Tag Archive | Michigan

MI Road Trip: Wine in a Hospital

After visiting the Mission Point Lighthouse, we got back on the road and headed back toward town, deciding to stop along the way at Brys Estate Winery.  It was recommended by the server at Douglas Valley Winery, so I was curious to try it.  I was surprised by how large Brys Estate is – it started as a retirement project and the winery now produces several thousand cases annually. The tasting is unique – instead of bellying up to the tasting bar, they have visitors going through four different tasting stations.  It seemed like we were at a special event, but apparently that’s just how they do their tasting now.

Brys Estate Winery

Brys Estate Winery

At each station we chose between two wines; Jon and I selected different wines at each station so we could get to sample all of them.  The wines were all good, ranging from Rieslings to Cabernet Franc to Pinot Noir, but nothing stood out in my memory as amazing.  Their servers were all friendly and knowledgeable, but it was awkward at the end. After we finished at the last station, we ended up back in the main tasting room. If you want to buy wine, you have to find it yourself on their ‘wall o’ wine’, and it just seemed kind of impersonal.

The Brys Estate Outdoor Chairs - they would be heavenly on a cold day.

The Brys Estate Outdoor Chairs – they would be heavenly on a cold day.

We dropped by a brewery on the Old Mission Peninsula next, hoping to get some lunch and a beer, but the place was crawling and the wait was going to be 90 minutes! Umm… no thanks! So we headed back into town to see what we could find at our next stop, Grand Traverse Commons.

The Grand Traverse Commons is a large retail/housing development that redeveloped the old Traverse City State Hospital.  The hospital was founded in 1881, and opened to patients in 1885.  It was an asylum for patients with mental illnesses, although at times its mission was expanded to provide care for patients with tuberculosis, polio, influenza and diphtheria.

The Front of the Main Building at Grand Traverse Commons

The Front of the Main Building at Grand Traverse Commons

Many of the patients hospitalized there were able to function on varying levels – at the time it was commonplace to institutionalize people with mental illnesses that would not typically result in hospitalization today; illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, post-partum depression or anxiety disorders.

Long before drug therapy was commonplace, the hospital set about to try to provide cutting edge therapy that helped people with mental illness be productive within the hospital. Restraint devices like straightjackets were prohibited. The first superintendent, Dr. James Decker Munson, developed a “beauty is therapy” program. He believed that beauty could be therapeutic, so the hospital had greenhouses to produce flowers year round. Additionally, he developed a farm that allowed the hospital to be self-sustaining, and also allowed many of the patients to have jobs that contributed to feelings of self-worth. The farm raised milk cows, beef cows, pigs, chickens and horses, and farmed vegetables.

The Spires of the Main Building at Grand Traverse Commons

The Spires of the Main Building at Grand Traverse Commons

The hospital population slowly declined due to the changes that came about in the mental health system that eliminated institutionalization as an option for all but the most severely affected individuals, and the Traverse City State Hospital closed its doors in 1989. Redevelopment came slowly, but Building 50 – the main administration building of the hospital, has now been redeveloped into a multi-use building, with shops, restaurants and condos.

We found an Italian restaurant called Trattoria Stella and got some lunch. I had the mushroom soup (fantastic!) and a risotto with fried egg, chives, sweet pea, rosemary, Parmesan and cream.  I had high hopes for the risotto but it was WAY too salty… I also had the Black Star Farms sparkling wine, and loved it. Jon had the minestrone soup (he loved it) and a beet salad with mozzarella, onions and kalamata olives that was delicious as well. He paired his with a Dark Horse Brewery Crooked Tree IPA. After lunch, we wandered around the grounds for a little while; Jon was a sport to let me take photos of the redeveloped buildings and the still abandoned ones, even though he was freezing.

Jon's Beet Salad at Trattoria Stella

Jon’s Beet Salad at Trattoria Stella

Features on an unrestored building at Grand Traverse Commons

Features on an unrestored building at Grand Traverse Commons

While we were at the Grand Traverse Commons, we decided to check out the Black Star Tasting room as well.  You could opt for a wine tasting or a distilled spirits tasting. I picked the wine, Jon picked the spirits. I found several that I enjoyed and ended up buying two wines to take home, including their Blushed sparkling wine. Jon purchased a bottle of craft Peninsula Gin from Grand Traverse Distillery.

