The waters of the Grand Traverse region — the “Little Finger” of Michigan’s Mitten — have been called the freshwater version of the Caribbean thanks to sugar-sand beaches and remarkably colored waters that range in hue from turquoise to aqua to sky blue, sapphire and emerald.
We arrived at my cousin’s cottage late Thursday afternoon. Anne and John Beery’s 100 year old cottage sits on the shore of Duck Lake. We are in a region known for it’s artistic culture, Interlochen Center for the Arts is located just down the street; we are also in a hidden gem of Michigan, the Grand Traverse Bay known for the “finger peninsulas” that stretch into this bay on Lake Michigan.
Dale and I didn’t know what we were in for! It certainly wasn’t a time for rest, we were on the go as Anne our tour guide took us to little towns, wineries and national and state parks in this northwest corner of Michigan! Oh, and of course, we fit in MOOmers.
The weather was a bit inclement, a heavy overcast but, fortunately, the rain came only at night so we were not hindered too much.
One of our first stops took us to the small town of Empire and a little chocolate shop gaining notoriety. The Grocer’s Daughter, named literally after a grocer’s daughter, features delicious chocolates, some original combinations I never tasted before. The store boasts of salted dark chocolate bark that plays with the palette and a spicy dark chocolate bar dusted with three different chili spices; this one you take little nibbles of to capture the bold spicy edge of pure enjoyment.
John’s brother, Michael, is the manager of the Grocer’s Daughter. He told us the country origin of the chocolate, the process in which it is made and how this tiny store makes the chocolate candy in the back room.
On a Friday afternoon, the store was busy and we had to patiently wait our turn to view the truffle chocolates in the cold cabinet. I didn’t know which way to turn or what to buy but we settle on the salted dark chocolate bark and the spicy dark chocolate bark. It is so wonderfully rich it should last a while. NOT.
After the Grocer’s Daughter, Anne drove us to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, which was closed due to the government shut down. Interestingly enough, the shutdown didn’t deter visitors, they drove around the barrier and parked in the parking lot to hike up the huge sand dune for the view of the bay on the other side.
Then Anne drove us to what is known as Fish Town in Leland, a historic, small fishing village. The buildings are original, rustic and small; they are restored and little boutique shops today. Again, for a dreary, cloudy Friday this town was bustling with tourists.
Our day ended at MOOmers, an ice cream store recommended by Dale’s sister and brother-in-law. John and Jackie must have stumbled upon this little delight on their vacation to this area a few years ago. I mean, how else would you know about MOOmers? And, MOOmers Homemade Ice Cream was Voted America’s Best Scoop on ABC’s Good Morning America in May ’08! < click to watch GMA’s highlight. I had cherries MOObile and Dale had orange chocolate – both were wonderful!!
On Saturday morning, we started all over again, but this day took us out onto the Old Mission peninsula and the Old Mission lighthouse. I wondered what it was like long ago living in the lighthouse in the wintertime. I can’t imagine the lonely life as the winter blizzards blew about forming wind whipped ice sculptures on anything and everything standing upright! The keepers of the lighthouse kept it lit in the worst of storms both summer and winter and many ships came to safe harbor in the bay.
Our afternoon was spent driving to two wineries, two of many that are on the Old Mission peninsula. The clouds remained but created a beautiful background for the scenery from the wineries. The landscaped changed from tall, deciduous hard woods to open rolling hills of cherry and apple orchards and then vineyards.
We visited 2Lads and Chateau Chantal wineries. Chateau Chantal was hosting a Harvest Tasting so the whole winery was open to tourists. There were a few other venues sharing local cheeses and art and the Grocer’s Daughter was there as well. You know, gotta pair dark chocolate with red wine!
Back at the cottage, John was preparing our dinner of pasties. When we returned home, the groceries were being unloaded and the chopping was just beginning. After hours of preparation and making, John’s family arrived for dinner. Mr. and Mrs. Beery and Michael, John’s brother and manager of Grocer’s Daughter, Sarah, John and Anne’s daughter, John, Anne and ourselves sat down for a delicious dinner! As it just started to rain outside, we were safely ensconced and enjoying a warm dinner of a pastry filled with root vegetables and ground beef. I was in esculent heaven as I savored each and every tasty morsel of my pasty.
Dale and I left yesterday morning, Sunday, to drive to northern Indiana for the night. However, in long motorized trips like this, the odds of mechanical problems is bound to happen. When pulled off for fuel in Sears, MI, the engine wouldn’t turn over after fueling up; Dale turned the key in the ignition and it just went “click.” So he asked a Michigander if he could help him find the problem that was somehow related to the battery. The kind fellow and Dale noticed there was corrosion on the battery terminals from the many days and nights of rain. The moisture corroded the terminals so the problem was quickly fixed and we were on our way again.
However, after stopping for lunch in a Walmart parking lot, I noticed the refrigerator and freezer were not cooling; a sure determining factor was Dale’s Klondike bars were thawing into soft serve ice cream. So in Ionia, thankfully Ionia, a larger town, we found a full hook-up RV park to plug in and get our appliance back down to it’s proper temperature.
So here we are, Monday morning. The sky is still overcast but it is supposed to clear. The refrigerator/freezer has cooled to normal temperatures but we may still stop at an RV garage to have the unit checked. Hopefully, we will make it to somewhere in central Indiana today.
We have been very fortunate with the weather as it has raged this past week across the nation. We traveled through many of the places in South and North Dakota that received heavy, wet snow measuring in feet. Also, hurricane Karen, remained to the east of us. There was flooding in Louisville, Kentucky, a city we want to stop at to tour Churchill Downs. Again, fortunately, the flooding and cleanup will be past when we arrive there this week. So all in all, we are thankful for our safe travel – but, yes, there must always be a glitch or two!
Our overnight town of Ionia at sunset