2019 Summer Reflections

This was our first full summer in our new East Tawas home. The first summer of “retirement”. My first summer as an empty nester. While it was hard in some ways, and there are things I will change for next year, for the most part it was a great summer. I know technically summer has a couple more weeks left and I will enjoy them. For the purpose of this post though I am referring to summer as Memorial Day through Labor Day.

We were busy almost every weekend.

We started off the summer with friends up for Memorial Day and ended with different friends up for Labor Day. We also had friends here 4 other weekends, Jack and Cassie each spent 2 weekends here and Chad and I were gone for 3 weekends. And just like that, the 15 weekends of summer were gone! As much as I love playing hostess and opening up our home to our friends and family, I REALLY enjoy not having plans once in awhile too during those peak summer weekends. So next year I plan on spacing out our visitors a bit more so that we have some down weekends too in the summer. Spring and fall are beautiful times of year to visit!

I discovered how many cool things our town offers in the summer.

There were Community Concert Band performances on Monday nights a short walk away from our place. They got rained out a couple of times but we did make it for a whole performance and a couple of partial ones. I was very happy to see how many people in the community were in attendance. Side note: most people like to people watch, but I was fascinated by the assortment of portable chairs people had! There are SO MANY options now!

Tuesday nights brought the street dances to downtown East Tawas. A different live band played each week and people brought their wonderful portable chairs again. Everyone enjoyed the music on those warm summer evenings and the kids and couples danced in the streets!

There was an awesome 4th of July parade, Summerfest weekend, Blues by the Bay, Uncorked (an art and wine festival), Sidewalk sales, 2 arts and crafts shows at Shoreline Park. Not to mention all of the live music at Bikini’s beach bar. There was PLENTY of entertainment to be found!

We started a garden

We lovingly planted and cared for our garden plots in the community garden. I celebrated the blooms and was sad over the ones that didn’t make it. I discovered that giant zinnia’s really ARE giant! Chad harvested his veggies and I learned new ways to cook them. He pickled peppers for the first time. We were also heartbroken when a bad wind storm destroyed all but a few stalks of his corn. We know what to do differently next year so when the season is over we will prepare the soil and get an earlier start next spring on prepping and planting. It’s been a fun project.

I got involved in the community

I worked a few weekends at the Friends of the Tawas Point Lighthouse and State Park farm market table. I really enjoyed talking to people, both residents and tourists. Everyone has a story about the Point and it felt good to be able to answer some questions. I also volunteered out at the lighthouse and helped give tours a few times too. My favorite assignment by far was being up in the tower and pointing things out to the visitors. The views are amazing! When I was stationed at the bottom of the tower I had a lot of time to chat with people waiting to go up, many of them camping locally or visiting for the day. I met people from all over the country, and even a few from overseas.

I did a lot of reading

I didn’t realize how much I missed reading until I had the time to do it again! I finished 15 books over the last 3 months. Books on Shipwrecks and Great Lakes Ghost Stories, romances, adventure, mystery. My favorite place to read is my own deck. Many afternoons I could be found outside under the umbrella enjoying a good book. Some days I even walked down the street to the bay to have lunch, take a dip in the water, and read by the beach. Those were my favorite afternoons.

I danced, a lot.

When you live in a beach town it only makes sense to spend as much time near the water as you can. So Bikini’s Beach Bar was our home away from home. Only a short walk away, we spend many weekends there talking to the friendly waitstaff and bartenders, listening to the live music and making new friends. I dragged my poor hubby up to dance many slow dances with me. He reluctantly will do some fast dancing with me too, but usually I am able to find other people so he is spared. He would much rather watch from a bar stool! Our visiting friends and family have all met our resort buddies as we always seemed to end up there at some point over the weekend.

 

Things I wanted to do more of

I wish I had been able to swim more with Chad. We only had a handful of days when it was still hot enough by the time he got home from work that we could do some evening swimming. He is off on the weekends, but our weekends were so busy that it didn’t allow for many beach days. I’m hoping we get some hotter weather later this month so we can swim once or twice more!

Picnics. We only did it once but it was fun. We packed up the picnic basket and walked down to the beach a few blocks down. We found a picnic table in the shade and played cards and people watched. It was a beautiful afternoon and I wish we had done it more often. There is still time to do a couple of fall picnics, as long as I don’t get sidetracked!

