Tag Archives: Roadtrip

Petoskey: Downtown

27 Jun

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Today we find ourselves in Petoskey MI, a picturesque coastal town on the southeast shore of Little Traverse Bay. This quaint little community is home to charming galleries, boutiques, fine dining, cafes, coffee shops and great architecture. Ernest Hemingway spent every summer from 1900-1920 on Walloon Lake and used this part of northern Michigan as the setting for several stories. And of course, as all Michiganders know, this is where our state stone, the Petoskey Stone resides.

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We park on Division St near the Crooked Tree Arts Center, a gorgeous, newly restored, 130+ year old church used for art exhibitions, concerts and live theater. Walking, we make a right on Mitchell, businesses line both sides of the street; this is the Gaslight District, think of Mitchell as Main Street. We stop in the Northern Michigan Artists Market, the name says it all, works by local artists include glass, spectacular sunsets captured in oil, jewelry, hand-dyed scarves, handmade cards, photography and wood-carved items from boxes to bottle stoppers; I like the variety of mediums. Next door is Petoskey Cheese, in addition to a nice selection of domestic and imported cheeses they sell jams, pickles, crackers, mustard and olives. They also serve pizza and salads, they’ll even pack you a picnic basket to go–sounds perfect for a sunset on the beach.

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Continuing our walk we pass Pennsylvania Park, the sky is getting dark, it looks like rain, on Howard Street we pop into North Perk Coffee. The coffee menu is lengthy; hot, cold, latte, nitro, you name it. They roast their own beans (Petoskey Roasting Company) so the staff is knowledgeable about what they serve. We sip on cold brew until the rain lets up. We duck into NorthGoods, this is a store you can really spend some time in, two floors of beautiful things everywhere you look. A combination gift shop and fine art gallery they carry the work of about 100 artists and craftspeople including Gwen Frostic, Pewabic and Motawi Tile Co. There is definitely an “up north” feel to the merchandise, lots of mitten-shaped items, Petoskey stones galore, unique hand-made furniture–the pieces look like they  grew in the woods. Watercolors, oil and acrylic paintings, jewelry and glassware, chess sets, clocks, ok, you get the idea. If you’re looking for something special as a gift or for your home, you’re sure to find it here. Be sure and check out the original safe, this wing of the shop was an old bank.

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Flower boxes and planters decorate storefronts, Tulips are still in bloom this far north, umbrella stands are filled with giant red, white and blue pinwheels. The streetscape is charming, shop windows draw us in, staff members at each business are friendly and helpful. We taste vinegar and oils at Fustini’s, have a second cup of coffee and an awesome toasted coconut donut at Dripworks, Mettlers American Mercantile features a wonderful handpicked assortment of American-made items from men’s and women’s clothing to items for the home–the speakers made from instrument cases and old suitcases by Vintage Volume are super-cool.

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Tom Symons General Store opened in 1956 in one of the city’s oldest brick buildings, he brought luxury items like coffee, spices, gourmet products and a vast wine selection to the people of Petoskey. In the late 1970’s Symons began offering freshly baked breads, cookies, croissants and deli sandwiches to its customers. Tom’s son opened two restaurants, Pierson’s at Boyne Mountain Resort and Chandler’s just around the corner from the general store. Today the family still runs the business, it maintains its old-world charm with original wood floors, tin ceiling and selection of old-fashioned candy. You can sample cheese, do a wine tasting, purchase gourmet seasonings, sauces and Michigan-made food products. Downstairs the wine cellar is rustic and enchanting; old brick floors, ancient wood beams and low plank ceiling. I’m told 500 bottles of wine line these walls, looking around I believe it. To our surprise and delight there’s a small amount of seating in the cellar for Chandler’s, we are so having lunch here. Lunch turned into brunch once we got a look at the menu. The Blueberry pancakes are outstanding, made with ricotta they’re tender and fluffy with the perfect amount of fresh blueberries and a touch of lemon. Taylor’s Hash is a poached egg sitting on a stuffed hash brown topped with a tasty hollandaise, super delicious!

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We continue wandering through the Gaslight District. If you’ve been to Petoskey you’ve been to Cutler’s, you’ll recognize it immediately by the yellow awning. They have everything you could want for the kitchen from small appliances to serving pieces and linens; you’ll also find up north themed goodies. Store owners make the shopping experience interesting for men too, take Robert Frost Fine Footwear, sure they sell high-quality men’s and women’s fashions but check out the model wooden boats, motors, scale model cars and airplanes. Next we meander through Dave’s Boot Shop and Russell’s Shoes, to be honest I’m not sure where one ends and the other begins because they connect through an interior open doorway. What I can tell you is together they carry every kind of footwear you need or want for every member of your family. The interiors of the buildings appear as I imagine they did back when the structures were built; lovely embossed tin ceilings, built-in wooden shelves and a fantastic array of antique light fixtures. They have church pews to sit in for trying on shoes, a ladder that slides on a ceiling track to reach boxes on the top shelf, vintage counters and showcases, they even have an old Buster Brown clock.

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We’ve had a wonderful day in Petoskey from the shopping to the food and that view… It’s always hard to leave this area, we’re already looking forward to our next visit.

Columbus Ohio: Still Wandering..

16 May

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We’re in Columbus Ohio exploring downtown, on Fourth Street we pass a beautiful, old building, No. 16 Engine House; a sign out front informs us it’s the Central Ohio Fire Museum and Learning Center. The exterior of the building is red brick topped with a decorative layer of gold brick, like frosting on a cake, a fancy tower anchors the right side. Firefighters, corporate and community sponsors raised nearly $700,000.00 to authentically restore the 1908 building; it opened as a museum in 2002. Run by area firefighters, the museum teaches fire safety, prevention and life-saving procedures to people of all ages. Over 1500 area firefighters continue to contribute money through payroll deductions to help finance the project.

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The 1908 interior is still intact with glazed brick walls, tin ceiling and fire poles. Fire trucks include an 1881 Amoskeag steam fire engine, a 1913 Ford Model T American LaFrance and a 1920 Obenchain Boyer chemical engine. Models vary from a hand-drawn hook and ladder to a horse-drawn model and finally a motorized apparatus. Displays capture the everyday life of firefighters; uniforms, equipment, fire alarms. Black and white photos show firemen in action putting out raging flames, display cases hold speaking trumpets, shields, helmets, wood water mains. There are hoses and fire extinguishers; placards do a good job of explaining  what everything is. It’s very kid-friendly, little ones can dress up in firefighter’s clothes, drive the truck, slide down the pole– hey, that sounds like fun! 

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We cross into the back section, this is originally where the horses were kept, one stall remains as an example of how the space was used. We check out the Safety Kitchen, the exhibit pinpoints where most home fires begin. The Safe Bedroom allows kids to practice escaping from a burning bedroom with real smoke effects. We stop and stare into a full-size children’s bedroom as it appears after a fire, I get chills looking at the melted toys, pictures and damaged furnishings. Volunteers interact with visitors, they’re enthusiastic and share lots of interesting information.

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While we’re downtown we decide to have lunch at Grass Skirt, a fun, Tiki-themed restaurant and bar on North Grant Ave. Part of the Columbus Food League family of restaurants Grass Skirt serves up Hawaiian and Asian dishes along with a 4-page, Kahiki-inspired drink menu jam-packed with Rum/Non-Rum cocktails; Mai Tai anyone? Inside lights are low, the custom-made skull chandelier hangs central in the room. Blowfish lights, a waterfall complete with a Sailor Jerry Hula girl, tiki torches, sculptures and a fabulous glowing lava wall make this place kitschy-cool! The S-shaped bar is made from custom-colored concrete inlaid with colored glass and mother-of-pearl. Open shelves hold tiki mugs, pandas and Buddha’s. We wander around looking at the fish floats, pine log tiki carvings, masks and the ship’s rigging–all very Polynesian.