Wine Bottles at Black Star Farms Tasting Room

Wine Bottles at Black Star Farms Tasting Room

And with that, we made our way back to the car to find our way to my aunt and uncle’s house. We had a couple of hours of driving ahead of us, according to Google Maps, so I was a bit surprised to find that our GPS was telling me it would take almost 4 hours to get to my aunt’s house! There didn’t seem to be any traffic! I had been driving along in this state of confusion for almost a half an hour when I suddenly realized that the day before I had set the route preferences to avoid highways, so we could see the more scenic route. But now we wanted to go the more direct way. OOPS!

Once we changed the settings, our arrival time moved up significantly! We got to my aunt and uncle’s house just after the rest of the family finished up dinner, so we were able to get some food and spend some time catching up with the family. The next day there was a family reunion, but our brief tour of Michigan had drawn to a close…

MI Road Trip: Traverse City Eats and Lights

In my last post, we wrapped up with a gorgeous sunset from a viewpoint on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  It was about a 45 minute drive to Traverse City, so we ended up having a very late dinner at The Filling Station Brewery.  I had scoured the tourism magazines while Jon drove to find a brewery that also offered food.  By the time we got there, I was ready to chew my arm off!

The Filling Station is aptly named, because it resides in an old train station. It is decorated with a 1960s décor, with lots of bright orange plastic. To drink, Jon had the Walla Walla IPA, and I had the Long Lake Red Ale. For dinner, we split the Cannonball Flatbread and The Conductor salad. The Cannonball had marinara sauce, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, feta, red onions, fresh rosemary and mozzarella. The Conductor was made with artisan greens, cherry tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, prosciutto, red onion, blue cheese and a house made buttermilk ranch dressing. The food was delicious and really hit the spot after our challenging hike earlier.

The Conductor Salad at The Filling Station Brewery

The Conductor Salad at The Filling Station Brewery

We spent the night at the Travelodge in Traverse City.  They were overbooked for the night, so we ended up getting upgraded to what might have been the biggest room in any Travelodge ever!  It clearly had been the manager’s apartment at one point, and had a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a living room, a small alcove room with bunkbeds, and a bedroom, with a luxurious, memory foam mattress.  It was almost a shame to only be spending 12 hours there.

In the morning, we made our way out onto the Old Mission Peninsula. The peninsula is 19 miles long and 3 miles wide, dotted with fruit orchards, wineries and vineyards, and with a historic lighthouse smack-dab at the very end. My kind of place! The Mission Point Lighthouse was built in 1870 looking out at the West Grand Traverse Bay, as a result of a shipwreck in 1860 right in front of where the lighthouse now stands (the construction delay was due to the Civil War).

The View From the Old Mission Peninsula

The View From the Old Mission Peninsula

The lighthouse is 36 feet tall, but sits on a sand bank, which makes the light’s focal height 47 feet; it was lit with a Fifth Order Fresnel lens. The lighthouse was tended between 1870 and 1933 with a series of lighthouse keepers, and it is unusual because Mission Point had a woman lighthouse keeper! Sarah Lane tended the light with her husband Captain John Lane for 24 years, and she continued alone for almost four months after her husband died in December 1906.

The Mission Point Lighthouse

The Mission Point Lighthouse

In 1933, the lighthouse was decommissioned, with an automated light mounted nearby. Between 1933 and 1948, the lighthouse stood empty. The residents of Traverse City took up a collection and raised enough money for the city to purchase the lighthouse and the adjacent land. Over the years, caretakers lived there and restored it. And recently, the Coast Guard loaned the lighthouse a Fifth Order Fresnel lens to display (the original had been removed when the lighthouse closed in 1933). The Mission Point Lighthouse is on both the National and the State Historic Registers.

A Fifth Order Fresnel Lens on Display

A Fifth Order Fresnel Lens on Display

The lighthouse was open, with a small exhibit and gift shop on the first floor. For a modest donation, you can tour the upstairs (of course we did!).  Be sure to sign in to their guest book with your hometown; they receive grant money in larger amounts when visitors come from further away.  The second floor contains the bedroom of the keeper’s living quarters, with information about the keepers that served the lighthouse over the years. The top floor is accessed by a narrow, ladder staircase; once at the top you have a 360 degree view. The water is in front of the lighthouse and on one side and the other two sides have a forest view.

