Thursday, August 29, 2019


We realized that other than visiting family, we hadn't been to Michigan for awhile. We decided to take a trip and return to several places that we went to 21 years ago, long before I started this blog. We didn't make it quite as far as we did that time, and this time we didn't camp but stayed in small motels or B&Bs.

Mackinac Island

I've been to Mackinac Island several times including when I was a kid. The unique thing about Mackinac Island is that there are no cars on the island, just bikes and horses, which is pretty magical when you're a child and still nice as an adult.

Since Mackinac Island is an island, you have to take a short ferry to get to it. There are currently two ferry lines, Shepler's and Star Line and both have regular ferries that go from both Mackinaw City (on the lower peninsula) and St. Ignace (on the upper peninsula). Because we were continuing on to the upper peninsula aka the UP, we crossed the Mackinac Bridge parked in St. Ignace and took the ferry from there.

Where to Stay :
On our first trip, we camped for two nights at the Straits State Park (practically underneath the Mackinac Bridge) and took the ferry over to Mackinac Island for the day. We were able to see most of the sights on that day trip but this time we decided to stay overnight on the island.

While you probably can't go wrong with most of the lodging on the island, I can only offer first hand knowledge from where we stayed, the Cloghaun B&B, one of the oldest Victorian homes on the island. It's a block off the main street so there was a little less tourist traffic but still just a block from the ferry docks. We stayed in the Catherine room and what I liked about it was there were no shared walls with other rooms and no rooms above us so it was very quiet. One thing that was a little odd was that the door to the rest of the house was through the bathroom but since this room also had an outside entrance, we mostly used that.

Where to Eat : 
There are also a lot of restaurants on the island and I doubt you can go wrong with any of those, also.

What to Do :
You can see the Mackinac Bridge in the background, in the upper left corner of this photo

If you like history you can tour Fort Mackinac plus several other historic buildings, some with costumed interpreters. (There is a steep hill leading up to the fort but if you're not up for walking it, I believe you can get a horse and carriage taxi to drop you off at the back entrance.)

More of a nature lover? There are several hikes and you can also see natural features such as Arch Rock and Sugarloaf Rock. For a small island it is surprisingly hilly.

The road around the island is only 8.2 miles so you can bike around the entire island. There are plenty of bike rental companies and they all have several types of bikes to choose from including adult-sized three wheel bikes and tandem bikes. If you'd rather not bike you can rent a horse and carriage or take one of the group carriage tours.

There are also many stores in the downtown district, and while it might seem that most sell t-shirts and fudge, there are also some art galleries, most of which seem to be on Market St.

Other things to do nearby :
In St. Ignace for $1 you can go up on Castle Rock and check out the view from there.

In Mackinac City there are more of the Mackinac State Historic Parks including Colonial Michilimackinac and Mill Creek Discovery Park. We enjoyed both of these places 20 years ago but didn't go back on this trip.

About an hour south of Mackinac City just of I75 is Hartwick Pines which we also went to 20 years ago but didn't have time to stop at on this trip.

Sault Ste Marie

Sault Ste Marie in located in the north eastern part of the Upper Penninsula and is across the St. Mary's River from Salut Ste Marie, Canada. The area is important because of the Soo Locks which allow the large lake freighter ships to travel from Lake Superior to Lake Huron

Where to stay :
The first time we came to Sault Ste Marie we didn't stay overnight.

This time we stayed at the Long Ships Motel, which is across from the Soo Locks where you can see the freighters enter and exit the locks at all times of the day. We paid $10 more to stay in one of the newly remodeled rooms and it was very nice.

Where to Eat :
There are several restaurants in the downtown area withing walking distance of the locks. We enjoyed the Lockview Restaurant, Freigheters (in the Ramada), and Zorba which sells Greek food.

What to Do :
Soo Locks Observation Platform at sunset

Obviously one of the attractions in Sault Ste Marie is going Soo Locks Park and watching the ships in the locks from the observation platform. There's also a Visitor's Center which has some exhibits and also a schedule of when the ships will arrive.

View of the Museum Ship Valley Camp from the Tower of History

If you're curious about the ships, you can visit the Museum Ship Valley Camp which is on an actual Great Lakes Freighter which has exhibits as well as the crews quarters.

Tower of History from the Museum Ship Valley Camp

Personally I like to get a birds eye view and if we visit some place that has a tower which you can go up in, I'm going to go up. The Tower of History doesn't really have much in the way of history but it does have views of the city. Take an elevator ride up to an enclosed platform and if you want to feel the wind in your hair you can walk up or down a short flight of stairs to one of the two outdoor viewing platform. On a clear day you can see Canada!