General Observations

-Parking is very hard to find in town, even during the week. Plan on walking a few blocks.

-Avoid Walmart on Mondays, Fridays, weekends, 1st of the month, and anytime you see the senior bus out front!

-Turning left onto Newman from 23 should be avoided whenever possible

-During a big mayfly hatch you are gonna see people freaking out by the water. I am probably one of them.

-Take a garbage bag with you to the beach to pick up what other people leave behind.

-NEVER change your plans based on the weather forecast!

The summer flew by and I am already looking forward to NEXT summer! In the meantime there are a lot of things to look forward to this fall. Like watching the Detroit Lions find new ways to lose a game, fall leaves and pumpkin spice everything!

Au Train, Michigan

Au Train is a small community about 20 minutes west of Munising in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There is a small market to buy bait, groceries and ice cream. And not much else. It’s a blink and you miss it kind of place. But it is very pretty and definitely worth the short drive for a restaurant, gas or shops. Our group rented 5 cabins on Au Train lake, which is connected by a river to Lake Superior. Our cabin overlooked the lake and every day I woke to a beautiful sunrise. Our resort had boat rentals and while we didn’t catch anything we could keep, we had fun trying. The lake is pretty quiet. There were some kayaks and a few other boats out with us, but nothing that would disrupt your ability to enjoy a good book by the shore.

One of the reasons this area appealed to me was because we could do small day trips from there. I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life and it is still one of my favorite vacation places. There are so many beautiful places to see. The following are the highlights of our trip and I provided links when possible for further information.
Cut River Bridge on US-2, about 25 miles West of St. Ignace. From the road you won’t understand the fuss, but stop at the roadside park and follow the short trail. The architecture of the bridge makes for some very cool pictures. You can walk under the bridge and if you are feeling adventurous, go down the 240 or so stairs to the bottom to see the small river. Bathrooms and picnic tables available. Cut River Bridge Park


The Waterfalls. A trip to the U.P isn’t complete without visiting some waterfalls. We did 2 day trips to see 6 local waterfalls and then saved Tahquamenon Falls for the last day. You could spend a week just exploring waterfalls! For information on more falls visit Waterfalls of the Upper Peninsula

Au Train Falls

Sable Falls

Tahquamenon Falls

Wagner Falls

Munising Falls

Miner’s Falls
Pictured Rocks Sunset Cruise. I’ve done the cruise several times but this was the first time I had done the sunset one. The setting sun really makes the colors pop. I would definitely recommend checking this one out! We went the 2nd week of August when the sunset was around 8:55pm. The sunset cruise starts at 7pm and gets back about 9:40pm. Get there EARLY if you want to sit on top. We were there at 6:30 and most of our group didn’t make the top deck. INSIDER TIP- Everyone one seems to want to sit up top, but if you want the best pictures you are better off sitting below deck next to a window. Also- the gift shop will be open after the cruise. Pictured Rocks Cruise


Lakenenland Sculpture Garden. About 15 miles East of Marquette. We saw this place on the side of the road and decided to stop in. I am so glad we did! A very talented artist uses this acreage and 1/2 mile trail to showcase his work. It is open 24/7 and there is no charge, though I do suggest contributing to the donation box at the entrance to help keep it going. For more information and pictures visit Lakenenland


Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore. As many times as I have been to the U.P, I had never driven the whole 42 mile park from end to end. We started in Grand Marais and finished in Munising. At the Grand Marais end there is a huge beach and then miles of steep sand dunes. Then the other end is where you find the pictures rock cliffs. Inbetween there are hiking trails, waterfalls and gorgeous overlooks. Our favorite was the Log Slide Overlook. It was a sunny day and the water looked as pretty as any I had seen in the Caribbean! Another thing I really liked is that this 72,000+acre National Park is a favorite with hikers and campers and as such there are multiple places to stop for bathroom breaks or a picnic. Everything was well marked and accessible. Pictures Rocks National Lakeshore


Presque Isle Park, about 10 minutes North of downtown Marquette. We didn’t plan to go here, we were just driving the coast and came upon this little gem. This park has picnic areas, bathhouses, bike trails, cliff diving, black rocks and scenic look outs. We stopped to walk out on the big blacks rocks that very much reminded me of Hawaii. I wish we had more time to stay because we barely scratched the surface of this pretty place! Presque Isle Park

These are just a few of the places we saw on this most recent visit to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I know there are many, many more wonderful places to visit. If you have any questions, please ask in the comments.