I enjoyed being at the top looking out, imagining what it would have been like when this was an isolated place. Although it was a cold day, it was very clear and peaceful.

The View from the Lighthouse

The View from the Lighthouse

After visiting the lighthouse, we also stopped by the Hessler log cabin, which was originally built between 1854 and 1856, by Joseph and Mary Hessler. Constructed from hemlock and white pine, it was a family home for several years, before being used throughout the years as a storage building, living quarters for cherry pickers, and a barn for a bull. It was moved to this location from elsewhere on the peninsula. You can peek inside and see how small the cabin is – it would have been interesting to live there as a family. It makes you appreciate the luxuries we enjoy today!

The Hessler Cabin at the Mission Point Lighthouse

The Hessler Cabin at the Mission Point Lighthouse

Of course, we couldn’t stay too long, because we had other places we wanted to visit!

Have you been to the Mission Point Lighthouse and climbed to the top?

MI Road Trip: The Dune Climb!

Have you ever hiked over 4 miles of sand dune?  We did, and I tell you, it was a really great workout!  After visiting historic Glen Haven and the Life Saving Station at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, we were itching to get more physical with nature.

The Dune Climb starts off with just that – a climb up a very large sand dune. It is huge – the people near the top look like little ants. We heard you could hike all the way to the lake – a round trip of 3.8 miles (we took a little detour, so we went more than 4), but we weren’t really sure what to expect. So we started climbing, in the soft, fine sand – perfect sand for a beach! It was tough to climb in – I started feeling it almost right away!

The beginning of The Dune Climb

The beginning of The Dune Climb

We stopped a couple of times on the way up the hill to look back at the view – a gorgeous view of the forest and a nearby lake – picture perfect. I could have stood there for hours just looking at that view (you will see this is a theme for this hike)…

The view of Glen Lake from the top of the first dune

The view of Glen Lake from the top of the first dune

When we got to the top of the hill, the dune flattened out and did a couple of gradual ups and downs. So we kept going.  Peaks and valleys of sand, one after another; we were only able to see the hill immediately coming up in our path. We started finding wooden markers with numbers; we hadn’t noticed them before. The crowd thinned out, and we found ourselves hiking through the loose sand with almost no one else around.

We had been hiking about 45 minutes and had just passed a marker with the number 11 on it when we came upon a group coming back from the other direction. A young lady explained that we just had to get to marker 27 and we’d be at the lake. My heart sank – we were less than halfway – which seemed to mean at least another hour to get there. I thought about turning back, but Jon really wanted to go all the way… What we didn’t know then is that I’m positive that the markers are NOT equidistant (do I get bonus points for using the word equidistant in this blog?).

Up one hill, down another… This is a very strenuous hike, due to the fact that you are always on a hill, and you are hiking in soft sand. But we made it to the lake, with the most fabulous pebble beach, and only 5 other souls… We sat on the beach for a little while, and I took some photos, and posed in some too.  I took the opportunity to pour the sand out of my shoes too!

I loved just listening to the waves lapping the shore, and seeing the gorgeous reflection of the sunshine on the water.  But before too long, we had to turn back, because the sun was already sinking lower in the sky, and we didn’t want to get caught after dark.

Me – Posing with splendid Lake Michigan

Me – Posing with splendid Lake Michigan

The sun over the water on Lake Michigan

The sun over the water on Lake Michigan

We hiked back – and of course it seemed like it went on forever, because now we knew we had to make it to marker 1.  Jon of course powers along, and I bring up the rear. It was peaceful – just me and my heavy breathing…

Me on the way back to the beginning…

Me on the way back to the beginning…

After we made it back from The Dune Climb – and poured the sand out of our shoes – again… we decided to do the scenic drive.  I’ll post about that next!

Have you hiked The Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes? 

 

MI Road Trip: Glen Haven and Saving a Life

Once Jon and I got to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, we started out by driving down to the lake to the tiny abandoned town of Glen Haven.  We drove past the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, which I put on our list of things to do later in the day, and the Dune Climb, which Jon put on our list of things to do later in the day.

Glen Haven was founded in 1857 with the name Sleeping Bearville, then became a company town in 1865 when a sawmill was established there.  The town’s main source of industry was to provide cut wood for the steamships plying the lake, as well as food.

