of this book, on occasion, feels like it was written by someone who really didn’t want to write it, or they had a very short time to write it. We walked here. We saw this. Then we walked there. We were happy to meet up with these people. They were just how we remembered.  We were uneasy because so and so was there so we moved on. As one reviewer on goodreads put it, there’s “very little story to the story.”.  Honestly, it’s exactly the writing style I strive to avoid, when I write.

As I read, I was left with many questions. Who is this person and why are you happy to see them? What exactly about them was just how you remembered them?  And why are you not happy to see that other guy? I’m assuming all that information can be found in the first book “Southbound.”

I stopped reading about a third of the way in. There was just too much I didn’t know, because I hadn’t read the first book. So I’m going to do just that. Hopefully the writing style is a bit easier to read, and I’ll find the answers to all the questions that “Walking Home” left me with. Although, if the online reviews are any indication, I should go in with low expectations.

 

Gear Update

You guys!  I am so excited!  Eeeek!  Ok, hold on, let me back up a minute.

Yesterday, on my day off, I had intended to get some more miles in, on the North Country Trail.  There’s still a lot of local trail for me to cover before I have to venture farther out, around Michigan.  I drove out to the section I had in mind and was so disappointed to see that Old Man Winter had different plans.  The trail was under about a foot of snow.  Bummer.  So, by the time my hubby got home from work, I was deeply entrenched in online snowshoe research. They are expensive!  Plus, I may have mentioned before, I’m not a small girl.  I need some serious floatage to stay on top of the snow, which means bigger, longer snowshoes, which usually means higher prices.  I mean, some I was looking at were in the $300-$400 range.  I can’t afford that, unless I take a couple months to stash cash away in a jar.

886745780113_1Hubby asked if I had ever checked the local sporting goods stores (we have at least three of them in Petoskey), so I can at least try some on to make sure I like them.  I hadn’t of course.  I’m that person who just hops online to see what I can find.  So we drove into town to catch Bear Cub Outfitters before they closed.  I found a pair I liked and hubby surprised me by buying them, right then and there!  They’re 30” Tubbs so they’re big enough to carry my and my large, er, stature.  The binding is super easy to get in and out of. Aluminum frame, so they’re fairly light. They have a heel lift which, if I understand correctly, is for going up hills with less fatigue on your ankles and calves.  And…..they’re purple – that was a bonus! This is the first pair of snowshoes I’ve ever owned.

In case you don’t know, Michigan winters are cold and snowy.  I’m definitely a warm weather sun worshiper, so I typically spend a lot of time indoors in the winter. But man, winters here are also long.  Looooong. 6-8 months long, depending on the year.  That’s a lot of indoor time.  Ever heard of cabin fever?  It’s not gonna get me this year!  I can’t wait to hit the trail and test these snowshoes out.  Sunshine and (cold) fresh air, here I come!

Cabin fever (noun): extreme irritability and restlessness from living in isolation or a confined indoor area for a prolonged time.

~ http://www.mirriam-webster.com

Do you get a lot of snow where you live?  What are your favorite winter activities?  Let me know in the comments.

Happy New Year!

Before I start, can I just say this: when you’re a blog owner, don’t take a hiatus. Really, don’t do it. Ha-ha! I took what I expected to be a little hiatus to give me more time to work on my costume and prepare for Halloween. It turned into a 3 month break! It’s hard to get your mind back on track when you let yourself lose focus. And that’s true for all aspects of life. So, take time to have fun and relax, but not so much that you lose focus of your goals.


