Wisconsin

On Wednesday, September 3rd, we left the New England area for Milwaukee, WI. We decided to gain some miles by driving and sleeping for a few hours at a rest stop before hitting our intended city. So we just put in Milkwaukee, WI as our destination in our GPS and let it take us there. We ended up spending a few hours at night in the Poconos area in Pennsylvania before continuing our drive around 7am.  During our trip we booked a hotel at the Hilton City Center in the downtown area.

Let me tell you it was not easy, but we did it. We thought, the end was so near! But, after driving for about 17 hours or so…we realized that our cell phones were behind one hour compared to the time we had been looking at on our watches. So the GPS listed an anticipated arrival time of 4:13pm to the city, and it was 3:55pm by the time we just passed through Chicago. Michael looks over to me as he is driving and says to me: “I really hope the GPS means that we should be getting to Milwaukee in fifteen minutes and not an hour from now”. Unfortunately, I did have to break the news to him that it was completely unrealistic for us to be so close to another city in a completely different state so close to Chicago, IL.

We pulled over to an “Oasis” (service center) and just got some gas and I took over driving the last hour to our hotel. Boy were we excited to check in and sleep on a comfy bed for two nights.

We got to the hotel around 6pm after gathering our belongings and checking in. Michael really just wanted to stay in that evening and order room service. So we decided to take advantage of the fitness center at our hotel for about an hour or so and ordered room service while we watched the Federer & Monfils evening match on ESPN. It was such an intense match. We were really happy to had stayed in because the food was so delicious! It was by far the best room service food I had eaten in a long time! I really vouch for the food and service at the Hilton in terms of room service. We received our food in less than 30 minutes. The House Soup (tomato with a basil cream) was so fresh and tasty! And, my cobb salad had so many items on it. I was so happy they gave us ice waters with lemon and an assortment of condiments. They even called us about a half hour after delivering the food to ask us how everything was going with the food and if we needed anything else. I had a hard time sleeping that evening because I think I had taken various naps throughout the day and didn’t get much sleep the night before. My sleep cycle was all messed up. To add to that, my brain was still adjusting to the one-hour time difference.

The next morning we slept in and left our hotel room by 11am to explore the city. We knew there were a few different events going on in the city which include Oktoberfest and Indian Summer Festival. In the AM we were still undecided on which event to attend, so we made our way to the Public Market which was located by Lake Michigan. It took us about 10-15 minutes of walking to get to the market. Michael and I ate lunch there at one of the local fresh food places called the Green Kitchen, which had freshly squeezed fruit/vegetable juices and sandwiches/salads. It was very delicious.

 

After lunch, Michael insisted we taste the Bienenstich which has custard and almonds. So we bought a quarter of a slice of it and decided to head to the park to eat it. It took us a little while to find the entrance after exiting the market, and along the way we discovered the site for the Indian Summer Festival. We had about a 15 minute conversation with a Crowd Controller named Richard who had been working all the events at the Summerfest location for over 35 years! It was so interesting to talk to someone who had been a Milwaukee native and loves what he does in operations with managing the crowds who attend these events. He spoke highly of the Indian Summer Festival, and we were impressed with what others had to say about the event.

We ended up walking along the pathway next to Lake Michigan, essentially on the opposite side of where we were a few months ago in Michigan. This gave us an opportunity to experience the lake that we loved on the dunes side a bit more on this side. It was a lot more calm and there were beautiful rocks that lined along the coast at Lakeshore State Park. For an urban area we felt as though the air was quite fresh and the architecture is quite low for a city. There were many restricted areas within the state park that had prairies and marshland where nature could run its course, which was neat to see in a city. It was getting a bit warm as we hung out on the benches at the Discovery Park, and we decided to head back to the hotel and relax for an hour or so before heading back to the Indian Summer Festival.