The Sleeping Bear Inn – Built around 1865

The Sleeping Bear Inn – Built around 1865

Later, a cannery was opened there; the location right on the lake meant it was perfect for hauling the catch right up to the dock, offloading, and canning. Over the years, the timber declined and the shipping industry slowed.

They also didn’t anticipate all the sand, and the fact that the sand blew everywhere, and shifted… Over time, the sand shifted and the dunes gradually began taking over the town. After battling the sand for years, many of the residents finally just gave up and moved away.

We also wandered over to the Sleeping Bear Point Life Saving Station.  It was constructed in 1901, to provide further protection for the sailors on the lake.  Being a sailor was a dangerous occupation – during the harsh winter of 1870-1871, 214 sailors lost their lives on the great lakes alone.  Over the years, technological advancements lessened the need for large numbers of lifesaving stations, and Sleeping Bear Point closed its doors during World War II.

The Sleeping Bear Point Life Saving Station – Now a Maritime Museum

The Sleeping Bear Point Life Saving Station – Now a Maritime Museum

The life saving station was closed when we visited (during early to mid-October it is open, but only on the weekends), but we were able to check out the outside of the house where the life savers lived, as well as the boathouse, tucked securely out of harm’s way from the water, with two sets of tracks to slide the boats down to be launched.

There wasn’t a whole lot to see given everything was shut up tight until spring, we were a little surprised to find people wading in the water. It had warmed up quite a bit since the morning, but I wouldn’t say it was swimming weather. But I guess there are hardier souls than I, as evidenced by the large numbers of polar bear swims each year.

But after touring around, what I hadn’t found was the Visitor’s Center. The GPS had told us that we passed it, but I hadn’t seen it, and I thought maybe it would be down at the water. There was one in Glen Haven, but it was closed, and it didn’t seem large enough to be the main one. Plus the radio channel (don’t you love it when parks have their own radio channel!?) said it was open until 5. I convinced Jon to backtrack before the Dune Climb, because it would be after 5 when we finished hiking, so I could get my stamp. He grudgingly agreed.

“The Most Beautiful Place in America”

“The Most Beautiful Place in America”

We found it off the main road about 50 feet on a little side road, and I was able to get a map, my stamp and a book on Michigan lighthouses. And postcards… because no visit to a Visitor’s Center is complete without postcards… And then off we went to the Dune Climb!

MI Road Trip: Sleeping Bear Dunes History

Long, long ago, an enormous forest fire along the western shore of Lake Michigan drove a mother bear and her two cubs into the lake. They attempted to swim to the opposite shore, but that was so far away. Eventually, the mother bear made it to land, but her two cubs had tired and lagged behind.

She waited, watching for them, unwilling to accept that they had drowned. She lay on the top of a bluff, watching the sea, and waited so long she was buried by the shifting sand dunes. The Great Spirit was impressed by her patience, and created two islands in the lake to honor her lost cubs.

The story is an old Chippewa legend that tells the tale of the area. The two islands are North Manitou and South Manitou Islands, visible off the mainland. The sleeping bear, buried under the dunes is still visible in the form of two dunes in the shape of a bear, although they have eroded significantly over the last many years.

In terms of National Park Service parks, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a more recent addition to the portfolio, becoming the first National Lakeshore on October 21, 1970. At that time, the Park Service already had several National Seashores, including Cape Hatteras and Point Reyes, and the general sentiment was that the lakeshore along the great lakes was America’s third coast.

However, the creation of a park proved more controversial. The residents of the Sleeping Bear Dunes area have long considered themselves to be the stewards of the land, and they didn’t want tourists overrunning their pristine and quiet countryside. Not to mention the fact that parks don’t pay property taxes, and the conversion of this land would have a significant financial impact on the local communities.

But the area contains amazing natural beauty, including forests, beaches, sand dunes and evidence of ancient glacial phenomena. Not to mention the historic buildings and cultural richness of life in the area, with a historic lighthouse, three historic Life Saving Service stations (the precursor to the modern Coast Guard) and an extensive historic farm district.

The government was eventually able to win the favor of the local residents by agreeing to compensate local government for the lost property tax revenue, and by absorbing North Manitou Island into the park.

The park is well loved today for its camping and hiking opportunities, and the pristine beauty that surrounds the visitor. One can’t ignore the draw of swimming in the lake either when the weather is warm, somewhere along the park’s 35 miles of shoreline.