Have You Tried a Group Vacation?

Romantic vacations are great Lounging by the pool, dancing, moonlit walks on the beach, sleeping in, room service, fancy dinners and carriage rides in the park.  Just the two of you blocking out the rest of the world.  Chad and I have been to Maui, St. Thomas, the Bahamas, Manhattan, San Francisco, Vegas, etc.  They are like bonus honeymoons!

Family vacations are also great. We did many fun family vacations with our kids were young.  A 3 week RV trip to South Dakota, Panama City Beach, Disney World twice, The Wisconsin Dells, Alaska, The Outer Banks, The Smoky Mountains.  It was great to have the kids undivided attention, explore new areas, play board games and make those memories together.

But there is something special about a GROUP vacation!!  We did a few group vacations with a few other families before the bulk of our kids hit middle school/high school.  Then with so many kids in the group with conflicting schedules, not to mention many changes in the adult lives too, the vacations stopped.

They were never far from my mind though.  As the unofficial “planner” in our group, I saw a chance to resurrect them last year.  By now the youngest kids in the vacation group were older high schoolers. I found a place on Drummond Island that had enough cabins for our group and I sent out an email to my friends, not sure if anyone else would even be interested anymore.  They must have needed the vacation as much as I did…because within a few weeks we were all booked!  We had an awesome time.  Some nights we did potluck dinners, almost every night we gathered around the bonfire.  We were able to catch up with each other over the course of the week instead of just the normal few hours we share here and there in our everyday lives. A group vacation kind of combines the romantic and the family trips.  As a group we don’t all do everything together. Sometimes a couple will go off on their own, or our now mostly adult kids will come up with an activity on their own.  Sometimes the guys go out fishing while the women go to town.  Whatever you want to do, chances are you can find someone else in the group to go with you if you want company. Everyone has their own idea of what a vacation means. For some it means getting to sleep in. For my husband it is a chance to visit other cabins in the morning and share a cup of coffee. For me, I like finding a quiet, shady spot to read.  I usually finish 2-3 books that week! I also bring my camera everywhere I go!  For my family, we try to balance resting and relaxing with offsite fun.  So we spend about half the week around the cabin napping/reading/fishing/visiting friends and the other half off exploring and sightseeing.  Other families may want to be on-the-go more, or not go anywhere at all!  And it all works out. Drummond Island actually worked so well that we did it again this year, and already have next year’s trip booked.

2018 Drummond Island, Mi (I wrote a blog post about it, check the archives)

2019 Au Train, outside of Munising, Mi. (will write a separate post about that)

2020 will be northern lower Michigan.

Our vacation group changes a little year to year.  Sometimes a family can’t come, or a new one wants to join.  Some adult kids are able to make it, while others aren’t. (I actually love that all of our kids have known each other their whole lives and actually keep in touch and maintain those friendships.)

I treasure the friends that are able to make it, and miss the ones who aren’t.  It isn’t easy to commit to a week a whole year out so I really appreciate the fact that these friends do. I’ve had a couple of recent losses and if it has taught me anything it’s that TIME spent together it the most important thing.  It’s so easy in today’s world to put things off because you are busy. So when you can get 5 families together for a whole week it is a blessing.  And one that I am already looking forward to again next year.

BBQ Chicken Sheet Pan dinner

Here is the recipe post I promised. {Thank you all for your support and prayers regarding my last post}

I discovered sheet pan meals last year and they have quickly become one of Chad’s favorite meals.  A quick Google or Pinterest search will yield dozens of recipes.  The following is a combination of different recipes that work well for me.

Supplies:

A sheet pan with sides.  A standard size works well for up 1-2 people, an XL pan is good for 3-4 people.