Before we headed back, I asked Michael to search for a cache nearby so we could place our mini Frisbee in the city. To our wonderful surprise we came across one right in the Discovery World park we were in! In no time we placed our Frisbee, played some unique outdoor “instruments” and were on our merry way to the hotel. Another reason we wanted to head back was because we wanted to purchase some school supplies. Why you ask? On Friday, September 5th from 4pm to 6pm there was free admission to the Indian Summer Festival with a “suggested” donation of school supplies. We initially did not notice the part at the end so we were just going to hang out around the park and walk around the city before it hit 4pm, but we decided it would be a nice gesture to get some stuff for the kids.

After relaxing a bit at the hotel, and also planning a bit for the next city we are to hit, we were in search of an office supply store. We found and OfficeMax about two blocks away from our hotel and on the way to Henry Maier Festival Park, where Indian Summer was held.

We had a great time walking along the path next to the lake, and we were bewildered to spot a gaggle of geese who felt the same way, as they were enjoying the walk too! At first we only spotted about five geese walking in a straight line, But, then…we saw so many more closer to the lake’s edge. This park displayed a unique sense of joining together of two different worlds: one of a primitive natural one filled with wildlife and the other with a modern look and feel of a city populated with humans.

The festival was neat because we had a chance to experience some of the food and also see some cultural performances. I found a hands-on arts and crafts tent where I spent the majority of my time. Michael was very patient with me because he is the knot expert! There were a variety of projects you can select but I chose to make a dream catcher. I thought it would be nice to experience making one, but I did not realize how much time it would take. I was actually pretty proud of my semi-finished product. I completed the inner weave (which was the most time-consuming portion of the project). I just need to add a few strings with beads and feathers to spruce it up a bit before I hang it up somewhere permanent. We walked around and checked out different vendors in the festival park afterwards. The theme this year at the festival was Horse Nation. So we saw various kinds of native horses there. One in particular caught our eye as it resembled a cow with its black and white spots.

We watched the Opening Ceremony and caught a bit of the drumming performance. It was so nice to see that all nations were represented at this festival through the drum performance, as it kicked off with a traditional African dance. Then we saw Brazilians performance a drum and dance, the Irish perform a step dance, the Arabs perform, the Koreans perform the drums in a seated positions, and a gentleman who was of German decent play the accordion, the Aztecs perform a standing drum ensemble and another Native American children school perform a chant. There was also a mix of American bands too! Everyone in the audience really embraced the performers’ unique cultures, and it seemed to really bring out the best in people.

Overall we thought the festival was a great opportunity for us to attend as it really showcased the cultures of the people here in the United States which is essentially a melting pot. The only event we were hoping to catch was the amateur boxing tournament, but they were running on an hour delay. So we decided to skip out and walk back to our hotel. It did start to drizzle a bit so we were glad we brought our own umbrella this time around. We knew there was a cold front coming in through the area so we were prepared.

The next morning we took the five hour drive to Minneapolis, MN for a Saturday night out in the city!

 

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Michigan: Lakes, Dunes, and More!

After our departure from Cleveland, we were on our merry way to the next state on the list: Michigan! We were very excited to check out the coastline area of the state as it is supposed to be gorgeous! It was Monday, July 21st. We decided to make a stop to Ann Arbor for night. Michael was in charge of reserving our hotel, and he decided to select Weber’s Inn, which was about 6 minutes away (driving) from the downtown area. I was so surprised when we checked in because since I drove, I did not get to see any photos of the hotel. It was a boutique hotel, and it was so sleek and modern with a very rustic/wooden flair. It had a spiral stair case that overlooked the indoor pool, hot tub and sauna area with two entrances/exits from our hotel room…very cool! They also had a small pool table, ping pong table and a game room. We decided to just stay in for the evening and have dinner at the restaurant. It was so good! We appreciated the fact that they brought an assortment of breads with butter and a salmon spread for our enjoyment after we placed our drink orders. I also particularly enjoyed the peach tart.

