More Roadtrip; Kalamazoo Valley Museum, Water Street Coffee Joint

18 Sep

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We awoke at Henderson Castle to a bright, crisp Labor Day morning. The Inn was sold out, so once we sat the large dining room table was full. The breakfast selection ranged from toasted bagels, yogurt and fruit to a tasty almond coffee cake. Due to the recent change in ownership they are not yet able to serve hot foods. The conversation around the table was lively and fun, we were the only visitors from Michigan, others reigned from Chicago and Cleveland, and a foreign exchange student all the way from Germany. After breakfast we had time to spare before the Kalamazoo Valley Museum opened, so we thought we take a walk around downtown. Bronson Park is the center point of Central City; this lovely tree lined green space is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings. The County Building and City Hall are lovely examples of Art Deco, large churches from a bygone era stand tall and graceful along with stunning brick Victorian-style homes. A sizable Aztec looking  fountain sprays water toward the sky, a short walk down the center of the park is a reflecting pool where bronze statues of children sit upon pedestals enjoying the view. Lush colorful gardens line the perimeter; a short distance from the Mall benches offer tired shoppers and visitors an opportunity for a little respite. Festivals, concerts and cultural events all take place here throughout the year.

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After our walk we drove to the museum, on street parking was easy, admission is free. This 60,000 sq. ft. state-of-the art building celebrates history, science and technology offering “Adventure you can touch”. Exhibits are interactive and hands-on; fun for all ages but children are especially delighted they can touch almost everything. The diner was quite popular, a tiny girl stood apron-clad behind the counter preparing lunch for her mother out of felt bread, meats, veggies, hot dogs and buns, I wanted to play too. I found the Kalamazoo history area extremely interesting; did you know the Gibson Guitar Corp. opened here in 1902, and produced their infamous instruments in this area until they moved to Nashville TN in the 1980’s, Heritage Guitars are still produced locally. Upjohn Pharmaceutical was founded here in 1886 and Checker cabs were made here too, who knew? They do a wonderful job arranging things so they are eye-catching, they are informative without being boring. Afterwards we walked around, taking in more of the city until hunger drove us back to the car to find a lunch spot.

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Situated on the corner of Water St and Kalamazoo Ave, next to the train tracks, is a charming little place called Water Street Coffee Joint. The tiny building constructed in 1934, was originally a gas station, the decor in the bathroom fondly recalls it’s former purpose. Across the street from the Coffee Joint is the Bell’s Brewery, if you get a chance try their Java Stout; it is made with Water Street Coffee Joint Coffee.  We have been coming to the Coffee Joint for years; they have great coffee and espresso drinks, along with a killer chocolate espresso shake, fabulous hand made desserts, and a nice selection of savories, soups and salads. This place is always busy with a steady stream of folks coming and going, service is friendly and efficient. We were so hungry it was hard to decide which of the delicious-looking items in the display case we wanted, with a little help from our server we made our choices. The outdoor temperature was just warm enough we could sit outside and be comfortable, we found an open space and dug into our lunch. The Thai Chicken Salad was excellent, the chicken was moist, shredded into bite-sized pieces with crisp veggies, it was perfectly dressed. The Italian Torta was everything a good torta should be; tender flaky crust, layers of delicious fillings like ricotta, spinach and tomatoes, warmed and served up in a generous wedge. The sandwich special of the day was a BLAT, you know, Bacon, Lettuce, Avocado & Tomato; It too was tasty, we ordered the half, which was a good decision. It was time to start heading back; we each ordered an espresso and added one of their out of this world “Incredibars”( the name says it all……) for the road.

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Kris always has in interesting way to get from one place to the other; it will always involve good scenery, a winding road and cute little towns. Our maps are decorated with a series of dots marking favorite routes, stars noting something of particular interest or notes telling us “don’t go this way”, the DeLorme series of Atlas & Gazetteers are a staple on any trip we take, their detail is incomparable to other maps. We headed northwest out of Kalamazoo on 43, the route twists and turns as it goes by several beautiful lakes and continues past picturesque farmland into Hastings. Hastings is a good sized town and was named One Of The 100 Best Small Towns in America. Next we take state road 436 east; meandering by handsome horse farms, pretty country homes and a variety of animals including llamas, goats, bulls and sheep, soon the area will have cartloads of pumpkins for sale. 436 becomes Vermontville Hwy traveling through more tiny towns, jog up and over to Holt road then jog down to Howell/Mason rd into downtown Howell. The sun goes down earlier these days, so we like to enjoy the scenery while we can. From there we got on the freeway and aimed for home, it was a great weekend and a great ride!

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