Cooking spray

2 medium size mixing bowls and spoons

small bowl and fork

aluminum foil

cutting board and knife

 

Ingredients:

Boneless/skinless chicken breasts (1 large breast for 1-2 people, 2 large breasts for 3-4 people)

1 package your favorite brand smoked sausage with casing on, don’t get skinless! (will only use 1/2 of it for 2 people)

Corn on the cob (do not use frozen) 1 per person

1 of each: Red bell pepper, Red Onion, Zucchini, Squash (May substitute for green/yellow pepper or white onion. May also omit one vegetable and add more of another. For 2 people use 3 vegetables,  for 3-4 people use 4 vegetables)

4 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2  tsp ground pepper

1/2 cup BBQ sauce

butter

Salt and pepper

 

Making It:

1- Preheat the oven to 425 and spray sheet pan with cooking spray.

2- Combine the brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in the small bowl.  Mix well with fork, set aside.

3- Wash and trim chicken breasts and cut into one inch strips.  Cut sausage into bite sized, equal pieces.

4- Put both meats in a medium mixing bowl, toss well with 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil and coat with mixture from the 2nd step.  Make sure meat is thoroughly mixed and coated and then set aside

5- Clean ears of corn so there is no husk or silk. Rub with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and double wrap in aluminum foil.

6- Cut other vegetables into one inch chucks.  Put in the other mixing bowl, toss with remaining olive oil and salt and pepper (to taste) until evenly covered.

7- Spread meat on one side of the pan and veggies on the other.  The wrapped corn can go in a corner.  If you don’t have room for the corn you can put them directly on the oven rack, just watch for dripping.

8-  Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes. This is why you want to make sure you have cut everything into similar sizes so it cooks evenly.

9- Pull out of oven, brush the meat with the BBQ sauce and put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.  You should see the sauce start to caramelize on the meat and the veggies get a roasted look to them.

Enjoy!  You will find there are a lot of variations and I have yet to have it turn out the exact same way twice.  You can do all chicken or all sausage, use different veggies, omit the corn.  It’s very customize-able.  Just make sure you use fresh ingredients and cut everything into similar sizes.

 

An Unexpected Loss

I was planning to share a simple recipe for my next blog post.  I certainly NEVER expected I would be writing about the death of one of my best friends.  Sometimes you are prepared.  You know it is coming, like with my mom just a few months ago.  It doesn’t make it easier to deal with, just less shocking.

Becky was only 47, the same age I turned just 6 days ago.  How can she be gone?

What makes it even harder for me is that she was with me when it happened.  Before I get to that, let me tell you about my friend.

I met Becky back in kindergarten. I moved around A LOT as a kid. My childhood wasn’t exactly typical, but that is another post for another time. I got so used to moving that I stopped trying to make friends at some point because it hurt less when we moved away.  This was before the internet and cell phones and all the wonderful ways people have now to keep in touch.  So when I moved away in 2nd grade we lost touch.  I moved back to that school district in 9th grade and we connected again.  Looking back now I can’t believe we even remembered each other.  But we did and started making new memories.  Friday night football games, 16th birthday parties, sleepovers, concerts, Tigers games at Tiger Stadium.  We spent a lot of time together.

She headed off to college after high school, and I married my high school sweetheart.  We fell out of touch again (still before the internet).  I was busy being a wife and then a mother a few years later and Becky was taking classes and having fun going out to all of the places a young mom wasn’t able to.  But after she graduated and moved back home she started coming around again.  While I loved hearing her stories about hanging out at bars and clubs and all the fun things normal 22 years old girls do, she seemed to enjoy sharing my “boring” stories of being a stay at home wife and mother.  She was thrilled when I got pregnant with my second daughter, this time she was around for the whole thing.  We had a standing weekly date for dinner at my house where she would read to my girls, get down on the floor and play with them.  They loved their Aunt Becky.  She took them to festivals, libraries and parks.  When my husband and I would go away for a weekend she would help watch them.  We saw each other all the time in those days because we lived so close to each other and she had yet to start her own family.

