Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Leelanau Peninsula

We couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised about northwest Michigan than if we had arrived on another galaxy.  It is definitely a beautiful and picturesque state.  Michigan is, as they say....Pure.  Our car is our moon rover and has faithfully scooted all over the main roads and back roads without so much as a hiccup.  We will leave the Traverse City area with so many memories we might have brain freeze.
Scenic Michigan Highway M-22

  The Leelanau Peninsula is a beautiful scenic shoreline drive on M-22, for the most part through miles of looking at big blue Lake Michigan to the inland Lake Leelanau and Glen Lakes.  Several clear, sand-bottomed rivers are along the way with sand dunes, vineyards, orchards, and small resort towns to just plain wilderness beauty.  This area is also on the 45th parallel, an area halfway between the equator and the north pole.  The significance is the atmosphere is extremely conducive to agriculture.
45th Parallel sign on Leelanau Peninsula

Cherry orchard

Picturesque and historical farm on M-22
Upon leaving Traverse City in a northwesterly direction you immediately see the marina beach of Suttons Bay.  They say the shallows of the bays are warm, but my definition of warm is very different from that of a person from Michigan.  The Suttons Bay shops are worth a visit on any casual afternoon, but the artist's galleries are one of the reasons this town was named "100 Best Art Towns in America".
Suttons Bay Shop, MI

Suttons Bay Shop - MI

Black Star Farms - Inn - Vineyard - Stables and Cheese Factory

Making famous Leelanau Raclette Cheese - (think Swiss fondue)

Raclette Cheese Factory - Black Star Farms - Suttons Bay

Processing Raclette Cheese - Black Star Farms - Suttons Bay
 Following M-22 north from Suttons Bay, the village of Northport has a beautiful municipal marina and just about every weekend has some event to attract tourists.  This village celebrates everything imaginable, but Northport is known as one of the area's earliest settlements.   We have met locals who are 5th generation descendants of Northport settlers who have remained involved in the same business on the same farms.
Northport store owned by 5th generation descendants 
 Since Glen Arbor/Glen Haven are within about 6 miles of us at Indigo Bluffs, we probably have gone here the most.  Glen Arbor is a vacation place in a package.  The cottages that line the turquoise water of Glen Lake are stunning.  The fine coastal sand dunes are just as beautiful as the view of the Manitou Islands, very visible on a clear day from the shoreline.    Spectacular sunsets define this area.  Glen Arbor is also the "world headquarters" of Cherry Republic, a tourist draw that sells 100+ items crafted from cherries.
Glen Arbor, MI

Glen Lake Cottages - Glen Arbor, MI

Glen Lake, MI
Cherry Republic Headquarters - Glen Arbor, MI

Olympic Size Pit Spitting Arena - Cherry Republic

View of Manitou Island off coast of Lake Michigan - Glen Arbor

Glen Haven, MI - from Glen Haven Coast Guard Station

Another day draws to an end on Lake Michigan
In our next blog I will take an opportunity to tell you about my interesting adventure to the old Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane, which opened its doors in 1886.  This massive structure in Traverse City served as a state asylum until its closure in 1989.  Very interesting.

Indigo Bluffs, Sleeping Bear and New Friends

For the month of July we have enjoyed staying at a very popular RV resort called Indigo Bluffs in Empire, Michigan.  This resort is a little unique in that it is known for beautiful wild flowers planted throughout the resort, especially in the area where Class A motorhomes are parked.
Indigo Bluffs RV Resort - Empire, MI

Wild Flowers at Indigo Bluffs

Wild Flowers at Indigo Bluffs

Indigo Bluffs RV Resort - view from our Coach

Indigo Bluffs is in close proximity to Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, voted one of the ten most beautiful destinations in America.   Sleeping Bear Dunes is located on the northwestern shore of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, a hilly region fringed with shoreline sand dunes and lots of clear lakes.  We were mesmerized as we took a scenic drive through Sleeping Bear Dunes and enjoyed the view from the 460' tall dunes where so many brave (mostly young) people accept the challenge to climb.  We saw one of the only covered bridges with the National Park Service emblem on the bridge.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Covered Bridge with NPS Emblem

Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Climbing Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

From 460' above Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

View from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
I enjoy long walks every morning which give me an opportunity to see many unique vintage as well as new trailers, motor homes, and every conceivable type of camper you can imagine.  When the opportunity presents itself, I enjoy introducing myself to members of an international organization called Sisters On The Fly  (SOTF), an adventurous group of women who comprise over 1000+ members, who are known all over the country because they buy, restore and decorate vintage travel trailers, and then they travel around the country fishing, playing cards, cooking good food outdoors, and telling tall tales around a campfire. 

