Pure Michigan

Where: Suttons Bay, Traverse City, Leland and Fishtown, Northport, Omena, Charlevoix, Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Grand Rapids, Little Point Sable, Mackinac Island, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Marquette

Zowee. After sprinting across the country from San Diego to Michigan in just over a week, we thought, “Ahhhh, we have six weeks to settle in, relax, hang out with family and friends, and enjoy the Michigan summer.” I even considered getting a part-time job – ha! Not a chance. We did, in fact, have six weeks to enjoy the Michigan summer, but we did it at break-neck speed. As usual. Six weeks seems like a mighty long time, but in geologic time, it’s not even a fraction of a second. It went by so fast and we packed in so much fun stuff that this was a challenging post to write. It really should be multiple posts, but we’re already behind on the blog so you get a Michigan mash-up. The post is broken it up into five galleries and the corresponding text for each precedes the photos. So, sit back, grab your beverage of choice, and enjoy the s*#t ton of photos, and one longish quick-moving video at the end.

4th of July Week

We arrived at Suttons Bay on June 29, where the Florida Frasers (Jeff, Betsy, and Sophie) had rented the “Kooky” house (affectionately named for the seeming lack of design and organic add ons) for the week. It served as the perfect staging area for the family shenanigans that were about to commence in the lead-up to the 4th of July and Soph’s 18th birthday on the 5th. Betsy’s parents, Bob and Judy, own a home just up the road from the Kooky house, and her sister, Sue, and Sue’s three kids were in town from Park City, UT. And, of course, the Traverse City Frasers (Tobin, Gretchen, Sierra, Wiley, and Payson), and Rand’s parents, Don and Nancy, live nearby on the other side of the bay. So, the gang was all here, and it was just a little bit of mayhem.

Many people don’t realize that northern Michigan, where Rand grew up, is spectacularly beautiful. Freshwater abounds in big lakes, little lakes, and rivers and streams connecting the lakes, so the vast majority of summer days are spent in and around the water. If the sun is out, or – check that – any time between the last snow melt and the first snow fall, Michiganders are outside. This summer was no exception, especially after the unusually wet June they experienced; by the time we arrived, everyone was jonesing to soak up as much sun as possible.

It was sunset when we rolled up to the Kooky house, and the mosquitoes were getting their groove on, so Jeff stoked the campfire. We settled in for what would be the first of many nights of bugs, white rabbits, s’mores, and best of all, family. Hanging out with the freshwater Frasers requires a bit of a shift in mindset – as well as pace. They own and adore their power boats, so going from a slow-boat, like Free Luff (and I’m not dissing FL, dammit), to go-fast boats, like the Swamp Canary and Bob, was eye- and ear-opening. It’s astonishing how much distance we covered in such a short time – we’re just not used to that. So, there was a lot of zipping around the bay, tubing, and general water play shenanigans. It made for a wonderful week of too much sun and many laughs.

4th of July Week Gallery
A Week In Between Events

After a week in the Kooky house, it was time for a little local chillin’ and pseudo-homeownership at Jeff and Betsy’s condo in Suttons Bay where we squatted for part of our six week stay. Oh, and a little bit of time was spent preparing for Rand’s early 50th birthday shindig. We settled right into living on land, organizing, building furniture, and fixing stuff – almost like living on da boat. We took mini road trips around the county to see places I’ve never seen, which are especially lovely in the summertime. Did I mention that Michigan is gorgeous, especially in the summertime? There was boating on Bob, pickleball, flower picking, visiting lots of friends, and of course, lots of sun and noms. And boating on Bob and pickleball.