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Paging through the menu we finally make our selections, we watch old episodes of Family Affair on the bar’s flat screen TV until the food arrives. The Island Nachos are a platter of won ton chips smothered with black beans, creamy cheese sauce, pineapple salsa, shredded lettuce, guacamole and lime sour cream; every bite is delicious. The teriyaki tofu tacos are really good; marinated tofu, cucumber-mint slaw and avocado-yum! At the end of the meal our server places an upside-down skull on the table, she activates the dry ice and smoke billows out the top and hovers above the table; what a great way to end a dining experience.

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We’re just about out of time in Ohio’s capital city. A quick computer check informs us that north of us in Worthington a vintage shop will be open for another hour or so—let’s go! Off the beaten path for sure, in a 2-story office warehouse complex is Dawn of Retro, a resale shop dedicated to Mid-Century Modern and vintage furniture and decor spanning from the 50’s to the 70’s. The space is a maze of dressers, buffets and china cabinets; from blonde to walnut each one acts as a resting place for glassware, serving pieces, ash trays and the like. Puffy, furry couches in wild 1970’s patterns snuggle up to table lamps, retro arc lamps and starburst clocks. Broyhill, Kent Coffey, classics to funky, orange and avocado green. Dawn has it all stuffed into two floors of space. In a cabinet I find a set of glasses I can’t live without…I can’t wait to get home and use them!

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Cincinnati: See Ya’ Later !

3 Feb

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It’s our last day in Cincinnati, we’re in the Camp Washington neighborhood to check out the American Sign Museum. Tod Swormstedt, former editor and publisher of Signs of the Times magazine has taken his passion for signs and opened a museum in a former parachute factory with 19,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. Historic signs, books, photos and documents reflecting the art, craft and history of sign-making hang from the ceiling, rest on the floor, fill walls, shelves and display cases. From the days of pictures drawn on cave entrances to colorful signs hanging from shops to the gas-lit illuminated signs of the late 1800’s on to the electrical signs of the early 1900’s, neon and finally plastics, signs have always been a part of the landscape. Signs tell us our location and how to get somewhere, the nature of a building, what brand we should buy, where we should eat, shop, play, stay. The museum highlights the sign industry from the days of goldleaf glass signs through the heyday of neon to the plastic era of the 1950’s.

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Driving down Monmouth vintage signs catch our eye; this must be the place. Parking in the lot, signs surround us, the familiar Holiday Inn with its signature green lettering, a giant hammer from a hardware store, a 20′ bowling pin. At first glance it appears a man on a ladder is in the process of painting the exterior brick wall, a closer look reveals it’s a mural depicting the old-fashioned process of painting signs on the side of a building–this one is amazing! The neon El Rancho motel sign is great, with all of this in the parking lot, I can hardly wait to see what’s inside. Crossing the threshold under the gigantic genie, inside we pay our admission then walk as directed toward the giant yellow arrow with its flashing light bulbs. A rainbow of neon welcomes us to the first gallery; a 50’s style sputnik with light bulb letters twirls, large-scale neon signs, illuminated plastic signs and art deco-style pieces compete for our attention. Neon signs in original crates, pop-culture classics such as Gulf, Shell, Greyhound and Col. Sanders fill the room. Ice cream cones, a swinging golfer on a golf ball, and a motel signs are fantastic to look at.

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Main Street is lined with pavers, shops on both sides of the street are home to every variety of sign from hand-painted to an authentic Mc Donalds sign featuring Mr. Speedee; the original blueprint sits nearby. Taverns, motels, banks, bars and restaurants are all represented. Shop windows hold displays of the art of sign-painting; brushes, paint and alphabet samples even books teaching the skill. There are glass doors with hand-painted letters and numbers reminding me of the Fisher Building in Detroit, make your own sign kits with decals, neon art deco clocks, enameled metal signs for Goodyear. Hand-lettered showcards from Las Vegas featuring Frank Sinatra and Charo remind us that signs serve many purposes from commerce to culture. We walk up and down Main Street reveling in the colors, kitsch and memories. Cars outlined in neon circle a globe, Howard Johnson’s offers us ice cream in 28 flavors, the Acapulco sign with dual palm trees is fabulous!

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Huge signs take up space in the back section; the side of a barn is mounted on the wall, Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco is the message painted in block letters. SEE BEAUTIFUL ROCK CITY atop LOOKOUT MT reads another. Our favorite is the Habig’s sign with the tipping champagne glass, stand close and you can hear the mechanics of the light bulbs flashing off and on, so cool! A working neon shop, Neonworks has their own section where they create and repair neon signs, sometimes you can even watch them work. We finish up our visit, stopping to read placards along the way, the histories and timelines are fascinating. The museum is absolutely delightful, so glad we came.

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We’re having lunch on Hamilton Ave in the Northside neighborhood, Melt Eclectic Cafe offers healthy gourmet sandwiches, fresh salads and soups. We order at the counter then sit in the front window section to wait for our food. Our East Village wrap arrives; rosemary goat cheese, pesto, roasted red peppers, smoked turkey and arugula wrapped up tight and a side of curried potato salad–both are delicious. After lunch we stroll down the street, except for one new development Northside looks much the same as it always has; local entrepreneurs fill street level shops in beautiful historic buildings, a lovely selection of housing stock is available. I love the mural with daisies covering a powder blue background. We stop in at Bee Haven which sells a variety of products including honey, beeswax candles and chocolate, we try a few samples, I grab some lip balm and we’re off. Taking our time we wander in and out of Happy Chicks Bakery, a Cluxton Alley coffee shop called Collective Espresso, Shake It Records selling new and used vinyl, CD’s and DVD’s, a vintage shop called Chicken Lays An Egg with racks and racks of funky clothing, shoes and accessories. The neighborhood is home to a diverse population; college students, the creative class, young professionals and GLBTQ all live in the historic district. 

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We grab a coffee at Sidewinder, hop in the Jeep and start our journey north. It has been a great few days in Cincinnati but it’s time to head home. Kris is taking the scenic route; in West Liberty OH he veers off on State Route 245, it is here you will find the largest of all the cave systems in Ohio at the Ohio Caverns. The caverns were discovered in August 1897 by farm hand Robert Noffsinger, when he informed the landowner of his discovery, William Reams explored the caverns for himself then opened the cave to the public in September 1897. After 25 years of people removing crystals, touching formations and writing their names on walls and ceilings with smoke from oil lamps, the area was destroyed. In 1922 two brothers bought the land and spent 3 1/2 years digging out mud left in the tunnels by the underground river that formed the cavern, they dug out a 1-mile route, strung light bulbs powered by a Fordson tractor on the surface and opened the business as the Ohio Caverns in 1925. Concrete floors were put in in the 1970’s and a lighting professional came in the 1980’s creating concrete sconces and less obstructive lighting. The tour still uses the 1925 route.