So, I signed up for the North Country Trail (NCT) “Hike 100” challenge last year. I also signed up for the 52 hike challenge. I figured I’d do 52 hikes, at least 2 miles each, to reach the 100 miles…easy peasy. I missed the goal….by a lot. Like, a LOT. I completed 22 hikes in 2019. Since they were all short day hikes, and they weren’t all NCT hikes, I only made it to 21 NCT miles (35 miles overall). I’m happy to say that they were, however, all unique NCT miles. According to my hiking log, there were no repeated NCT miles. Why does that make me happy? Because (remember?) I set a goal….a big goal….a lifetime goal…of completing all the NCT miles in Michigan. I’ve crossed off all 7 miles of the trail that go from the north side of Petoskey to the South side of Petoskey. There’s about 3 more miles (I think) of paved trail, north of town, I need to cover before I start on actual wooded trails. Hiking south of town is temporarily on hold, as there’s a section that currently follows roads, that’s being rerouted, and I read that work on that will be started this summer.


I didn’t do any overnight hikes in 2019. I totally chickened out. I think I have most of the gear I’ll need to do, at least, a shorter trip, like 2-3 days. I don’t have any rain gear yet, so I’ll if be out of luck if weather didn’t cooperate.


Time to look forward to the new year. I have set myself the same goals I set last year: 52 hikes total, 100 NCT miles. What goals did you set last year? Did you fall short , like me, or blow them out of the water? What are your goals for 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Hiatus, Halloween and Hard Reads

Hello all!  It’s been a while, I know.  I took a little Hiatus, this time it was on purpose.  I took all of October off.  Why, you ask?  Because I love Halloween.  I love it.  I love creating a costume, although sometimes it tests my patience.  I love dressing up.  I love being, for a short time, something I’m normally not.  Some of you are probably thinking “Psh, you’re too old for that.” To you, I say this: you don’t stop having fun when you get old, you get old when you stop having fun. And grown-up Halloween parties are fun.

My costume this year was Alice from “Alice in Wonderland”.  My friend was dressing up as  the Queen of Hearts.  We decided to try to put a bit of a steampunk spin on them.  We both sew and craft so we were making our own costumes. I decided to not use a pattern this time around.  Which is the reason for the October hiatus.  Ive made enough costumes in the past that I had a good idea of how to get this one done.  But I needed time.  All the extra time I could get my hands on.  It didn’t come out quite as I wanted, it still needs a little tweaking.  The skirt was good, the petticoat I made was actually TOO poofy.  I didn’t realize a petticoat could be too poofy, did you?  And somehow, the corset ended up a bit too big and loose, even when laced up.

My friend’s costume was on point.  And I dressed my hubby up as the Mad Hatter.  Yes, I dressed him up.  If I didn’t come up with his costume, he wouldn’t dress up at all.  It’s just not his thing, but at least he goes along with the crazy plans I come up with.  We ended up winning “Best Group Costume” at the party!

So, now I’m back.  This week was scheduled to be a review of the next adventure-related book I’ve read.  Sadly, I haven’t read another one since The Last Season. To be honest, these kinds of books aren’t my normal genre.  Normally, I read fantasy books with magic and dragons and mermaids and romance and other make-believe stuff…….So sometimes I struggle with the more realistic stories.  The Last Season grabbed me and pulled me in because I wanted to know what happened to the missing ranger. But they aren’t all gripping tales, and with my short attention span, I end up staring off into space, following a random thought that leads me every which way but where the book was going.  Next thing you know, I’m looking up concert tickets online, or looking at puppy pictures on a rescue’s website.

For next month’s book review, I just sent a request into my library for The Barefoot Sisters “Walking Home”  by Lucy Letcher.  It was suggested by a member of a facebook hiking group I’m a member of.   It’s a story of two sisters who hike the Appalachian Trail, twice, barefoot.  It’s rated 4.12 out of 5 stars on good reads.  I’m hoping it will be a good one.

I’m also looking for suggestions from you.  Help me out here!  Tell me about a book you’ve read that you really enjoyed.  Something related to hiking or traveling or exploring or camping or kayaking or……..anything adventurous like that.  Tell me what you loved about it and why you think others (including me) should read it.  Next week, I’ll share with you a fun adventure I had this summer in the U.P.  See you then!