In-Between-Events Gallery
Rand’s Early Birthday Week

When I turned 50, Rand pulled off the ultimate in surprise parties. He began planning in March for my August birthday (the party was actually in September) and I was in the pitch dark the entire time. Up until the moment I saw my friends and family emerging from the shadows at Mission Bay, I was totally clueless. Five years later, it was my turn to try to surprise my hubby on his 50th. Unfortunately, I didn’t threaten anyone with death if they blew it, and boy do I regret it. Not one, not two, not three, but at least four of our friends let the cat outta the bag, either via email (and cc-ing Rand) or during casual conversation, “So, you’re going to Michigan…big party, huh? Sorry we’ll miss it.” Awe geez. So, he knew something was up, he just didn’t know who was going to show up or when or where. Not horrible, but I did fail in the pulling-off-a-surprise department. Regardless, he was truly stunned when we gathered at Jean and Doc Howard’s presumably to hang out with Howie, Michele, and Gabe, when lo-and-behold, a few of his homies – Jim, Stan, Ryan, and Thad and Kristin – turned up. Now that was a surprise! Yay me! We did manage to celebrate Michele’s real birthday with pizza and donuts – yum!

The following morning, I picked up Flea at the airport (another successful surprise) and I had recruited Howie and Stan to steal Rand away for a mountain bike ride while we ran around town, renting place settings and pint glasses, acquiring provisions from Costco, and generally acting like a chicken with my head cut off. The one thing I couldn’t secure was a party tent, and wouldn’t you know it? It rained. Luckily we had one pop-up, thanks to Tob and GG, but it wasn’t big enough for everyone, so we hunkered down inside Don and Nancy’s and snacked on some snacks until the skies cleared and it was time for football, Cornhole, and smacking a piñata. After most of the guests had departed, there was a drunken game of around-the-world ping pong and, of course, skinny dipping. Brrrrr!

So, the day was a great success and I couldn’t have pulled it off with the help of many:

  • Don and Nancy for the venue;
  • Chad and Heather Jordan for procuring the tasty suds;
  • Thad and Kristin for picking up and tapping the kegs;
  • Howie and Michele for the delicious birthday cakes (thank goodness you got three!!);
  • Flea, Thad, Kristin, and Ryan for helping to set everything up;
  • Bill and Peg for tables, drink tubs, and the bouquet of lavender;
  • Tobin and Gretchen for the pop-up, Cornhole, drink tubs, coolers, and the use of the Ram;
  • Howie for the tables; and
  • the O’Keefes for the taco piñata, the glow thingies, and the beautiful hydrangeas!

Once the bleary eyes cleared and we enjoyed an innocuous after-party brunch, we spent a little time showing Flea, Thad, and Kristin around Traverse City, ascending and descending the dunes at Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, and strolling around the Grand Traverse Commons in TC. When all was said and done, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t a total surprise; Rand had a wonderful time, so many people from his life showed up from near and far, and love and happiness swirled around endlessly. Couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Early Birthday Week Gallery
Forced-Family-Fun in Charlevoix

One of the reasons we decided to stay in Michigan for six weeks was because Tob and GG had organized a staycation at the beginning of August in a big house on the shore of Lake Charlevoix. We also wanted to be in Michigan for 4th of July, so, there you have it. Six weeks. Jeff, Bets, and Sophie were coming back, Sierra and Sam were coming up from Kalamazoo, and the O’Keefes were going to be there, too. Some would struggle living in a house with 16 people and only three bathrooms, but hey, we were up for it. And, dang, it was a total blast.

Sun fun, water play, boating, rain, drinking, pickleball, biking, walkabouts, yoga, Cornhole, campfires, s’mores, ice cream, family dinners, doing dishes, Don and Nancy’s 60th wedding anniversary…whew! That about sums it up. Wait! One of the most exciting activities was the relay race! Teams were organized by birth order (i.e., the first born were a team, the middle born were a team, etc.), elements included rolling large fuzzy dice until it landed on six, throwing three Cornhole bags so that they landed on the platform, hitting a bucket with a lawn dart, folding a towel (neatly – except Nancy), spelling a four letter word on a Scrabble board, kicking a ball into a ring, and running around the grass with a lime balanced in a spoon. It was a total blast, with the first-born cohort taking the grand prize (bragging rights).

Thank you, thank you, Tobin and Gretchen, for doing all the heavy lifting to bring all of us together. It was so worth it – an unforgettable time with family and friends.