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We purchase tickets in the gift shop, a tour is just about to start, good timing… We descend the concrete stairway to the cave entrance, though the pathway is narrow it does not feel constricting, water drips from the cave ceiling, it has been raining for days, shallow puddles form on the walkway. Our tour guide is friendly and informative, she shines the beam of her flashlight on significant formations as we go. Artificial light from nearby bulbs has caused moss to grow in a few areas, care is now taken to turn off lights as the group progresses through the cave. The pathway is smooth, the ceiling low, formations are everywhere. Stalactites cling to the ceiling, stalagmites sprout from the floor, soda straws hang from above. Walls vary in patterns, textures and colors. The Crystal Sea is a water retention pool that holds excess water out of the walkway, the ceiling reflects on the surface of the pool, a bevy of crystals clustered together, so pretty. The Natural Bridge holds nearly 20 crystal columns and is the original floor of the tunnel, they left the columns intact when they dug the pathway, digging under the columns, forming the natural bridge.

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One section holds more soda straws and helictites than any other area of the cavern, they call it Fantasy Land, yep, I can see that. Our guide shines her light on a formation and asks the group what it looks like, this is Old Town Pump, it really does look like a hand pump. The formations remind me of icicles, carrots, coral. Crystal King is estimated to be over 200,000 years old and was last measured at almost 5′ long. There’s a tranquility in the cave that’s hard to describe, maybe it’s being so far underground. We stop to look at the ‘good luck’ crystal, the top now stained brown from years of being touched by visitors, a no-touch rule has now been established. We enter the Palace of the Gods, rich in color it feels lavish compared to the other areas. The variety of colors on the walls come from iron oxide and manganese dioxide, lavish surfaces of flowstone, calcite formations, columns and dual formations make this section unique. The Jewel Room is the most colorful, the color splits down the middle of the room making one side a rusty iron oxide color, the other a darker color from manganese dioxide deposits. This is the end of the tour. A recording of Beautiful Ohio starts to play, a time-honored tradition since 1928. 

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This is the end of our tour too. We hope you have enjoyed tagging along with us on our southern Ohio adventure. See you back in Detroit!

Scenic Backroads: Autumn Splendor

21 Oct

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Fall has arrived in southeast Michigan; the leaves are changing, the air has turned crisp, darkness comes early. Mother Nature beckons us to spend time outdoors, soak in the warmth of the sun, the aroma of burning logs; we long to walk and hear the swish and crunch of fallen leaves, marvel at the colors that have painted the landscape. Today Kris and I are heading out to Oakland County to do just that! Rochester Rd  travels through cities large and small, once you get north of Rochester, the road changes from hectic to relaxing, a scenic rural postcard. 

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Foglers Orchard and Farm Market sits roadside, in Summer you can purchase a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, this time of year pumpkins and apples take center stage. It’s chilly this morning, roll-up doors encourage the sun to warm the building. White paper Peck bags bulge with freshly picked apples: Empire, Golden Delicious, Gala and Mac’s are just a few of the varieties available, the scent of apples permeates the air. Huge heads of cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts still on the stalk line the counter. A bin overflows with colorful gourds and teeny tiny pumpkins. In the greenhouse area families take on the all-important task of picking just the right pumpkin; out back a tractor takes folks on a hayride around the property. 

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Back on Rochester Rd. Maples add a splash of color, the street begins to wind as we meander into the countryside. A ways up (near 32 Mile) we make a turn onto Predmore Rd to check out Cranberry Lake Farm Historic District. Oakland Township was one of the original 25 townships when the Territory of Michigan was organized in 1827, this particular property was the farmstead of John Axford, he built the Greek Revival house here in the 1840’s. The farm was purchased by Jacob Kline in 1848, the family continued to operate the farm until 1925. In 1939 Detroiter Howard Coffin, an oil company executive and US congressman (who lived in Detroit’s Sherwood Forest) converted the farm to a country retreat; the house was enlarged, a field stone fireplace added, buildings updated. In 1996 the township purchased the farm, it is now on the National register of Historic Places. There are 10 buildings, a garden and orchard on the 16 acre historic district which sits adjacent to the 233 acre Cranberry Lake Park. Let’s have a look.

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We park the Jeep near the beautifully restored Flumerfelt barn, this post and beam structure dates back to 1879. Rusty antique farm equipment is on display, the lush, green grass is sprinkled with leaves. The house is not open, but I can see the fireplace through the windows–very cozy, the buildings are well maintained. In the distance we see a freshly mowed pathway leading away from the farm, how about a walk? Here the trees are already bare, weeds and wildflowers have died off leaving interesting looking seed pods. The sun peeks in and out from the clouds, a strong breeze gives flight to yellow and brown leaves. We are led into the woods, sunlight dapples the dirt trail, low boardwalks keep the feet of hikers dry in rainy periods. The trail takes us in and out of the woods back to the wide grassy trail ending back at the barn. It is here that we spot the Cranberry Lake barn quilt designed by Mary Asmus, it’s quite lovely.

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Continuing on Rochester Rd we veer onto Drahner road, Lakeville Cemetery is just a little west, it’s one of those small, quaint, very old cemeteries you find in the country, this one was established in 1843. Following a very narrow dirt road we park near the gazebo, here the Maples are steeped in color, vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, even a little lime green. We walk the hilly terrain reading tombstones dating back to the 1800’s, many are so worn by the elements I can no longer read the inscriptions. At one time it was common to write out the exact age of the deceased–years, months, right down to the number of days. Evergreen and Pines occupy one section, the ground below thick with long brown needles, it is here we discover the headstone belonging to Minoru Yamasaki and his wife Teruko. The man who changed the face of architecture, bringing us buildings such as One Woodward, Mc Gregor Memorial Conference Center on the campus of WSU and of course, most notably, the World Trade Center, is represented here by a simple headstone, a large rock rests adjacent. Tombstones are each unique in design, personal tributes to those who have passed, the grounds here are gorgeous, it’s so peaceful.

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Our journey continues taking us into Lakeville, vintage cars out for a drive pass us  as they head the opposite direction. We hang a right on Main Street, a few old structures remain, the Mill has been recently restored, painted white with red accents. Back on Rochester Rd the street hooks one direction, then another, it’s hilly here, we twist and turn past attractive homesteads, picturesque barns and splendid Fall scenery. In the northern portion of Addison Township we stop at Watershed Preserve, a 229 acre nature preserve with 4 kettle lakes and inter-connected wetlands within rolling glacial moraine deposits. The purpose of the preserve is to protect and preserve this extremely sensitive watershed and wildlife habitat. The wetlands here form the headwaters for the Belle, Clinton and Flint river systems.

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We start out on a grassy trail, referring to the large map of the preserve we choose the orange trail; leaves are just beginning to color, many are still green. The path narrows, we snake our way through the woods to one of the lakes, a dock allows us a closer look at the clear water. The next lake is larger, beavers have built themselves a mansion near the shore, the water is perfectly still, a mirror image of the sky covers the surface of the lake. Kris makes his way to the dock, getting a better look at Loon Lake. The trail changes in elevation as it curls through maturing second-growth forests and meadows, we loop around finding ourselves where we started.

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Our roadtrip continues, we turn left on Dryden Rd, a Porche club is out on a fall color tour, I lost count after 40 cars.  We are immersed in splendid scenery; silos peek out from dried-up cornstalks, long-standing churches charm us as we pass, Oaks and Maples are showy with color. We stop at High Street Eatery in Metamora for lunch, the taupe and white building resembles a home more than a business. Menu selections are made from scratch, in house, bread and baked goods come from Crust in Fenton. We sit in the front room with a pretty view looking out onto the street.

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The special of the day is an open-faced hot turkey sandwich, we order ours on the Saskatoon Prairie Seed bread, the turkey is moist, there’s just enough gravy. A generous portion of mashed potatoes, stuffing and corn also share the plate. Our Michigan salad arrives at the same time, a heap of greens is topped with apples, walnuts dried cherries and a tasty vinaigrette, everything is delicious. It has been a day well-spent in nature enjoying scenic roads that rise and fall, coiling through beautiful countryside. It’s a delightful time of year to get out and enjoy the beauty.