In 2011, Good Morning America gave it the title of “The Most Beautiful Place in America.” Visitation is estimated to have been 1,280,932 in 2010 – more in the summer months, but there are hikes that would be lovely with snowshoes as well. I can only assume the “Most Beautiful” title has increased visitation in the years since.

“The Most Beautiful Place in America”

“The Most Beautiful Place in America”

We visited in October, so swimming wasn’t really on the top of my list, although we did see tourists dipping their toes and wading in the water at Glen Haven. I will be posting about our adventures at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore next!

MI Road Trip: Lighthouses and Lakes

What kind of houses does Michigan have more of than any other state?  Lighthouses!  Michigan has more than 150 past and present lighthouses, and we were on our way to see one!

After leaving Muskegon, we headed to Ludington, because there was a lighthouse I wanted to see there. We drove through a cute, touristy town – the lighthouse is dead ahead on the main road. The Ludington North Breakwater Light is not technically a lighthouse, because there was never a house attached to it, but I am going to call it one anyway.

The Ludington North Breakwater Light is maintained by the Sable Point Lighthouse Keeper’s Association (I’m not sure if they require you to be a lighthouse keeper to join, but I hope not, because that might be a pretty small group…). It is open for tours between late May and Labor Day, but once again, we were shut down by the fact that it was the off season.

The Ludington North Breakwater Light

The Ludington North Breakwater Light

The first light was constructed in 1871 with federal funds, but getting the funding for a light keeper’s house proved more difficult. Granted, one can just walk out the pier from the town of Ludington to the light, so that probably had something to do with it, but in bad weather the walk along the pier was very precarious.

Even on a sunny day in October, the winds were high enough that we didn’t want to brave the walk along the pier, because waves were crashing over the concrete pier. Imagine trying to make the walk in the dead of winter, during a storm, with a wooden pier! It wasn’t until 1900 that a light keeper’s house was built.

Eventually the wooden pier and the breakwater began to break down and a decision was made to construct the current concrete pier and a new light. The current pyramidal shaped light was constructed in 1924; the unique shape is to deflect the high winds and waves from the lake. It is made with steel plates, and is 57 feet tall.

It was originally lit with a Fourth Order Fresnel lens (for more info on Fresnel lenses see this post), constructed in the United States rather than France, but the lens was removed several years after the light was automated in 1972.  It is currently on display at the Historic White Pine Village, a tourist village that sounded interesting, but with the timing of our trip and other things we wanted to do, it just wasn’t in the cards for us.

And just so you know, that tilt on the lighthouse isn’t my terrible camera angle.  The lighthouse actually is tilted!  In 1994, the crib that the light sits on settled and it tilted 4 degrees to the northeast.  Repairs were considered, but abandoned due to the cost after it was determined that the lighthouse was still safe (don’t worry, I know you are going to scroll back up and look at the photo again – that’s perfectly fine).

Next we drove down the road that runs near the water towards Silver Lake State Park. Before going into the park, we parked and were able to check out the lake and the sand dunes; Jon got his first look at Michigan sand dunes and loved them! But the weather that day was too cold and windy to enjoy the beach for long.  Silver Lake State Park actually has a lighthouse too, but vacations are all about choices, and we decided not to visit this one – but I do wish we had the time for everything.

An interestingly positioned chunk of driftwood on Lake Michigan

An interestingly positioned chunk of driftwood on Lake Michigan

The sun sinks lower over Lake Michigan

The sun sinks lower over Lake Michigan

We made our way to our last stop in Ludington; dinner at the Jamesport Brewing Co. I ordered the beer sampler, with the following beers:

  • Blueberry Wheat – YUM! I loved this. A nice light wheat beer with just a hint of blueberry, and I loved that they served it with some fresh blueberries floating in it.
  • Apricot Wheat – Very light; I didn’t like it when tried it alone, but liked it with food.
  • Hefeweizen – This was a German style Hefeweizen (well yes, they are all German style, but you know what I mean right? Some brewers stick more to the traditional style). It wasn’t my favorite; despite usually being really fond of Hefeweizens.
  • Nitro Stout – Creamy and smooth, with caramel and coffee. Yum!
  • Smoky Porter – Lot of caramel and very smoky. I liked it, but probably wouldn’t want a whole pint.
Jamesport Brewing Co. Beer Sampler

Jamesport Brewing Co. Beer Sampler

I ordered the Lake Perch, a specialty for this restaurant, and I don’t think I have ever had perch, so I wanted to try something new! It was lightly breaded and fried with homemade seasoned French fries. The side salad was delicious too.  Jon had the IPA (he’s getting very predictable) with the Citrus Salmon; it was served on a bed of rice. He had a side salad too. We were both very happy with our choices.