Other things to do nearby :
When we took this trip 20 years ago we also went to Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore but unfortunately we didn't have enough time to go to them on this trip.

Sleeping Bear Dunes

What to Do :
Back in the Lower Peninsula on the western edge of the state, on the shores of Lake Michigan there are sand dunes.
A plein air painter along the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park

The most famous might be Sleeping Bear Dunes. Here you have three great options that get you out on to the dunes.

The Lake Michigan Overlook is 450 above the lake and goes straight down

My favorite is the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This 7.4 mile drive takes you through a beech maple forest and to an overlook that is 450 feet above the lake. There is a place where people try to climb down to Lake Michigan but it is much farther than it looks. There is also a Sleeping Bear Dune overlook. And if you really want to get out on the sand dunes, you can take the 1.5 mile Cottonwood Trail loop that takes you above the Dune Climb (below). Just be aware that walking on sand takes longer and more effort than hiking in the woods.

View of the Dune Climb from the Cottonwood Trail on the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

You can also get out in the sand at the Dune Climb. This is also more strenuous than hiking and I found it easier to do barefoot.

Lake Michigan at the end of the Sleeping Bear Point Trail dune at sunset

The third option hiking along the Sleeping Bear Point Trail which is just north of the Sleeping Bear Dune. It is close to the Historic Village of Glen Haven, which has costumed interpreters although we've never been there when they've been open.

Where to Eat :
While there are several options in both Glen Arbor and Empire, we ate at the Good Harbor Grill in Glen Arbor on our trip 20 years ago and also on this trip and it hasn't changed one bit (which is a good thing).

Grand Rapids

We were only in Grand Rapids for a few hours, attending a quilt show at the convention center. But we did wander around a little bit and listened to a celtic band perform at Rosa Park Circle. This made me think of a video I had seen set in Grand Rapids so when I got home I looked it up. It was a group lip dub (lip sync) to the song "American Pie" and it took place near the convention center and Rosa Park Circle.

The Frederick Meijer Garden and Sculpture Park was recommended to us but we didn't have time to visit it. Next time, perhaps.


We did not go to Saugatuck on the original trip 20 years ago, so this place was new to us and we really enjoyed it.

Where to Stay :

We stayed at the Bay Side Inn. It's a lovely little B&B that is in a great location on the Kalamazoo River and in the downtown area within walking distance to everything.

What to Do :

The Kalamazoo River runs through Saugatuck and in order to get to the other side you either have to drive around the Kalamazoo Lake (about a 10 minute drive) or in the summer you can take the Saugatuck Chain Ferry (for people and bikes, not cars). The small ferry takes just a few minutes and costs $2 per trip and it's hand cranked along a chain across the river.

Oval Beach is on Lake Michigan and again it's either a 10 minute drive from downtown Saugatuck and park ($10 per car) or you can take the chain ferry and walk one mile to the beach. There are a few options for walking although they all involve hills. You can walk along the road on Perryman Street, along the Mt. Baldy trail (see below), or we walked along a trail that was just south of the Chain Ferry dock and was marked with white and blue striped markers.

The Mt. Baldhead Park Trail starts across from the Saugatuck-Douglas History Museum and starts with 300 steps up. It also goes to Oval Beach.

Saugatuck Dunes State Park is a 10 minute drive north. We didn't get a chance to go there but maybe on the next trip.

Where the Kalamazoo River empties into Lake Michigan on our sunset Paddle Wheel cruiese

Take a ride on the Kalamazoo River on the Star of Saugatuck Paddle Wheel Boat. They cruise around Kalamazoo Lake then up the river and out on Lake Michigan (weather permitting).

Sunday, August 6, 2017


Landing in Kauai

We were invited to join my extended family for a trip to Hawaii. We don't fly a lot but obviously going to Hawaii was going to involve a few planes. You can't fly directly from Ohio to Hawaii, you have to change planes somewhere on the west coast. And it was going to cost the same to fly from Ohio to Oregon to Hawaii in a single day as it would to fly from Ohio to Oregon, hang around Oregon for a few days and then fly to Hawaii, so staying in Portland for a few days would be like getting a free trip! Of course we'd have to pay for our lodging, food, and car rental, but other than than, it's free!