 

CLEVELAND: What’s New ???

3 Jun

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We’re in Cleveland for the weekend; our home base, Stone Gables Bed and Breakfast is nestled in the vibrant, charming, historic Ohio City neighborhood. A group of young entrepreneurs have given new life to the area now known as Hingetown in Ohio City. It’s a familiar story, vacant old buildings are restored and repurposed, new businesses move in and flourish, elevating the quality of life, which in turn attracts new residents and visitors. We’re on 29th Street in the midst of  a sun-drenched Saturday, the old Ohio City Firehouse building is buzzing with activity, people sit at picnic tables on the patio drinking cold beverages, dog walkers greet one another as they pass, bicycles whiz by. We step into the air-conditioned space of Urban Orchid, a floral and gift boutique. The place smells amazing, like Gardenia, fresh-cut flowers have been arranged into colorful centerpieces for a reception that will take place later in the evening. Cleveland goods such as t-shirts and cards as well as gift items created by local artists are available for purchase.

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Just around the corner of the firehouse is Rising Star Coffee Roasters, this was the first business to take a foothold on the block. Inside the line moves swiftly, the guy in front of me has the highest praise for the coffee and the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie–who am I to argue? Standing at a high-top table we have our cold brew coffee and cookie, both are excellent, never doubt a local. Back outside we cross the street to the Striebinger building with businesses on the street level and apartments on the second level. We wander in and out of each space, long and narrow interiors are accented by exposed brick and Edison bulbs. Glass storefronts allow sunlight to wash in giving shops an open, airy feel. Beet Juice Bar is doing a brisk business selling cold-pressed juice, I love the drop tin ceiling in Cleveland Tea Revival, the lunch crowd has started to arrive at Juke Box. Harness Cycle is a spinning studio that also sells cool work-out gear, pet owners make their way to Ohio City Dog Haven. This little district has the feel of a small village integrated right into the neighborhood, it’s wonderful.

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Heading west in the Jeep, we stumble upon the Madison Arts District on, what else, Madison Ave in Lakewood. We both spot the sign at the same time, Kris manages to turn around and park us in front of a quirky, vintage, antique, Mid Century shop called Googie Style. Googie is that modern, futuristic, atomic, car-culturish, bright-colored, starburst, anything goes style found from the 40’s to the 60’s. Inside we meet Margaret, one of the owners, she’s awesome. She points out some of the more unusual pieces, shares stories of great finds as we take in the fun and funky collection of items. Sure there’s the great mid-century design furniture, beautiful glass and copper sculptures, but there’s also a jack-a-lope, masks and a framed painting of parrots. With names of other shops in the area and a school to check out, we’re off.

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First the school, Lakewood High School on Franklin is home to Viktor Schreckengost’s 1954 sculpture, Johnny Appleseed. A native of Ohio, Schreckengost attended the Cleveland School of the Arts, designed the Jazz Bowl for Eleanor Roosevelt, taught industrial design and was a bicycle designer for Murray, Sears and others. The sculpture is kitchy-cool and definitely worth a look. Back on Madison we drop in and out of several antique shops. Great 70’s kitchenware, Corning Ware had some far out patterns, mushroom canisters were all the rage, ahhh, the memories… The Good Goat Gallery is a great place to stop and browse, the art ranges from fine to fun. Kris and I wander, we find it all quite attractive, dolls have amazing faces, paintings use bright colors, some of it is humorous, some solemn, much of it puts me in the mind of Latin America. The gallery is gearing up for a big show called Six Degrees of Vincent, Vincent Price’s daughter Victoria will be there for the opening, looks like an awesome show!

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We are having lunch at Barrio, Cleveland’s own taco house serving up specialty tacos, tequila and whiskey. We are seated on the patio, pencils and menu pads stand in a metal bin on our table, our server brings us icy cold glasses of water and explains the ordering process. We’re hungry, too hungry to create our own tacos from the vast list of available ingredients, so we go with El Jefe’s Selecciones, we ask our server to bring us the first four on the list. Munching on still-warm chips and flavorful salsa our basket of tacos arrives. We each take two, eat half and switch, thank goodness for the roll of napkins in the basket. The Vegan Stoner is a soft shell with grilled peppers, onions, portobello, corn salsa, pickled veggies and a herb vinaigrette, delicious. El Jefe is a hard shell, wrapped in a soft shell and stuffed with queso, chorizo, chicken, corn salsa, smoked cheddar, lettuce, chipolte honey sauce, wow, a great combo of flavors and textures. El Puerco is the combo soft and hard shell with white cheese, pulled pork, queso fresco, chipolte honey, salsa roja, lettuce and tomato, so good! The Spicy Sapanaro is spicy, but not so hot that it’s hard to eat. Here we have the soft and hard shell, cheese, chorizo, chicken, queso fresco, salsa roja and secret sauce, yum! I can see why Barrio is such a local favorite.

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Refreshed and re-energized we drive into downtown Cleveland to check out Heinen’s on 9th and Euclid. This gorgeous building, designed by George B Post, opened in 1908 as the Cleveland Trust Building. The building was occupied by Cleveland Trust, then Ameri Trust and finally Society Corp until the 1990’s. Today Cleveland’s oldest family-owned grocery chain, Heinen’s operates out of this iconic domed structure. The exterior is richly detailed with carvings and columns, one look and you know it was an important building in its day.

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Inside, your eyes are immediately drawn to the elaborate, beautiful glass dome. A ring of super-ornate plaster covered in gold leaf caps arches and more columns, illuminated rosettes are magnificent, a stunning railing runs the perimeter of the mezzanine level, hand painted murals peek out between arches, plaster details are heavy. Cafe tables fill the circular ground floor, grab a coffee, something from the bakery or a meal at one of the counters. The mezzanine level offers wine tasting, a huge selection of bottles and beer. From here the overall view is spectacular; above, the murals, dome and all of its details, below, the patterned marble floor, the stairway is pretty snazzy too. Aisles are located in the space beyond the dome for all your grocery needs.

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We make one last stop on our way back to our room, there’s a new ice cream shop on Bridge Street we want to check out. Mason’s Creamery is housed in a tiny Mid Century building with a covered patio that looks like it has always been a neighborhood ice cream shop. Folks are gathered along the freezer staring into five-gallon drums of frozen deliciousness; tasting is encouraged and everyone seems to be doing their part. Along with the usual suspects, Mason’s offers flavors like popcorn, Cleveland Whiskey, butterscotch and Paw Paw. Flavors are made in-house in small batches, today there are about a dozen to choose from. I taste and I taste, it’s the dark chocolate I like the best, Kris goes with the Roasted Peanut, they add a drizzle of strawberry for that peanut butter and jelly combo. We eat our dessert sitting at a small table, it’s fun to watch people try the different flavors, the line continually repopulates. It has been a day of fun and new discoveries in a place so familiar to us. There’s still tomorrow………..

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FENTON: Daytrippin!