The downtown area of Ludington was quite cute, with several neat shops that I would have loved to poke around in. But they were closed when we finished with dinner (most were closed before we even started dinner). As it were, we continued on to our home for the night in Manistee.

On a country road as the light was fading, we saw a flock of turkeys crossing the road. Turkeys! I had never seen wild turkeys before, so that was pretty neat, but the fading light (and the fact that Jon wouldn’t stop the car) meant that my pictures of them were blurry. As we were getting into Manistee, we were just seeing the last light of the day and enjoyed a lovely view of the lake.

Blurry Turkeys…

Blurry Turkeys…

 

MI Road Trip: Landing Crafts and Pantyhose!

Have you ever seen an LST?  In particular – USS LST-393?  What the heck is USS LST-393, you ask?  Well, it is in Muskegon, Michigan, and we had the opportunity to see it after our visit to the Hackley and Hume Historic Site.

This is an LST-1 class landing ship, built during World War II to transport troops, vehicles and equipment. There were 1051 built during the War; this is one of only two to survive in its original configuration. USS LST-393 was critical to the following operations: the Sicilian occupation in July 1943, the Salerno landings in September 1943, and the one she is most famous for – the Normandy invasion in June 1944. She landed on Omaha Beach on the night of June 6, 1944 and offloaded several Sherman tanks and other materials, before spending another two days stuck on the beach due to the tides.

The back of USS LST-393.

The back of USS LST-393.

In all, she made over 30 trips back and forth between Normandy Beach and England, supplying equipment and bringing back wounded soldiers and German POWs. After the European theater wound down, she was retrofitted for service in the Pacific Theater, she was on her way to the Panama Canal for a trip to Japan when the Japanese surrendered.

USS LST-393 in Muskegon, Michigan. Sorry about the quality of the photo; there was a fence so I couldn’t get a better angle.  These are the doors where the equipment was unloaded onto the beach.

USS LST-393 in Muskegon, Michigan. Sorry about the quality of the photo; there was a fence so I couldn’t get a better angle. These are the doors where the equipment was unloaded onto the beach.

After her wartime service, she was purchased by the Sand Products Corporation and began life as a merchant ship, transporting new cars from Muskegon to Milwaukee. Since 2000, a couple of volunteer groups have been trying to restore her; she has been cleaned and painted and is open for tours during the summer. As she was closed for the season when we visited, we took some pictures and marveled at her enormous size – 328 feet in length and 50 feet wide, carrying a crew of about 140 men.

While driving around Muskegon, we also saw a gigantic, empty building that piqued our interest; it had a giant sign that said Amazon on top. I was sure it wasn’t the current Amazon retailer, but what was it?

As it turns out, the Amazon Hosiery Company moved from Indiana to Muskegon in 1895. Amazon produced cotton underwear, gloves, hosiery, hooked rugs and army shirts. At its peak, it employed over 1,000 people – mostly women. Unfortunately, materials rationing during World War II spelled the end for the Amazon Hosiery Company.

The Amazon Hosiery Company Building – Now an apartment complex

The Amazon Hosiery Company Building – Now an apartment complex

After the war, several businesses occupied the space, and then it sat vacant for about a decade, until it was converted to apartments beginning in the 1990s. The project was completed in 2001. It is a beautiful building from the outside; it would be neat to see what they did with the apartments!

MI Road Trip: More Beer and a Dead Guy (Maybe…)

While we were visiting Grandma, Jon, my cousin and I also checked out another Kalamazoo brewery; a relatively new one called Arcadia Brewery.  My cousin hadn’t been there either, so she was excited to check it out too.  The place is huge, with lots of space, an industrial feel, long pub style tables that appear to be reclaimed wood, and big garage doors that could roll up in warm weather.