Scott and Todd checking out some public art in Portland

So we chose our flights based on where we wanted to had those two extra trips. Portland was an obvious choice because we have a friend who lives there and we enjoyed visiting the city the last time we went.

Us at the Chandelier Drive Thru Tree

The second choice was a little tougher. LA? San Diego? San Francisco? Seattle? Las Vegas? There were many options but when we thought about where we really wanted to go back to, the redwoods and Trees of Mystery were at the top of my list. Unfortunately there isn't a big town near the redwoods to fly to, so we ended up flying to San Francisco, renting a car, and driving up to Trinidad, CA. In hindsight, perhaps we should have flown to Sacramento and driven up from there. It would have been about the same distance but we were flying in on a Friday and worried about the San Francisco weekend traffic. Turns out it was fine, and we had a great time in the redwoods and Trees of Mystery.

Because I already blogged about the redwoods and Portland when we were there in 2010, I didn't write additional blog posts about them, I just added to the existing posts: California Coast Attractions,  the California Coast Lodging & Dining and Portland Lodging & Dining

One of the things we did encounter, at least on the CA and OR coast, were Paul Bunyan statues. Here's me with four of them, in the order we encountered them.
   1: Willits, CA, in front of the Lumberjack restaurant. Might not actually be a Paul.
   2: Klamath, CA, at Trees of Mystery. The tallest and my favorite. I'm on his boot.
   3. Seaside, OR, on US 26 going from Portland to Cannon Beach. Oney's Roadhouse is closed.
   4. Portland, OR, in the Kenton neighborhood. Currently being fixed and repainted. I'm in the bottom right of the photo.
Click on the photos to see them larger.

Here are the links to the blog posts about Hawaii:

Maui   |   Kauai   |   Oahu   |   Dining in Hawaii



Old Lahaina Luau :  (Lahaina) My favorite thing was going to a luau. The weather was perfect, the sunset over the ocean, the food, the drinks (I'm now a fan of Lava Flows), and the hula dancing!

The dancers were certainly athletic and their hips moved so fast! It was a wonderful night.

Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm : (Kula) The lavender farm is partway up the mountain and offers spectacular views of the island. They grow more than just lavender there, it's more like a botanical garden. They also sell lavender items. I particularly enjoyed the lavender shortbread cookies and the lavender lemonade.

Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center : (Makawao) This is near both the lavender farm and the pineapple tour. This place also offers great views of the islands and used to be a large family house so it's interesting just to see the architecture. They have a gallery, a gift shop, working art studios, and the remains of an old mill.

Maui Pineapple Tours : (Makawao) This tour was educational and also delicious as we got to eat pineapples straight from the fruit out in the field, and they also gave us some pineapples to take home with us. Did you know that pineapples grow on a stalk, like corn does? And a first generation pineapple will take two years to fully ripen. Some tips: a few hours before you want to eat your pineapple, twist the crown off and set it upside-down so the sugars will spread evenly throughout the fruit.

The Road to Hana : (Maui's North Shore) The road to Hana is only 64 miles long but it has 620 curves and 59 one-lane bridges. Not only can it be a slow drive, there are numerous places to stop including waterfalls (to view and also to swim under), beaches, hiking, and local food (we liked Aunt Sandy's banana bread and Coconut Glen's coconut ice cream). There's not all that much to see in the tiny town of Hana, but there are more beaches there. Since there were seven of us and neither rental car could accommodate all of us, we opted to hire someone with a van to drive us. Our guide also knew the best places to stop, including the fact that the giant sea turtles beach themselves on Hookipa Beach in Paia at sunset.

Beaches : There are many beaches on Maui, some are crowded and some are not. This is a photo of Secret Cove beach just south of Makena State Park. This beach is popular for weddings and when we were there they had two weddings going on at the same time.

Interesting towns on Maui

Lahaina : An artsy town on the western edge of the island (they have their art night on the second Fridays, which was when we were there). They also have a giant banyan tree in the center of town. There are plenty of shops and restaurants.

Paia : some of the locals called it a hippie town, which might be why we liked it. Lots of shopping, including the Maui Crafts Guild which is an artist cooperative, and also great food choices including the Mana Foods market which has a food bar where you can get hot food items including pizza and vegetarian items. 

Makawao : Not only was there a lot of original art for sale, there were at least three artists working in their shops when we were there. They have their art nights on the third Fridays.

You can also check out my posts about Kauai, Oahu, and places to eat on Hawaii.