9 Sep

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It’s a hotter than expected September day, a good excuse to escape the city and head north for the day!  We are taking a northwesterly scenic route through the country; roads wind, twist and turn past long-standing barns, fields of corn, old-time churches and historic homes. The mild summer has left the landscape green, horses graze behind split-rail fences, here and there maple leaves are thinking about changing colors, the ride is peaceful and relaxing. We arrive at the Heavenly Scent Herb Farm in Fenton, an unexpected surprise on White Lake Rd. A 1910 barn is painted to look like three European storefronts; the rustic, quaint, interior is filled with lovely things for the home; candles, cement statuary, charming decor items, body care products and spices. Pumpkins and Halloween items are on display. There’s a buzz of activity; chairs and tables are being set up for a wedding that will take place later in the evening. We head outside for a stroll through the gardens, there’s beauty in every direction. Pathways lead us through a series of themed gardens; metal sculptures, ground covers and annuals fill large beds, hanging baskets overflow with pastel-colored flowers. An old shovel has been transformed into a piece of art; a hummingbird design as been laser cut into the rusty metal blade, items on display are available for purchase.

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We find ourselves in a charming mushroom-themed garden, it’s the kind of place I imagine Tinkerbell and her friends would live in. Wandering through a narrow gateway we pass a small pond, wood benches encircle large tree trunks, mounds of Hostas show off their lavendar-colored blooms. Mobiles hang from decorative hooks, climbing vines cover arbors, flowering shrubs and funky metal roses grow side by side. The pergola is quite a sight, a gravel pathway is laid out underneath; purple and white flowers are tucked in among lime green leaves in raised beds that run along each side of the structure. We hear the gentle sound of trickling water, up ahead an elegant fountain serves as a focal point. Enormous dahlias in peach, yellow and pink are stunning, bunches of white alyssum perfume the air, a statue of an angel is nestled among the greenery, sedum are beginning to bloom. It’s worth a drive to just come and see this place.

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We park on Shiawassee Ave in Fenton’s downtown area, there’s a lot of activity going on here these days; new shops and restaurants are joining picturesque neighborhoods in drawing folks to town. We amble down the sidewalk, mature trees cast shadows over manicured lawns, enchanting Victorian homes are decked out with urns, flowerbeds and hanging baskets. Each house is architecturally different, some sport columns, others have turrets or balconies, windows are leaded glass, many exhibit sizable American flags.

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Near the Jeep, a row of cute little shops have open doors, inviting people to take a look inside. La Petite Maison is a pretty, little, home decor store. The space is set up like a home with different rooms; new, old and repurposed items accessorize each room in shabby-chic style. The Iron Grate features home goods such as candles, linens and pillows along with an adorable kids section done up in primary colors. Next door is Fenton’s Open Book, you guessed it, it’s a bookstore and next to that is Sweet Variations chocolate shop. We walk through each shop satisfying our curiosities, its late afternoon, time to catch lunch.

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Fenton Fire Hall on Leroy St is the latest addition to Fenton’s growing restaurant scene. The building has stood on this spot since 1938; behind the building is a park and a waterfall, across the street is the fetching Community Center designed by Eliel Saarinen. Brought to us by the same folks who run Clarkston Union, Union Woodshop and Vinsetta Garage, it’s an extremely popular eating spot, which is why we are having lunch at 3 pm on a Friday. To our relief, we are seated immediately, the place smells wonderful, a mix of wood-fire and meat. The menu offers a nice variety without being overwhelming, we decide pretty quickly. The interior pays homage to the origins of the buildings, much of the stylish decorating features the color red, old hoses make up a light fixture, the firehouse theme is carried out well throughout. It doesn’t take long for our food to arrive, metal baking sheets piled high with food are set down before us, just looking at it makes my mouth water! First up, the Korean Pork Tacos; three Detroit-made flour tortillas are filled with the house pulled pork combined with their own Korean bbq sauce, topped with cilantro-lime slaw, the tacos are outstanding, nice choice Kris! The Gather is a house-made vegan patty, wood-fired veggie goat cheese spread, broccoli sprouts, shitake bacon, all stacked on a house-made bun, it’s really good. Then we come to the fries, freshly hand-cut and perfectly deep-fried they are wonderful as is, dipping them in the Fire Hall mayo, takes them up to a whole other level.  When we are finished, we walk up to the roof-top deck strung with lights overhead, you can eat up here, have a drink at the bar, shoot a game of pool or just have a seat and overlook the park. In the stairwell, black and white photos of Fenton’s crew of firefighters hang on the walls, a nice tribute. The lower level has a cozy lounge area with original wood paneling, tables line the wall of roll-up doors, funky red upholstered barstools are pulled up to the bar.

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Just outside is the original pump house, today it serves as an ice cream stand: Pumphouse Custard. What makes this unique is the house-made ice creams, custards and sorbets are made with liquid nitrogen… really! The list of flavors is long: Faygo Rock n Rye, CEO Stout, 24 Carrot Cake, Blue Moon, Gimme S’more, well, you get the idea. You can get it in a cup, cone, sundae, malt or shake. After many samples and much deliberation, Kris chooses the honey cinnamon flavor to have as a malt and I try the Strawberry Basil Bash…. tasty!? Umbrella’d tables with milk crate legs are set up on the patio, eat there or go for a stroll like we are. We walk across the bridge to the park, metal sculptures and colorful potted plants dot the landscape, ducks float in the stream, a photographer is busy taking senior pictures for a group of girls. Yep, it certainly is a nice set up they have here.

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Back on Holly road we pass a sign with an arrow directing us to the Great Lakes National Cemetery, we make the turn to check it out. Off Belford Rd we spot the stone wall and avenue of flags; American flags as far as the eye can see. Turning into the cemetery we are taken aback by the rows of white headstones. Open to the public during daylight hours, we realize we don’t have much time as dusk is beginning to fall. We drive as far as the main road will take us, the landscape is one of rolling hills and a lake, 544.3 acres in all. Burials began in 2005, by 2013 there were over 16,000 interments; any member of the armed forces of the United States who dies in active duty, or  discharged veterans, are eligible to be buried here. A public information center is located about midway into the cemetery, specific gravesites can be found using an automated gravesite locator kiosk.

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We get out of the car and begin to walk around, it’s beautiful, solemn, peaceful; benches overlook the lake, ducks, swans and other waterfowl are having conversation. Rows of above ground columbariums are near the water, we read the names of those who have passed on. Meandering on, we pass hundreds of gravesites, all branches of the armed forces are represented, as are wars ranging from WWII, the Gulf War and Afghanistan, along with Korea and Vietnam. The oldest birth year I spotted was 1911; many of the deceased were moved here from another place when this cemetery opened. They say they average 10 burials a day, which surprised us. One feels very patriotic walking these grounds, feelings of both gratitude and sadness fill my heart. 

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OHIO: Put-In-Bay

3 Jun

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The Memorial Day weekend officially kicks off the Summer travel season; our car is loaded up and we’re ready to go! We are headed to Ohio for some fun in and along the Lake Erie coastline, our first destination: Put-In-Bay.  As we approach the Miller Ferry in Catawba, we’re pleased to find plenty of room on board, hooray! We park in a local lot, purchase 2 round-trip tickets and board the vessel. It’s a gorgeous day to be out on the water, the only drawback being the cold breeze off the still-chilled lake. Covered in sunscreen and bundled in sweatshirts, the 18 minute trip is over before we know it. Still early on the first Friday of the season, the island seems to be just waking up when we arrive. The Victorian village of Put-In-Bay (PIB) is located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie; the name originally referred to the bay itself, schooners sailing on the lake would “put in” to this bay to wait out bad weather. PIB has been a tourist destination since 1864, it is one of Lake Erie’s most popular resort areas. The island itself is 3.7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide; according to the 2010 Census it is home to 138 people. Let’s see what this place is all about.

