July 30, 2016


“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  Woody Allen

Carol writes:  During our week at the Spartan Academy, our names were picked in a drawing for 3 free days at a luxury RV resort in Petoskey called Hearthside Grove.

From Hearthside Grove's Facebook page

Since we were headed in that direction, Al made a slight change to our plans so we could take advantage of this lucky opportunity.

In “RV Park Reviews” Hearthside Grove rates a 9.9 out of 10.  For the life of me, I don’t know what accounts for the tenth of a point deduction in their score!  The investors who built this luxury RV resort built it with sale of the individual RV sites in mind—for Class A motorhomes only.  Our site

was an unimproved lot in the newest section, which had each lot designed with the potential to accommodate a large-style bungalow in addition to the RV hookup site in an extra wide driveway.  This design certainly offered a pretty sweet summer vacation spot with all the room you could want for visitors!  Tennis courts, outdoor fireplaces, shaded patios, a pool and a clubhouse rounded out the amenities. 

I must say the landscaping was out of this world!  And the premium lots with a lake view were situated just perfectly.

Lot improvements ranged from a small bungalow   

to the ultra-deluxe ones with a small house (called a large bungalow).  This lake site pictured below had an advertised price of $659,000!  Uh, we'll pass...

This was certainly an interesting concept that we had never seen before in our RV life on the road.

We spent an afternoon walking around the cute little town of Petoskey.  By the time we parked, The Little Traverse History Museum was only 15 minutes from closing, but we were kindly allowed that time to take a quick look around.  I was curious about the Michigan connection with writer Ernest Hemingway, so I headed straight to the gallery with displays all about the time Hemingway lived in the area as a young man.  The Hemingway family spent summers at their family cottage called Windemere on nearby Walloon Lake.  It was in Michigan where young Hemingway perfected his writing style in stories set in Michigan locales.

According to the museum display, “The Torrents of Spring” was Hemingway’s very first novel, and this book was a satire set in Petoskey.  Might be interesting to look that one up…

The next day we decided to head up toward Harbor Springs and Good Hart, near the tip of the Mitten State, along the scenic Tunnel of Trees.

We thought Petoskey was a pleasant little town along the shore of Lake Michigan, but Harbor Springs was over-the-top interesting and photogenic!

The harbor area with its lovely floral beds

and luxury yachts

got our attention right out of the parking lot.

Beautifully landscaped bed and breakfast homes had elevated killer views of the marina in the distance.

We had a nice conversation at a coffee shop with a family of 3 who were out for the day biking 50 miles along the coast.  They enthusiastically gave us tips on Michigan sights we must see.

The main street in Harbor Springs had typical tourist shops with cuteness overload,

plus a nod to their claim on Hemingway, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.

North of Harbor Springs the beauty of the Scenic Heritage road called the “Tunnel of Trees” was a little difficult to appreciate when an afternoon rain shower blew in off the lake. 

I had become hooked on a Michigan true crime writer by the name of Mardi Link.  In 2008 she published a book titled “When Evil Came to Good Hart,” the story of the unsolved murder of the Robison family of 6 who were slain in their Good Hart family cabin back in 1968.   I had just started reading this novel when our travel route took an unanticipated turn toward Good Hart. Since we had noticed many signs advertising a Mini-Fair in Good Hart, I found it irresistible not to drive a little further north to Good Hart so I could  get the perfect visual for the story that had captured my attention.

Soon we came upon the mini-fair and used the time there to escape the tail end of that afternoon’s rain showers.

A hamburger and a drink out of the rain was just what we needed.

Back in Good Hart we drove by the Good Hart General Store, the physical hub of this tiny town for over 70 years.  Aside from private homes, the entire town of Good Hart consisted of no more than approximately 4 buildings.

Another venue briefly mentioned in Mardi Link’s story was the St. Ignatius Church and Native American cemetery.

The cloudy, rainy day made for spooky ambience as we absorbed the minimal small-town sights and sounds of Good Hart, a tiny northern Michigan village that hasn’t changed all that much since that summer 48 years ago when it was torn apart by unspeakable violence.