My cousin and I at Arcadia Brewery

My cousin and I at Arcadia Brewery

I had the Rapunzel; a wheat IPA advertised with a crisp, sweet malt and flavors of pineapple, citrus and lemongrass. It wasn’t my favorite – too bitter.  Jon started out with a beer called the Cereal Killer, which he was really pleased with. He bought some in the bottle to bring home.  His second choice wasn’t so successful.  He tried the Jaw Jacker, an autumn spiced amber wheat ale brewed with cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice.  Neither of us liked it at all.  I guess you can’t win ‘em all. We both liked the atmosphere, and will certainly visit again, but I hope their beers are trending a little less bitter next time.

Arcadia Brewery Beers – That was not a red ale, but it was that red…

Arcadia Brewery Beers – That was not a red ale, but it was that red…

After several days hanging out with Grandma, walking the quiet streets of small town Michigan, Jon and I said our goodbyes and set out to explore more of the state.  It was a crisp, sunny day and the trees were just starting to change color.

We stopped in Grand Rapids because Jon wanted to visit a record store.  It was late morning, and the store hadn’t opened yet.  The block was crawling with panhandlers, and there was a homeless guy lying on the sidewalk a short ways away.  I couldn’t tell if he was unconscious or just sleeping.  Another man was pulling on him, trying to rouse him – literally lifting the man off the ground – so at that point I started wondering if he was dead.  There was a police officer coming down the street toward him, so we didn’t need to call 911, but we decided not to hang around and wait for the record store to open.

So instead, we headed over to Founder’s Brewery (in a much nicer neighborhood) for lunch and a brew. I had the Michigander Salad, with dried cherries, blue cheese crumbles, candied walnuts, avocado, mixed greens, and a balsamic vinaigrette.  It had onions on it, and I don’t like them, so I asked if they could leave them off – and they offered to substitute something I love – avocado!  I didn’t even have to ask!  I had my salad with a Honey Wheat beer – delicious and 6.1% ABV.  It was a wonderful lunch; my only gripe was that the balsamic dressing was a bit too acidic – it made my mouth really sensitive – has that ever happened to you?

Founder’s Brewery Beer Selection

Founder’s Brewery Beer Selection

Jon had the Charise’s Rueben, with roasted sliced turkey, dill Havarti cheese, baby spinach, tomatoes, red onions, avocado, tangy coleslaw & 1,000 Island dressing.  He loved it, and we got to turn the tables for once with him ordering the sandwich and me ordering the salad!  He had the Double Trouble IPA, described by Founder’s as, “An imperial IPA that was brewed to turn your world upside down.  Hops will get you coming and going. Pungent aromatics up front pair with a malt-balanced backbone and a smooth, bitter finish. – 9.4% ABV.”  Jon declared it a winner.

It would have been nice to wile away the afternoon at Founder’s but we had more touristing to do!

MI Road Trip: Marshall, Michigan

After we left Dark Horse Brewery, we spent a little while wandering along the main street of Marshall, with its quaint historic downtown, poking into antique stores and shops along the way.  On our way into town, we had driven by some of the large, historic homes that line the older streets.  It is evident that Marshall had some big money at the turn of the last century.  Marshall has over 850 historic buildings that are included in its National Historic Landmark District; it is one of the nation’s largest districts.  So here’s a bit of history…

In a twist of irony, the residents of Marshall were so convinced that it would win its bid for Michigan state capitol that they built a Governor’s Mansion! In the end, it lost by one vote to the current capitol of Lansing. Marshall was known for its patent medicines industry, and was also a hotbed for civil protest and participation in the Underground Railroad.

Do you think there might have been a dentist’s office here at some point?

Do you think there might have been a dentist’s office here at some point?

Escaped slave Adam Crosswhite settled in Marshall in 1843 with his wife and children; he was discovered to be living there in 1847 by his former master. When a posse of slave catchers arrived at the Crosswhite home to take the family back to Kentucky, residents of Marshall surrounded the house and prevented the posse from taking the Crosswhites.

After a tense standoff, deputies arrested the slave catchers; by the time they posted bail, the Crosswhites had fled to Canada. The former master sued the residents of Marshall, and eventually won a judgment that included payment for the value of the family and court costs. In a sad twist of events, the events in Marshall were a major catalyst for the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which made it extremely risky to help fugitive slaves.

Storefronts in Marshall, Michigan

Storefronts in Marshall, Michigan

The first railroad labor union was formed in Marshall; it eventually became known as the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers – it was founded in 1863. All that in the history of one small town!