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On the island we are immediately greeted by lots offering us rental of golf carts, bicycles and scooters by the hour; we are two miles from downtown and there’s a strong wind, we go for the golf cart….Carts like these are the most common form of transportation on the island–they are everywhere! I sign the lease agreement, am given a yellow copy and a map of the island, Kris takes his place behind the wheel of our newly rented transportation and we’re off…. We are both excited to visit  Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, last time we were here, the line to go up to the observation deck stretched out the door. The only international peace memorial in the National Park System, it was built by a commission of nine states and the federal government from 1912 to 1915. The remains of three British and three American officers killed during the Battle of Lake Erie lie under its rotunda.  The memorial commemorates that battle in which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led a fleet to victory in one of the most significant naval battles to take place in the War of 1812; it is from this battle Perry coined the phrase: “Don’t give up the ship”.

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We follow Langram Dr until the memorial comes into view, the 352 ft monument is the world’s most massive Doric column; it is among the tallest monuments in the US and quite a sight. Inside, we climb the narrow, curving stairway to the elevator, a ticket to the top costs us $3 each. The ride to the top goes quickly, we exit the elevator and walk out onto the observation deck with its stunning panoramic view, wow! From here we have a bird’s-eye view of our surroundings; the lake, islands, city, even Canada. The sky is Robin’s egg blue, low clouds hover on the horizon, the water is cerulean, everything else is a vibrant green; indeed, nature has sprung to life after a long, harsh winter, it is quite spectacular. The structure is made up of limestone blocks, ornate grates appear here and there, an 11 ton bronze urn tops the granite column. Maps are placed on each of 4 sides identifying what we see in the distance; Kelley’s Island, Pelee Island, mainland Ohio, Sandusky Bay, Marblehead and Lakeside. Roads are laid out clearly, docks jut out into the bay, marinas wait patiently for the boats to arrive; in the distance it appears sky and water meet. It’s hard to leave such incredible scenery, but we have lots of island left to see.

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We cart on over to Perry’s Cave at the Family Fun Center; I go inside to buy tickets, when I come out I find Kris at the Antique Car Museum. It seems Skip Duggan, lifelong resident of PIB, had quite a passion for antique cars; favoring Ford Model T’s and A’s, his personal collection is on display for all to enjoy. When it’s tour time, our guide, a native of PIB, leads us down the 44 steps into the 208 ft long, 165 ft wide Perry’s Cave, which is a stable, but chilly, 50 degrees. This is a natural limestone cave discovered by Commodore Perry in 1813, they say he and his men slept here during the war. Calcium carbonate covers the ceiling, floor and walls; it is very wet down here today, puddles have formed on the floor, cold water drips on us from above. We follow our guide along the pathway through the cave, hundreds of straw-like stalactites cling to the ceiling as stalagmites are forming on the ground. The ceiling is very low, some of our fellow tourists have to bend nearly in half in certain areas, the floor is slippery too. Our guide shines her light into a pool of water and tells us this is a lake, the water takes on a greenish tone from pennies that have been tossed in on wishes throughout the decades. After looking at the lake we turn around and re-trace our steps, all in all enjoyable…in a tourist-trap kinda’ way.

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On the way to the cave we passed a restaurant with an inviting looking patio, that’s where we’re going now to have lunch. Goat Soup and Whiskey Tavern is a fair distance from the hustle and bustle of downtown, this charming building resides between the church and Heineman’s Winery on Catabwa Ave. Kris parks the golf cart once again, it is #209, important to remember when so many carts look exactly alike. The interior feels old and quaint, turns out this was originally a winery. Round lights are strung from the ceiling of the covered patio, nobody is eating out here this afternoon; a crisp breeze blows and now I know why, we will have to settle for the indoors today. We are seated in a lovely room, sunlight brightens the space through skylights and windows, walls are brick with wood trim, a variety of animal heads are mounted on the walls. We start with a cup of beer cheese soup, it is creamy and delicious. Next up, the blue cheese and bacon burger arrives, the bacon is crispy, the burger cooked just the way we like it, cut in half and served with fries it is enough for two. All of the soups and sauces and made from scratch, vegetables and herbs come from their garden, bread is baked in house and desserts are homemade, yum! Too full for a real dessert, you know what they say, there’s always room for chocolate….. oh,maybe it’s just me who says that…. The lower level of the building is home to a chocolate museum and candy shop. The variety is huge; fudge, truffles, barks, creams, they have nuts, fruits and malted milk balls all dunked in rich chocolate goodness. Kris and I each manage to choose a few pieces, a cup of hot coffee for me and we are back in the cart exploring…but more on that later.

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Grand Rapids: Check it out !

3 Feb

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After a peaceful night’s sleep, we pad down to the main floor of the City Flat’s Hotel for breakfast in City Sen Lounge; not being early risers, we have the place to ourselves. A table by the window affords us a view of the going’s on up and down Monroe Center St. The sun shines brightly in the cloudless sky, folks are dressed a little lighter today as we are expecting above normal temps. Breakfast arrives, Kris is having waffles topped with macerated blackberries and a dollop of vanilla whipped cream. For myself, City Benny, poached eggs, ham and béarnaise sauce on brioche and a side of salted baked potatoes, yum!

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We take a detour through the building on the way back to our room, the sign says Ballroom at City Flats, we want to check it out. Up the double stairway we go to 77 Monroe Center, the room is stunning, not at all what we expected. Gorgeous wood panels, beams stenciled in a floral design, elegant archways line the room, columns and a balcony. The room is being prepared for a wedding later in the evening, what a snazzy place for a reception or party!

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We are checked out of the hotel, we leave the Jeep parked and walk the short distance to the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM). The 125,000 sq. ft. Contemporary-style building opened October 2007, it is the world’s first Gold Certified LEED art museum. Stacked 3-stories tall we ascend the elongated stairway to the third floor where the permanent collection is on display. Light floods the galleries through glass skylight lanterns, walls are white, floors pale-colored wood, hallways are vast. Alongside permanent pieces we find selected works of art from ArtPrize 2013, chosen from 9 different venues we see paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture and textile art. My favorite piece on the floor is by Sophia Collier, she carves water-like surfaces from acrylic block, it’s like looking at an actual piece of the water’s surface!   

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The second floor is home to temporary exhibits, featured today: Masterpieces of American Landscape Painting 1820-1950. Pieces represent America through the eyes of painters such as Thomas Cole, Martin Johnson Heade, Winslow Homer and Georgia O’Keeffe, a total of 48 paintings on loan from the prestigious collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Large gold-framed landscapes hang on gallery walls, they are absolutely lovely. 20 works of art are on a 5-year loan, pieces are by well-know artists such as Picasso, Renoir, Rodin and Mary Cassatt grace the museum. A pair of giant Orchids stand tall near the stairway, everybody wants their picture taken in front of them. We study Joey Ruiter’s Objects in Motion; prototypes of bicycles, cars and a motorcycle…. quite interesting. We both like the Modern Furniture Collection, after all, Grand Rapids is Furniture City.

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We cross over to the other side of Monroe Center to catch a coffee at Madcap. With a fine reputation for roasting, retailing and wholesaling specialty coffees, we thought we’d try ’em out. It is definitely one of those places where the hip crowd hangs, not to worry, regular folks are equally welcome. It’s a nice space, bright, lots of windows. As soon as we get inside we are treated to the scent of fresh ground coffee, burlap bags of coffee beans are stacked on the floor, the beverage menu is behind the coffee bar. Kris orders a cold brew, while I go with an iced mocha, we take a seat and plan where to go next.