That changed though when she met Jim.  A good looking guy with a motorcycle and a badge.  She was smitten and would talk about him all-the-time.  She brought him around, letting me know ahead of time that she was watching to see how he acted with the girls, her “practice babies” as she liked to call them.  He must have passed the test because it wasn’t too long before they were married.  I flew off to Vegas for the wedding as her maid of honor.  She was the happiest I had ever seen her.  She wanted kids right away and unfortunately it didn’t happen for her as quickly or as easily as she wanted.  I was scared to tell her when I got pregnant with our third child.  I was worried she would hate me. And while it may have been hard for her at first, she was right there for me the whole time.  She treated Jack just like she did my girls, like one of her own.  She did end up having her first a few years later and I was there with her for it.  A beautiful girl she named Elizabeth. She loved being a mom and the kids and I would visit often.

Then I moved an hour away and we weren’t able to see each other as often anymore.  But by this time thanks to internet and cell phones we did keep in touch.  We would occasionally go away for much needed weekends, just the two of us.  Mackinac Island, Lake Michigan, Frankenmuth, etc.  I treasured those weekends.  I was lucky enough to be with her the night her twins were born as well.  I drove down in a snow storm because I wasn’t going to miss it.  Abigail and Evelyn came into this world and Becky’s family was complete.  As my kids were getting older and starting to get involved in activities and Becky’s kids were so young, we weren’t able to get together with the whole families that often.  She and I would sneak out for dinner and movies.  She, Jim and the girls would come out for our big summer parties.  Our friends circle grew bigger and there were weddings, baby showers, Tupperware parties, birthday parties and of course our girls weekends.  Typically 6-10 of us would get together once or twice a year at different locations for a weekend of games, drinks, laughs, food and a lot of fun.

Becky had a huge heart and it showed in everything she did.  She made it to almost every community theater play my family was part of.  She came to baseball games, school concerts, birthday parties, all 3 of my kids graduations.  She cried along with me when we watched my daughter try on wedding dresses and again when she walked down the aisle. She was also VERY involved in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day walk.  I did it with her twice, once a walker and once as crew.  I have no idea how she did it year after year. She was a walking beast!  And when she wasn’t walking she was supporting her fellow 3 day Friends.  Her focus turned more to helping with her daughters activities in recent years, as tends to happen with active kids. Girl Scouts, music lessons, track.  But she always made time for her friends.

And that leads me to last weekend.  We now live 3 hours away from the core group of my friends.  As those of you that have read my blog from the beginning know, when our youngest graduated we moved north to a sweet little lake town that we fell in love with a few years ago, East Tawas.  We have a small place in the heart of downtown that we absolutely love.  And we love to share it with our friends.  So I put together a girls weekend right here.  Where better for a fun summer weekend than a beach town?

Everyone got here Friday afternoon in good spirits. Becky had picked up some sand pails, candy and pretty bottles of water in anticipation of going to the beach. We had a great dinner, walked out to the state dock and took some group pictures.  On the way back Becky stopped for a blue slushee that turned her tongue bright blue and she was amused by that for the next hour. We played some games, had some drinks and stayed up til about 1:30 talking.

Saturday morning Becky wasn’t feeling great when she woke up.  Not sure if it was the wine coolers, not enough sleep, standing up too fast or “old age”.  She opted to stay back while they rest of us went hiking and exploring.  That was not that unusual. Often during a girls weekend one of us had a headache, cramps, stomach problems and stayed back to nap or relax.  She seemed better that afternoon and we hung out for a few hours.  She again opted to skip dinner out with us in favor of leftovers, a book and maybe a nap.  She was good when we got home and was chatting away til 2am.

Sunday was a gorgeous day.  Our plan was to clean up, do a little shopping in town and the relax and just hang out that day.  It was a quiet morning. I was cleaning and getting the house back in order, the rest of the gang was having breakfast, talking and starting to pack.  Carolyn and I had decided to check out a few stores and were down the block when we got the call from Michelle that Becky had gone into the bathroom and said something was wrong.  She was breathing hard and panicked.  She hadn’t taken her anxiety medication the day before and we wondered if that had anything to do with it. She had also mentioned feeling like she had a panic attack earlier in the week. I could hear on the phone the debate about calling 911.  Becky didn’t think she could walk down to the car but went back and forth about needing to call 911.  We overruled her and called anyway. From that point things happened quickly. The paramedics arrived and worked on getting her to control her breathing and let them take her to the ambulance. Meanwhile the 4 of us are deciding who is going to follow her to the hospital. Barb had already called her Becky’s husband so he knew what was going on.  We decided Michelle and Barb would follow the ambulance while Carolyn and I stayed back and got Becky’s stuff together. We figured it would take a few hours for them to run tests and get Becky’s breathing slowed down to a point where they would release her and by then Jim would be here to drive her home.  I wanted to have her things ready for him.  At this point we were all worried but not thinking the worst.  About 10 minutes later Michelle called saying that the Dr said her heart had stopped and they didn’t think she was going to make it.  Carolyn and I were thinking that can’t be Becky they are talking about !!  We were at the hospital 5 minutes later and within a few minutes the doctor came and broke the news.  Her heart had stopped and despite all their efforts they couldn’t save her.  He suspected she had a blood clot that had moved to her heart.