Waimea Canyon : (Waimea) Also known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, this is a large canyon on the western side of Kauaʻi. There are two overlooks in Waimea Canyon State Park (and several other places where you can just pull to the side of the road) and if you keep going down highway 550 there are two more overlooks in Kokeʻe State Park. Both parks also have hiking trails.

Koloa Ziplines : (Koloa) One way to get a great view of a place is to go ziplining! (You can see the line in the bottom of the photo above). Parts of Jurassic Park were filmed here. There were eight lines and the last one was half a mile long. Those of us who were more adventurous even got to go down one line upside-down. While there are several places in Hawaii to go ziplining, I can recommend the place we went to as the guides were great!

Na Pali Coast Sunset Boat Tour : (Hanalei) The best way to see the coast is by boat. The two-hour tour included the boat going into a cave. One interesting note is that somewhere up there is the Kokeʻe State Park overlook that we were at the day before, looking down to here.

Wailua Falls : (north of Lihue) These falls were featured in the "Fantasy Island" opening and you can view them from the road. They are near the airport.

Beaches : There are several beaches in Kauaʻi including Hanalei Bay which is a popular spot for surfboarding in the winter and fairly calm in the summer. Unlike some other places, these beaches can get pretty dark on a night were there isn't any moonlight.

Hiking : In addition to Waimea Canyon, there are several hiking options. Scott hiked along the Okolehao Trail and took the photo above.

Interesting towns on Kauaʻi

Hanapepe : On the south side of the island, the historic district has some interesting shops including the Talk Story Bookstore, which bills itself as the Western Most Independent Bookstore, the coffee shop Little Fish Coffee which did not have fish-flavored coffee but did have lavender iced tea, and a swinging bridge.

Hanalei : On the north side of the island this little town has lots of shopping choices ranging from t-shirts to fabulous art at the Halelea Gallery Kauai and many restaurants although in the evening there aren't as many food choices, although the ones that are open, including the Tahini Nui and the Kalypso are both good options.

You can also check out my posts about Maui, Oahu, and places to eat on Hawaii.



We didn't have much time on Oahu so this post won't be very long or comprehensive.

Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor : The memorial was solemn and educational.

Iolani Palace : Also historically interesting and very grandiose. Nice garden areas outside, also.

Hawaii State Art Museum : I really enjoyed the exhibit that was there "Hawai‘i: Change & Continuity." It opened in Sept. 2015 and the website doesn't list an end date and features artwork by Hawaiian artists. The piece in the center is an art quilt by Karen Gally.

In the same building as the Hawaii State Art Museum is the HiSAM Sculpture Garden which features two interesting art pieces utilizing glass and colors. Above is a pool that has been painting with glass tiles on top of the paint. (That's me "swimming" in it).

This piece is above me in the photo. It's a pavilion with glass on top that has been painted. The colors on the concrete around me are the sunlight shining through the painted glass.

Kuhio Beach Torchlighting and Hula Show : Free shows on the beach on most Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Beaches : There are several beaches on Oahu. In Waikiki we were able to walk a few miles along the beach going by the backs of the hotels.

You can also check out my posts about Maui, Kauai, and places to eat on Hawaii.




Captain Jack's : A fun restaurant and bar on the second floor overlooking downtown Lahaina.


Maui Pie : All of the pies looked and smelled amazing, but we couldn't eat all of them. I can verify that the mango-strawberry is amazing.


Mana Foods : It's a grocery store but it has a hot bar inside where you can get ready-to-eat pizza, chicken, and vegetarian items.



Litte Fish Coffee : Coffee, sandwiches, pastries, and lavender iced tea.


Food Trucks : at 5-5100 Kuhio Hwy in Hanalei, lots of options

Tahini Nui : featured in the movie "The Descendants" but don't try to order an old-fashioned here. Good dinner and drink choices.

Kalypso : Good for dinner, has little private balcony tables. Also has the best Lava Flow cocktail.

Banandi : Savory and sweet crepes.

Chicken in a Barrel : "Surfing an ocean wave isn't the only way to enjoy a barrel." They use a custom made drum barrel to cook their meats.

Hanalei Bay Pizzeria : If you're not that hungry you can get pizza by the slice.

Pink's Creamery : Gourmet ice cream, house-made sorbet, and dairy-free ice cream options. They also make grilled cheese sandwiches with pineapple.



Eggs & Things : They specializes in pancakes, omelets and crepes but are open in the evening, too.

You can also check out my posts about Maui, Kauai, and Oahu.