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Outside the sky is the color of summer, we walk back to the ice rink, families crowd the ice, the littlest of skaters use a walker-like object until they get the hang of it. The architecture downtown is marvelous, much of it Late-Victorian in style, buildings are ornate, the Ledyard (the first location of the Grand Rapids Public Library) is outstanding! We find ourselves in front of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel…..never pass up an opportunity to go inside! Originally called The Pantlind Hotel, it was built in 1913, know for its elegance and grandeur, it has one of the world’s largest gold-leaf ceilings. Purchased by Amway, the original building was refurbished, a glass tower added, it re-opened in 1981. The lobby is magnificent; the gold-leaf ceiling glistens in the light of the three impressive crystal chandeliers. Poinsettia surround the centrally located fountain, potted palms flank the room, wood is dark walnut, furniture is arranged in cozy settings. We peek into the ballroom, Corinthian columns and a sculptured ceiling are straight from a bygone era, the chandeliers even match the ceiling pattern.

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Gerald R Ford was the 38th President of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977, he was the only President from Michigan. The museum bearing his name sits along the Grand River, covering his life from childhood to star football player, Naval officer to US Congressman, Vice President to President, it tells the fascinating story of Grand Rapid’s favorite son. Just inside the museum stands a section of the Berlin Wall, Christmas trees line the lobby area, a large Seal of the President of the United States hangs on a wall. We begin our tour by watching a short film on Gerald Ford in the crescent-shaped theater, it will give us the background on what we will be seeing in the exhibits upstairs.

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On the second floor the mood is set for the 1970’s; Fads such as the Pet Rock, Mood Rings, platform shoes, 8-tracks and Disco were alive and well. Photos of Janis Joplin, John Lennon and Yoko Ono represent the music of the time, Posters feature Peace signs, videos chronicle war protests and marches, these were turbulent times. Displays take us through his youth, born Leslie Lynch King, his mother later married Gerald R Ford, whom he was named after. His life was earmarked by hard work and the successes that came from it, he served 25 years as the Representative from Michigan’s 5th Congressional district. Ford was the first person appointed to the Vice Presidency after Spiro Agnew resigned amid controversy, he became President August 9, 1974 when Nixon resigned. He is the first and only person to have served as both Vice President and President without being elected. The museum is engrossing, well laid out, it is easy to follow and understand, the life-size replica of the Oval Office and Cabinet Room are pretty cool. I have to say, I think anybody visiting Grand Rapids should make it a point to come to the museum.

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The day before we passed The Grand Woods Lounge, it looked super charming, so today we are having lunch here. Resembling a cabin up north, the interior has a wilderness feel to it. Log and stone walls, several fireplaces, it is modeled after restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. We are seated at a table near a fireplace, through a door we can see the outdoor heated porch, I imagine it’s packed on the weekends. The menu consists of sharable appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrees; our waitress is quick to take our order and bring our drinks. The Rodeo Burger is a 1/2 pound patty topped with crisp bacon, melted cheddar cheese, haystack onions and a tangy BBQ sauce, it is prepared perfectly. Alongside the burger is a generous portion of fries and a side of slaw, delicious.

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Our last stop for the afternoon is Founders Brewing Company, ranked in the top four breweries in the world, they recently opened a brand new Tap Room. We park in front of the building, we can hardly believe our eyes, it is late December, the outdoor patio is packed with customers. Inside, the German Beer Hall-inspired Tap Room is even more crowded, the room is gorgeous, the high, wood beam ceiling puts you in the mind of Germany. A glass wall allows patrons to look in on the brewing process, I love that. The line to order beer and food seems endless, we try our luck outdoors. A group of gentlemen make room for us at a table, heat lamps and fire pits keep the temperature comfortable. Before we know it our pints arrive, we are each trying a different type of Stout, both are delicious. There is a constant flow of people coming and going, the food that passes us by looks tasty…….next time. We stop in the gift shop, T-shirts bear the names of their most popular beers, clothing and accessories wear the Founders badge. People come from all over for the beer and a souvenir. We have had a wonderful weekend in Grand Rapids, but the time has come to head back to the D, we’ll be back!

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Let’s Go To Akron!

12 Oct

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We are hitting the road for the next few days, taking advantage of what’s left of warm days and later sunsets. Getting an early start, Kris cannot resist the temptation to drive through Ohio’s Amish country, smooth roads lead us past pretty farms, fresh produce stands, and countless buggies being pulled up and down hilly roads by graceful horses. We pass through quaint towns; Millersburg, Berlin, Charm and Walnut Creek before heading north to our planned destination, Akron. Known affectionately as “Rubber City”, Akron lies about 39 miles south of Lake Erie. Once home to tire giants Goodrich, General Tire, Firestone and Goodyear, today only Goodyear remains. Airships, blimps, dirigibles and Zepplins have been manufactured at the Goodyear airdock since WWII. The city itself covers rolling hills, the Little Cuyahoga River passes through town, the University of Akron campus is in the heart of the city.

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We take our initial ride through downtown to get a lay of the land, then take Market Street towards the Highland Square neighborhood. Immediately we spot interesting  buildings, a funky looking bar, a cluster of assorted businesses…wait is that vintage furniture in the window? After parking in a nearby lot, we walk down to West Hill Hardware, the sign says ‘established 1930’, I don’t doubt it for a minute. The floor is well-worn, aisles are stocked with new, salvaged and restored goods, some signage appears original such as the “Master” Hardwood Dowels display….sweet. Fluorescent lights hang from chains illuminating pegboards of random items, antique mirrors and an impressive collection of glass globes. Of course you can still buy paint by the gallon, nails by the pound and any other do-dad you’d expect to find at a hardware store, it would just be so much more fun to buy it here. Directly next door is the Land of Plenty, self-described as “beautiful things from every era”, I think that sums it up perfectly! The space is long and narrow, the large front window overlooks W Market Street; vintage furniture, lush plants, contemporary art and even rocks look perfectly at home. There is much to take in, jewelry, glassware, books, paintings and hand-crafted items, Kris spots an awesome leather-bound book of home plans from 1950, super cool, we pay at the counter and head over to Highland Square.

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Considered Akron’s hip, artsy neighborhood, Highland Square possesses mature trees, charming homes and vibrant, independent businesses popular with folks in their 20’s and 30’s. Today is “Square Fest” a celebration of music and art featuring local artists. The heat has been building all day, clouds are gathering and becoming dark, fingers crossed it just blows over. Canopy’s are set up on both sides of Market St. selling clothing, handmade jewelry, paintings, baked goods and of course, Akron-centric items; families with babies and dogs on leashes stop to talk to one another. Music appears to be the main focus of the event with several stages set up along the street, large crowds gather, some sing along. We listen to several acts as we wander through the festival area, the historic Highland Theatre has a cool marquis, we pop in and out of shops, pass a great old apartment building, ending up at Mary Coyle Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor. You know where this is going….Walter and Mary Coyle opened their ice cream parlor in 1937, the Coyles moved out to Phoenix in 1951, selling their Highland Square store. The business changed ownership several times, in 1984 Michael Trecaso purchased the store, he closed his Italian restaurant near U of A and combined the two, now serving Italian food and delicious homemade ice cream (16% butterfat). It is said to be one of the oldest restaurants still operating in Akron. The building looks just as it did back in the day; wood paneling covers the walls, tables and chairs wear bright orange, the neon sign still hangs on the wall behind the counter. We take one of the few remaining tables and order a hot fudge chocolate malt, it arrives in it’s signature metal mixing cup along with a glass and two straws–it is delicious! 