Traveling.  It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”  IBN Battuta


July 22, 2016


“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake.”  Wallace Stevens

Carol writes:  The Great Lakes were once ancient river valleys that were carved into lakes by retreating glaciers of the last ice age approximately 11,800 years ago.  Our next stop along the shore of America’s largest lake, Lake Michigan (the other Great Lakes are shared with Canada), was in lovely Frankfort,

a small Michigan town oozing with charm and a picture-perfect beach.

The small-town atmosphere appealed to us as an ideal location to take in some Fourth of July fireworks over Lake Michigan. 

We felt fortunate to discover a dedicated bike trail that we were able to pick up at the Frankfort marina. 

Marshy area wildflowers were in full bloom along the Betsie Valley Trail.

We were so impressed with the totally natural beauty of the Lake Michigan shoreline.  Somehow, rampant over-development with high-rise hotels and condos has never found a niche here, and many small Lake Michigan communities are all the better for it.

This was quite evident up at the Point Betsie Lighthouse where the waves on this windy day were crashing spectacularly into the seawall at the base of the lighthouse.

The coastline of rolling grass-covered sand dunes was outstanding.

The iconic sand dune of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a navigational landmark on Lake Michigan.  According to Native American legend, this dominant solitary dune represents Mother Bear who waits for her cubs who have drowned at sea, and are now represented by North and South Manitou Islands, 12 and 16 miles offshore in the sparkling clear waters of Lake Michigan.

Since Sleeping Bear Dunes was the main reason for our decision to stay in Frankfort, we paid close attention to the Weather Bug app for a day that seemed most ideal for a visit.  The federal lands set aside for the National Lakeshore encompassed a wide expanse of land interspersed with privately owned parcels, so we chose the Pierce Stocking 7-mile scenic drive as the best way to appreciate this unique setting.  The scenery was indeed beautiful…

It was with great anticipation that we approached the stop along the drive that would lead us to the very summit of the biggest dune 400 feet above Lake Michigan.  The parking lot was mobbed and we actually had to wait for a parking space to open up.  As soon as we found a parking spot, within a span of about 5 minutes, we saw visitors come flooding out of the short path to the top of the dunes, each looking a little worse for wear.  A fierce wind had blown in from the lake and conditions at the top had suddenly deteriorated into a sandstorm.  One man seriously advised me, “Don’t go out there!”  However, we both had hats, wraparound sunglasses and our trusty bandannas, so after a picnic lunch in the car we decided to give it a try.

My camera is still acting a little funky and probably needs a cleaning from all the blowing sand, but we did get to the top of the dunes for our customary “I was there” photo.

Picture-taking was challenging and the blowing sand stung our skin, but the view was superb!  An inconvenient sandstorm just made enticing Sleeping Bear Dunes all the more unforgettable.

During our 2-week stay in Frankfort, a major summer event called the National Cherry Festival was in full swing up in Traverse City.  A visit to the Cherry Festival had been recommended to us by many people we had spoken to over the past few weeks, so we set out for Traverse City to see what it was all about.

What we found was typical carny rides, a tasty choice of food, and numerous vendors with a creative variety of cherry products...but not much else.

The cherries themselves were quite pricey—$5 for a cup!  A few days later we found a quart of cherries at a farmers’ market selling for half the price demanded by the sellers at the Cherry Festival. Traverse City itself was attractive in a cutesy way, but parking was a huge issue, stores were crowded, and lines for ice cream were long, so we called it an early day.  I still don’t understand the draw of the Cherry Festival itself, but as for Michigan sweet cherries... they really are delicious!

We much preferred our day trip south to the small town of Manistee.  

The neatest thing the city of Manistee had going for it was the hour-long historic trolley tour that took us down to the beach

along the former streetcar system through neighborhoods that had beautifully restored Victorian-era homes from the time of the lumber barons. 

The storefronts in the shopping district were over a hundred years old and were nicely restored. 

We found the Democratic Party headquarters all by ourselves.

What has tickled me since the day our travels brought us to the Midwest is the use of the term “growler” for a container of fresh beer, a word I remember clearly from my childhood in the Cincinnati area.  When one of my parents wanted a refill on their nightly glass of beer, we would be asked to “rush the growler.”  For me, it is amusing to find that the word “growler” is alive and well.

“A lake that is noisy cannot reflect anything.”  Robert Adams