Catching Up, Part 1: Sightseeing in the Upper Peninsula, or not, as the case may be

Mackinac Island

This is the start of a series of catch-up blog posts. I fell off the wagon of writing, and had a hard time getting started again. Life sometimes just gobsmacks you, and you have to roll with it and have faith you’ll come out on the other side. So here I am on the other side. Yay! ANYway…

Chuck and I went on a small plane sightseeing trip with my sister and brother-in-law in July. It was a lovely leisurely week. I thought we were going to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (I mistakenly thought Traverse City was part of Upper Peninsula). If I had bothered to actually look at a good map of Michigan I would have discovered the error of my ways, but no. So I just harbored this misconception that we were in the Upper Peninsula when we were really just in the northern part of the state (and it was a lovely part! just NOT the Upper Peninsula). Oh well, other than the occasional odd look from Michiganders when I would mistakenly refer to places like Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as part of the Upper Peninsula, it was a no-harm-no-foul kind of mistake.

We flew first to Flint to visit Chuck’s sister and family who live outside Flint in a small town called Lapeer. My sister and brother-in-law flew up there from Pittsburgh. The plan was to then fly in their small plane to Grand Rapids to check out the Gerald Ford Presidential Museum. East Coast summer weather had other plans and a storm came through, which meant we had to drive to Grand Rapids. No biggie. We input the museum into the GPS and off we went. Except that we input the LIBRARY not the museum into the GPS. As we drove into Ann Arbor (who knew that the Gerald Ford Museum and Library are the only presidential museum and library to be located in separate cities?!?), we realized our 3-hour mistake and after a brief tour of Ann Arbor (it appears to be a very neat place!), we got back on the road and headed to the museum in Grand Rapids. This was our second Presidential Museum (after the Jimmy Carter Museum in Atlanta). We really enjoyed it and learned lots about Gerald and Betty Ford (and can I just say, she was one kick-ass woman!). We are putting all of the Presidential Museums on our must-see list of things to do in the U.S.

From there we drove back to Flint and then flew up to Traverse City. While in Traverse City we rented a car and drove to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. It’s a beautiful park with amazing sand dunes. We spent one night there then continued up to Sutton’s Bay and spent a couple of nights there. We stayed at the Vineyard Inn, a charming place located right on the shores of the bay. It was a great base to explore the area and do some wine tasting. We then drove back to Traverse City and flew to Mackinac Island where we spent a few days of car-free quiet (no cars are allowed on Mackinac Island). We even got my sister on a bike for the first time in, well, forever, for the required ride around the island (it’s only an 8.2 mile loop) that highlighted the beautiful scenery that is just everywhere on the island. We stayed at the Harbor View Inn, which was a really nice place a few blocks from the craziness of downtown/ferry area. In the evening we’d sit on the balcony and watch the sun set and enjoy a glass of Michigan wine.

Miller Brewing Co, Milwaukee, WIWe were going to head to Sault St. Marie after Mackinac Island (where we would have actually really truly have been in the Upper Peninsula), but there was a storm front heading that way and since we were flying in a small plane and didn’t want to get stuck up there and miss our flight home, we decided to head to Milwaukee (our final destination) a day early. This turned out to be great – Milwaukee is a fabulous town. We toured the Harley Davidson Museum (my brother-in-law’s family has ties to the early days of Harley and Davidson) which was way neater than I thought it would be, and we also toured the Miller Brewing Company. There are a LOT of options when it comes to touring breweries in Milwaukee. I confess we chose this one because I read that we would get to meet the holographic ghost of Frederick Miller. We sampled some beer, got to pose for a dorky photo (in which only I was gutsy enough to wear a cheesehead hat) and I learned how many different brands Miller owns. We also were able to squeeze in a dinner with my niece and her son who live outside Milwaukee. That’s the great thing about small plane trips. You have to be ready to change your plans and adjust your schedule – and sometimes the changes turn out to be wonderful opportunities!

So that was our whirlwind week in Michigan. This ends Part 1 of God knows how many posts of catching up. Photos here.