We were all in shock.  How can this woman whom I have known since I was 5 years old be gone?  What the hell just happened? The 4 of us went back to say our goodbyes but all I could do was cry. We sat in the family room for 2 hours trying to make sense of what was happening.  We made the horrible phone calls to let people know what had happened.  Eventually my friends had to head back home. Chad and I met Jim, their daughters and her mom at the hospital that evening when they drove up. That was one of the hardest moments of my life. Her mom hugged me so tight. And her husband thanked me for being there for her.  I had no idea what to say.  All I could think was….was this my fault?  Should I have realized something bigger was going on?  I felt so responsible. It was MY idea to have this girls weekend.  She should have spend her last 2 days at home with her family, not with me.  Was this really happening ?!?!

It’s been 3 days and I am still asking myself those questions.  Monday I was mostly comatose. I cried on and off all day and didn’t leave the house.  Tuesday I managed to shower and make it to the grocery store.  Today I am hoping to maybe get out for a walk. Becky’s husband and wonderful sister in law have been keeping me involved in making the arrangements and I am trying to help where I can. It’s not enough though. I keep replaying the weekend over and over again in my mind and playing the “what if” game.

I  get sick to my stomach when I think about the fact that she won’t be there for her own kids graduations and weddings. She won’t get to be a grandma. That she won’t be there to celebrate the big 5-0 in a few years with our friends group, that she won’t be there on the next girls weekend.

I have been through loss and dealt with grief.  But I was not prepared for this. I don’t know how to process everything I am feeling.  I love you and will miss you always Rebecca Ann Halley Starks.

 

From Great Lake to Great Lake

This weekend we did our first coast to coast trip to visit our daughter and her husband.  We are on Lake Huron and they are nearly 4 hours away on Lake Michigan.  I was excited to find a good route and see a part of the state we rarely see.  We stayed off freeways as much as possible and utilized smaller roads. As a result we didn’t hit any traffic issues until we were nearly there.  We also got to take in some beautiful scenery!

We took 55 all the way to Lake City and then 131 down to Grand Rapids.  The skies were incredible and we saw storms coming in from different directions over the farmlands and fields.  You would look one way and see clear skies and then turn your head to lightning in the distance.  I’ve never seen so many different storm systems.

There were some scary lightning strikes and we did have to pull over once to let the heavy rain pass.  Our plan was to get to the hotel, have dinner at our favorite restaurant in Holland and then take in a Lake Michigan sunset.  The forecast was not looking promising but I didn’t give up hope.  I have lived in this state my whole life and know by now that forecasts can change and not to cancel any plans because of weather!

Our daughter and her husband met us for dinner. While we waited for our table we walked around in the park under the shelter of umbrellas and crashed someone’s pavilion party.  It was pouring.  But still I watched the doppler and pointed out a brief break in the clouds that may just be big enough for a nice sunset.  The valet thought I was crazy as I pointed to a sliver of sky that may be getting lighter as we were both were getting wet in the rain.  My daughter decided to go home after dinner because she figured it would be a bust.

My always patient husband was willing to humor me though and we headed to the beach. I knew the sand would be wet but I wanted to get my legs wet anyway.  I also knew that the prettiest sunsets often happen after the darkest storms.  The sky cleared just for us and we were rewarded with an amazing sunset!  We walked along the shore and held hands as the sun set and the warm water washed over us, feeling very grateful for the show mother nature provided for us.