The Stuart Building – The Stuarts have operated businesses in this building for over 160 years!

The Stuart Building – The Stuarts have operated businesses in this building for over 160 years!

Marshall is also active in community events, with an organized historic home tour of several homes (love those!), Bluesfest, classic car show, Christmas Parade, and an Annual Crawfish Boil (at the Dark Horse Brewery!). It would be nice to spend a bit more time there someday. However, our time there on this trip drew to a close.  It was freezing cold that day, even in early October, so we didn’t linger on the streets too long.  Not to mention, Jon and I had a date to get to at my Grandmother’s house!

Have you been to Marshall, Michigan?

Lawton Ridge Winery

The last day of our Michigan vacation Jon and I headed with my cousin Megan to get out of the house while Grandma was napping.  It was the last day of our vacation, and we had a few hours to kill. We considered going to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, but decided instead to go to another winery.  I had googled a couple of options in Kalamazoo, and wrote down an address based purely on the look of their website.  So, we really had no idea what to expect when we walked in the door.

The building is a 1970s style office building that I imagine was converted rather than built for this winery.  When I was young there were several of this style of building at home, but they have mostly been remodeled or replaced.  It is covered in dark cedar shingles and doesn’t really have that winery “look”.  We walked in and the owner and a server were there (the server explained that she was a bit new at this, and that she was filling in for harvest).  Megan and I bellied up to the bar, and Jon decided to sit this tasting out – he fully intended to sample some of mine though!

Lawton Ridge Winery’s grapes come from the Lake Michigan Shore AVA.  It is an AVA in the southwest area of Michigan, with warm days and cool nights, but close enough to the breezes coming in from the lake that it doesn’t get quite the same hard freezes as the rest of Michigan.  It is home to many of the states wineries.  I haven’t had much of an opportunity to travel this AVA and sample the wines of the region, but I will be getting out there at some point!

The tasting fee at Lawton Ridge is $5 (refundable with purchase) and you can choose six wines from their list to taste.  The tasting list here is still fairly extensive (about 15 wines), but nowhere near as robust as the menu at Sandhill Crane.  Jon asked to sample the Chardonnay – so I chose that one as my first wine.  It was a nice un-oaked Chardonnay with just the tiniest hint of butter – it is aged in stainless steel, so I’m not sure where the butter came from.

Next I tried the Riesling, which I was expecting to be sweet, and it was, but I was just not that impressed with this one.  It was sweet competing with something else (maybe a woody taste?) and it just didn’t do it for me.  Next I moved on to the Traminette, which is a varietal that we don’t have at home, so I was interested in trying it here.  Traminette is a hybrid of Gewürztraminer and Joannes Seyve (I hadn’t heard of this one before) that was created in 1965, and this one did have some Gewürz characteristics (don’t I sound smart, saying Gewürz?).  It had a slight floral note, and a flavor of ripe melon.  All in all a nice wine.

The first red wine that we tried was the Lawton 3, which was a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  It was very fruit forward with light tannins.  This wine was good, but it did not have a lot of structure.  Jon likes his reds to be more robust than this one, but I liked it.   After that I sampled the AZO Red, a blend that is named after the airport code for the Kalamazoo airport.  An airport that I have done a fair bit of sitting around in actually!  AZO Red is a nice summer red wine, with lots of raspberry flavor and a light mouthfeel.

I followed with their 2010 Rose, which was crisp and sweet with a strawberry flavor.  I am a big fan of a nice Rose, and this one was pleasing.  The Kzoo Daily Red that I tried next wasn’t a big crowd pleaser, it was just a bit too sweet for my taste, and didn’t have a lot of structure.  It is a drink now wine.

I finished off the tasting with their Late Harvest Vignoles, which is a blend of well, duh, Late Harvest Vignoles, and Vidal.  This wine was a best in class winner, according to the tasting sheet, and it had a nice tropical fruit flavor and balanced sweetness.

All in all, Lawton Ridge had some nice wines.  And they were very affordable, with most priced between $9.95 and $12.95.  We certainly don’t find wines at those price points frequently at Washington wineries!  And if you are feeling parched after your tasting, you can enjoy a glass of one of their wines for $3-4.  What a stroke of luck that we stopped in here!