Chicken Coupe Express - Indigo Bluffs
 Since we left Florida in March I have met 2 different Sisters.  This is usually an opportunity to make a new friend and discuss their involvement in this organization, how they acquired their vintage trailer and turned "trash into treasure", where they've traveled, and where they're going next.  Everyone of the Sisters will make you smile, make you nostalgic, and think outside your comfort zone.

This morning, it was my good fortune to discover the "Chicken Coupe Express" owned by Laurie Anderson, Sisters On The Fly #336, who lives close to Chicago, IL, and has been involved with SOTF for several years.  She teaches archery, gun safety and fly fishing to youth.  When I introduced myself and asked if I could take a picture of her vintage 1983 Serro Scotty, she was eager to share some of the details of the restoration of her beautiful western-themed travel trailer.   She and her husband, Chris, enjoy kayaking and fly fishing, and they had spent the day before on the Boardman River which links Traverse Bay to Boardman Lake.  
Chicken Coupe Express

Sisters on The Fly - Chicken Coupe Express

Chicken Coupe Express - Welcome all Fisherwomen!

This is called a "Butt Kiss" on all Sisters On The Fly  Campers

Laurie Anderson - a new friend from Sisters On The Fly
 A couple of months ago when we visited the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY, I met another SOTF member, Mary Berry, #3612, in a 1963 Shasta travel trailer.  Mary was attending a fiber show in Lexington, where she was selling alpaca fiber from the family farm outside Houston, where she and her husband raise sheep and alpaca.
Sisters On The Fly Logo

Mary Berry's 1963 Shasta Trailer
From all the books, articles and available information regarding SOTF,  this organization attracts the most amazing, capable, outrageous, talented, and utterly unique women ever!  Their motto is "We have more fun than anyone!"  An article written about a member from Jacksonville, FL, says a lot about the spirit of Sisters On The Fly.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013


We celebrated another milestone a few days ago...MH's birthday.  The Traverse City area is a wonderful place to celebrate....everything!  It was so much fun we've decided to extend her birthday through July 31.  Why should birthdays be limited to one day when they are as much fun as this?!

The weather in Traverse City has been especially comfortable for summer.  We would compare it to a nice Fall day.  It seems like a cool westerly breeze off Lake Michigan is always prevalent.   If "snowbirds" come from the north to enjoy the weather in the south in the winter, what do you call southerners who head north for the summer?
Traverse Bay, MI
Lower Platte River, Benzie County, MI

Sweet cherries are ripe now and it seems that overnight cherry fruit stands have cropped up everywhere. Some roadside signs advertise "cold cherries", where you walk up to an "honor" refrigerator and leave your money in a basket. Michigan grows about 14 varieties of cherries during the season. Sweet, Tart, Yellow, and now we know how to make maraschino cherries (number 5 dye added to yellow cherries and marinate the cherries until they are like rubber).  We enjoyed a 3-cherry pie last week which may have been the best pie ever!  Second place cherry dessert goes to the cherry bread pudding we shared at Little Bohemia Restaurant (Walter Hagen, the golfer's, favorite hideout) in Traverse City.  This time of year you can find everything from cherry salsa to cherry pop!  It's cherry heaven.
Walter Hagan, Professional Golfer
Neat rows of cherry trees and beautiful grapevines line the sandy hills and wineries, and farmer's markets dotting the countryside attest to the area's rich agricultural heritage. One of the reasons northwest Michigan is perfect for growing cherries, grapes, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries is its proximity to the 45th parallel - halfway between the equator and the north pole - which makes it very conducive to raising these delicious fruits.
Cherry Orchard, Leelanau Peninsular, MI

Black Star Farm Vineyards, Suttons Bay, MI

Black Star Farms - Raclette Cheese

Drive In Movie - Honor, MI
While riding  the Peninsular's scenic shoreline-hugging M-22, we visited Point Betsie Lighthouse, a rock star among lighthouses.  Built in 1858, this lighthouse is the oldest structure in Benzie County on Lake Michigan, and its 37-foot tall gleaming white tower sits 52 feet above the lake and can be seen 27 miles out at sea. Some of the areas 16 documented shipwrecks can be seen from the shore because of the shallow water.
Michigan-22 Highway, Michigan

M-22 South  Highway

Point Betsie Lighthouse - Michigan
Lake Michigan Dunes near Point Betsie Lighthouse
 Several of our RV friends are in Traverse City from Florida Grande in Webster, FL.  Marty and Kathy Kimball, drove from Gillette, Wyoming, after attending a Monaco rally before the giant Escapade Rally.  Ronnie and Marianne DiGiglia (drove from Murphy, NC), Dick and Lynn Callaghan, and Gary and Mim Van Horn.  Good food - good times - great memories!