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Tonight we are staying at the O’Neil House Bed and Breakfast, built in 1923 for William O’Neil, the founder of General Tire, the 19 room Tudor mansion is nestled on 6 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. Pulling in through the long circle drive, we find a space near the front door, brick and stone, the home seems massive. We are greeted by our host Gayle, I remember her from our stay nearly 20 years ago, I love that this is still her home. Leading us up the elegant staircase, turning left, then down a short hall, she opens the door to our room. We step inside, she hands us our keys, gives us a few instructions, then she is off. We are standing in our own private living room, a wood burning fireplace takes up most of the left wall, a couch, loveseat and chair flanked by tables make up the sitting area, a brass chandelier casts a warm glow over the room. To the right is a large wood table and chairs, large windows grace each side of the room, the hardwood floor creaks as we walk across. A short hall leads to a dressing area, to the left is the bathroom, it is magnificent!  The floor is black tile, walls are encased in a dark green and black marbled vitrolite, trimmed out in more vitrolite in pale green, a crystal chandelier hangs from the decorative vaulted ceiling, along with the usual amenities; sink, toilet and shower, there is an oversized bath tub and bidet, it’s gorgeous. Finally we make our way to the bedroom, directly across from the door is a 20 ft leaded glass bay window, tucked in the space is yet another sitting area, the room is swathed in luxurious draperies and linens, walls are angled, we are treated to yet another crystal chandelier, this is the Master Suite. I don’t want to leave…. oh wait, it’s dinner time.

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Family owned and operated since 1949 Luigi’s is a true Akron landmark. Famous for their pizza, salads and pastas the restaurant has grown from a modest dining room seating 60 to a total of three dining rooms with the capacity to seat 190. We park in a lot on Main St. in front of the restaurant, customers emerge from the front door carrying pizza boxes, inside there’s a buzz of activity. We sit in a wooden booth near the door, a short counter seats customers, a vintage Budweiser globe fixture hangs above. The wall beside us is covered in old photographs of people, sports teams and trophys. Our order is simple, pizza and salad, we get up and walk around while we wait for our food to arrive; walls are hand-painted murals, an eclectic collection of art pieces hang from the ceiling, giving the place a fun vibe. Back at the table our Italian tossed salad arrives covered in a heap of mozzarella cheese-a signature of Luigi’s, the salad is crisp and perfectly dressed. The pizza follows quickly, lifting a piece to the plate, mozzarella stretches the distance. The crust has a nice crunch and thickness, the red sauce is tasty, toppings are generous; since we can’t save any left-overs, we have no choice but to finish it off.  It has been a long day, time for some sleep.

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Roadtrip Ohio: Maumee River

8 May

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Today I will finish up our spring tour of Ohio with a trip along the Maumee River. We begin our journey by hopping on I-75 south to Toledo. On the west side of the city  is the Toledo Botanical Garden. This is a lovely place to walk around; free to the public year round it consists of 60 acres of display gardens, sculpture and Crosby Lake. We come in through the Elmer Drive entrance; the Tulips were Stunning! Tall yellow and purple Tulips create a border the length of the garden wall. Once inside we got ourselves parked and were drawn to another Tulip bed; these were a magnificent orange. We began exploring the grounds in the shade garden; Azaleas were in full bloom showing off blossoms of hot pink in contrast to the white Dogwoods. Daffodils had come and gone but replacing them were Anemone, hostas and Forget-me-nots. This area is lush, you can have a seat at the nearby gazebos and relax while watching the fish swim in the pond beside it.  Traversing the grass we joined up with the paved path passing several large pieces of sculpture provided by Toledo’s Art In Public Places program. We crossed over the water on the wooden bridge to gently rolling grassy hills dotted with fragrant Crabapple trees. The informal gardens are divided by a stone wall; the flowers here were just beginning to come up, the pergola already covered in Wisteria vine in bloom…. much to the delight of the local bees. We meandered around the grounds encountering a herb garden that smelled fantastic, and several other Tulip displays. Each time we come it looks completely different, but it is always a place of beauty and tranquility.

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Back in the car we make our way to River Rd, as we pass the zoo we have to remember to veer left at the Harvard Circle Cloud Fountain to continue on the scenic byway. The river flows from the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie through northwest Ohio into northeast Indiana. This section of the drive, through the city of Maumee is picturesque; stately homes sit back from the road, large front yards lend themselves to exceptionally well-tended landscapes. It has a very Grosse Pointe feel to it and all the while the river is in view. The unique thing about taking this trip in the spring is that Walleye come here to spawn  from the west end of Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St Clair. As a matter of fact this is one of the largest migrations of river bound Walleye east of the Mississippi. It starts in early March and continues through the end of April. You are probably saying “so”. What that means is, fishermen come from all around to catch themselves some Walleye, it is quite a spectacle. Instead of using boats men wade out into the river and cast their lines, when I say men, I mean lots and lots of men, on a weekend there may be 1000 fishermen out in the water. It’s a whole to-do complete with waders, fishing caps, coolers and hibachi’s. Not getting any bites? No problem, just stroll on over to the nearest truck selling fishing lures and try something new.

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 In the town of Waterville we cross over to the south side of the river. Here the terrain becomes a little more country in feel; houses are farther apart, and we start to see farms. Our next stop was the charming hamlet of Grand Rapids; main street looks like a picture on a postcard. Victorian style brick buildings, tiny shops, restaurants, an ice cream stand, and a wonderful view of the river. We meandered in and out of storefronts; the general store has a fun variety of vintage style candy in large glass jars, along with chocolate and other treats. New stores seem to be opening all the time; if you like those girlie home decor shops grab your girlfriends and make a trip down. Antiques from furniture to jewelry are in abundance, they even have an old fashioned book store. It was a pretty day so we picked up a few slices of pizza from Pisanello’s and ate at a picnic table overlooking the Maumee. Grand Rapids has done a marvelous job making the town a wonderful place to visit; they even have an original lock from the Miami Erie Canal, it’s fascinating to see. As a matter of fact throughout much of the drive there is evidence remaining from the old canal.

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We continued to follow the river westward and now there are even fewer homes; farmland is abundant, fields have been turned over and look ready to plant. The scenery was stunning; Redbuds are planted every few feet and were loaded with purple flowers, the scent of lilacs and honeysuckle drifted in through the car windows. It’s a beautiful drive on winding, hilly roads. In Napoleon we see the landmark that reminds us to cross back over the river; a giant can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup! Campbell’s has a plant here and the icon stands on the grounds. Before we know it we have arrived in the city of Defiance; with a population of over 16,000 this is a good size town. In 1845 a canal system linked Defiance with Toledo to the north and Cincinnati to the south, the town exploded with growth. Homes and buildings are built in Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Ann and Colonial Revival styles. Downtown is still in tact and rich with historic buildings. We stopped in the local coffee shop for refreshments and wouldn’t you know it, we stumbled right into the annual Chocolate Walk, yay! The coffee shop was giving out tasty samples of Ohio’s own Buckeye candies, a combination of chocolate and peanut butter. We walked through town a little, both to stretch our legs and find more chocolate……

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Back in the car again, this time heading toward home. Ohio is known for its wonderful park systems; the Maumee river valley is loaded with wonderful metro parks. Each one we explored had free admission and great views of the river. Independence Dam State Park offers a hiking trail that was once the towpath for the Miami/Wabash/Erie Canal, it is three miles long and winds  between the old canal and the river.  We journeyed back the same way we had come; the fishermen were gone now and towns were coming to life on this mild Friday evening. When we arrived back in Grand Rapids we stopped for an ice cream. For the remainder of the way we followed 65 on the south side of the river through Perrysburg and back into Toledo. We said farewell to the Maumee while enjoying a picturesque downtown view. We took it all in, glad to have had an amazing day and a wonderful ride.

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