Forced-Family-Fun-in-Charlevoix Gallery
Last Week in Michigan

After weeks of fun, fun, fun, we had one week to go, more to do, and more family and friends to see. Our last days found us feeling like we had to wrap back and seek out things and people we’d missed during the first five weeks. So, there we were, cramming in more family dinners; the Traverse City Film Festival; visits downstate to Honor to see ConnieMom and Channon Jordan (Chad’s mom and sister, respectively), Grand Rapids (to see Jody’s former USFWS coworker, Randy Nagel), and Little Point Sable (to visit Laura and Rand’s cousins); a quick stint on Mackinac Island (because I’d never been there before); and one last rendezvous with the Howards in Marquette (because we could). Turns out six weeks isn’t very long in any one place. It was all a blur. And we were completely, elatedly, exhausted.

The pictures encapsulate pretty well our time in Michigan, but we should throw in a few random things. For instance, have you ever been witness to a Midwestern storm? Holy jeepers! We had a couple good ones. One even prompted the emergency weather service to send out automated warnings to people’s telephones at 11:30 at night. As I lay in the bed with the covers over most of my face (I left my eyes exposed so I could watch the lightning that was continuously flashing in the sky), Rand and his parents were sawing logs. Apparently, one gets used to fiery, thunderous storms. And remember we spun out in Missouri during a torrential downpour? Well, the cause was due to inadequate tread on the rear tires on the Civic. So, after a scolding by Vanessa and Tobin, we remedied the situation by putting two new tires on the car in Grand Rapids.

Also, a couple thoughts on the Traverse City Film Festival. There’s so much more to this annual event, but we just wanted to mention the two movies we managed to squeeze in (thanks to Don and Nancy). The first was Maiden, a documentary about a young woman who wanted to be crew on any boat undertaking the Whitbread Round the World Race in the late 1980s. The problem was, no boat would take her on, except as a cook. So the story goes that Tracy Edwards decided to take on the status quo, gather an all-woman crew, procure a boat, and race around the world. Without setting out to purposefully do so, she may have single-handedly changed the male-dominated mindset towards women in sailing. Certainly, it wasn’t all rosy then and it’s still not all rosy now, as there’s still plenty of misogyny to go around, but she definitely opened the eyes of the sailing world to the fact that women are equal to men on the water and at the helm. This movie is wonderful – check it out! (See also https://48north.com/the-magazine/ – August 2019 issue: I am a Sailor by Becca Guillote. Becca is a fabulous sailor and writer aboard S/V Halcyon.)

Ok, this next film deserves a post of its own, but I’ll spare you. It’s titled Planet of the Humans. It is a sobering look at what our future on this planet may hold unless we drastically modify the way we live and the way we utilize the finite resources the Earth provides. It’s about acknowledging that “green” energy (i.e., renewables like solar, wind, and biofuels) isn’t really green – the cradle to grave carbon expenditures are extremely costly – and generation from renewable sources cannot keep up with energy needs if we continue to consume everything (energy, goods, and just stuff in general) the way we do and the population continues to grow as it has been. There are no coal-fired power plants or natural gas plants being taken offline because of additional renewable energy sources – the current energy demand is simply too high, and growing too fast. The film is quite doom and gloom, and we’re hoping that before it gets released to wider audiences, the producers change the ending to actually offer some hope and/or solutions, either individual ones or collective ones. To us, it’s about connecting all the dots – conservation of resources, consumption of resources and stuff, population growth – these are things that need to be addressed globally, but we as individuals can do our part by minimizing our impact on the Earth, reducing our own footprint, and recognizing and respecting the interconnectedness of everything – the air we breath, the water we drink, and the soil we walk upon. There are no simple solutions; we live in a very complex ecosystem, but we each need to seek more clarity in how we approach life on Mother Earth.

So, that’s six weeks in Michigan. It was a fabulous whirlwind of family and friends, and turns out, it wasn’t long enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who made the effort to see us while we were there, for providing food and shelter, and for the massive displays of love and affection!

Last-Week-in-Michigan Gallery

And now for the video section of the post…Buckle up, because it goes pretty fast! Enjoy 😉