On Sunday we played tourist around town and stopped to visit the new Wizard of Oz display in Centennial Park.  We had ordered a memorial brick in my moms name and this was the first time we were able to see it.  She really loved Holland, as did her mom so we thought this project was just the right fit. I also have memories of watching that movie as a kid every year when it came on TV  My sisters and I would spread out our sleeping bags and my mom would make popcorn.  It’s one of my favorite childhood traditions.

The drive home was much faster thanks to clear skies and on the way home as Chad was napping and I was driving through the rolling hills I thought about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful state.  We can watch the sunrise over Lake Huron anytime we want and only a short drive away a sunset awaits.  Our kids are all off on their own, but at least they are in the same state and I know I can get in the car and be there within a few hours.  I have a lot to be thankful for.

What are you waiting for ?

I have a sweet little Mustang GT convertible that I only get to drive 6 months a year, thanks to our salty Michigan winter roads. For the past month I’ve only driven around town, mostly to the grocery store and back. Because we live in town, most days I don’t even get in my car at all. So…I’ve been itching for a road trip. Top down, music up, driving over 25! As Chad commutes so much during the week, the last thing I want to do is ask him to take a road trip on the weekend.

So I asked a friend to drive up to Alpena (about an hour away) with me for lunch on Monday. She was excited about it but then ended up having to work. So then Katie (my oldest daughter) was going to go with me on Tuesday, but SHE ended up having to work. So then I was faced with a dilemma. Do I wait for a time when someone can go with me, or head out on my own. I honestly went back and forth all day Monday, not sure what I wanted to do. I woke up Tuesday morning still undecided. Until I opened up Facebook and saw this:

It was a sign! So I put on some sunscreen, grabbed a water bottle and my camera and headed out with the idea that I would head North to Alpena and stop along the way at whatever interested me. I stopped at the Au Sable Harbor at the mouth of the river in Oscoda and walked out to the end of the pier. I talked to a nice fisherman who was only too happy to share his knowledge of the dredging boat, which was totally unfamiliar to me. He showed me the little “islands” that had formed where the sand had been been pumped out from the river. The seagulls seemed to be very grateful. He also said he has been coming out to that same area to fish since the 1950’s. He offered me his extra pole but I regretfully said I needed to be on my way.

Next up was the old air force base, also in Oscoda. I am really glad to see that most of the buildings and open spaces are being utilized instead of just falling into disrepair. I also got to get up close to an airplane graveyard!

I passed through Greenbush and Harrisville and stopped at the state park and harbor. While at the harbor, I met an older gentleman and his dog, Buddy. Buddy was a yellow lab mix and seemed to love riding around in the back of their old pick up truck. I stopped to pet him because he looked so darn excited to see me walking by. As I pulled out I saw him and his “dad” heading to the dog area to play some catch.

It is a beautiful drive between Harrisville and Alpena. Very little traffic, interesting scenery. Lots of people out on motorcycles.

Alpena itself is a nice town. The biggest one north of Bay City on this coastline. I walked around town a bit, had lunch and even saw some of my Tawas Bay friends. After lunch I headed over to the marina because you know my favorite place is by the water!

As I was debating whether or not I wanted to walk all the way to the end of this pier after having already done quite a bit of walking, I saw an older lady with a cane making her way back from the end. I figured it she could do it then I had no business being lazy! I stopped to chat with her about halfway down. Turns out she used to walk this almost every day with her husband and he passed away 2 years ago. She doesn’t come everyday anymore…but she comes as often as she is able. And she goes all the way to the end and sits on “their” bench and watches the boats come in and out of the harbor. It reminded me of my husband and I, and the benches in our town that are our favorite ones to sit on and take in the scenery.

After taking a lot of pictures, talking to some really nice people and having been in the sun for a few hours, I was ready to head back home. But there was just one more thing I had to take a picture of on my way back. I have no idea WHY it is there, but the why isn’t important. I was just glad it was because it made for a cool picture.

My takeaway from today is this; Don’t put things off! Go for the drive, play catch with your dog, go out to your favorite fishing spot. Walk all the way to the end of the pier. Don’t stay home and wish you had gone. Make the most of the time we are given and live everyday to the fullest!