The following morning, we took advantage of the fitness room where they laid out some fresh oranges too! We had lunch and took an afternoon stroll downtown.  We parked our truck along South Main Street, and paid $1.50 an hour for the public parking. Upon arrival we came across a Mongolian Grill Restaurant, which essentially reminded us of Fire & Ice Restaurant back in Providence. We had the lunch bowl, which gave us the freedom to select our own raw vegetables and meats for the chef to cook right in front of us. It was a really good and filling lunch and prepared us for our walk. We roamed the town and ended up meandering across a shoe store specifically for runners. Michael’s previously purchased pair of sneakers from Kohl’s was falling apart already, after his morning jog. So he ended up getting properly fitted for a shoe. And we discovered he also has wide feet, just like me! He enjoyed the feeling of the soft socks as they were made available for customers to try on, so he got three additional pairs of socks too!

Ann Arbor was all about University of Michigan (blue and yellow). It was everywhere! And, apparently is a strong rival between Michigan and Ohio. We learned that Michigan is known for its cherries, when we discovered a store called Cherry Republic, located right on South Main Street. Products included all sorts of cherry foods and products, from cherry wood bowls and cutting boards to cherry sour candies, jams and wines. I convinced Michael to get us some of the Hikers Mix, which has dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate pieces. The cool thing about the bag it came it was it had an attached compass to it, just in case we got lost in the future when hiking.

After Cherry Republic, we walked into a random local artsy store, where all of the items in the store contained some sort of magnet. The first item we noticed was a 4×6 magnetic picture frame, which we thought was quite appropriate because it contained “road trip” embellishments. Next Michael pointed out to me a huge magnetic board of the U.S.A. We thought “wow!” that would work out so well because our trinket or souvenir of choice in each state we hit is the good ole magnet!  After much debate we decided against purchasing it. One of my concerns was that it only included the mainland states. We made an inquiry about whether or not Alaska and Hawaii were included in the map, but they informed us that the artist has yet to create those states. Although a request could be made to create those additional states through a special order, we decided against that at that point. Another concern was storage of the large board after it was purchased, so we also asked if shipping was an option and sure enough it was possible to ship within the U.S. At that point, I was torn on the decision to purchase this, but Michael really did not want to.

The reasoning you may ask? He had been trying to convince me that he could make it on his own…yes, his thinking was that he could buy a large sheet of wood, print out a large map of the states in sections and then use a jigsaw to cut the wood. Then spray the large object with magnetic spray. I have never seen him use a jigsaw in my life, but if he wants to take on the project after we come back, I’m all for it! Just in case, I did happen to grab the business card of the local shop as a backup.

 

A few days before our drive up to Michigan, I got in touch with my roommate from college, Jessica, who lives in Grand Rapids. She hooked us up with a parking spot in downtown Grand Rapids at her old job. We arrived there from Ann Arbor around 7pm, and we walked into town for some dinner and drinks! It was so nice to see a familiar face, for Michael to meet her, and to catch up about life in general post-Bryant.

Grand Rapids has been called Beer City U.S.A. so it was a must that we try some local craft beer during dinner time, as Jess had encouraged us to do so. We took a nice leisurely stroll into the downtown Grand Rapids area, and we passed the Grand Rapids Art Museum where there was a crowd of youngsters hanging out on a Tuesday night across the way. The city had a small town feeling where everyone was out and about having a good time and enjoying the evening.

For dinner we decided on tasting the so-called crack fries with burgers at HopCat. It just so happened that Michael came across a burger that was literally calling his name on the menu. So he had to get it! It was called the Cowboy. The crack fries were pretty good, seasoned with a bunch of different things. Afterwards we followed Jess to the duplex she was kind enough to let us stay the night. As we were moving the stuff into the place, it started pouring outside! It was a nice cool evening.

The following morning we had a late start. We decided on checking out the dunes in Michigan, and we selected to camp the night at Hoffmaster State Park in Muskegon, MI. First we stopped at the local flea market downtown and got some fresh sweet black cherries and some small potatoes for dinner. After exploring the downtown area a bit, we were on a search for a grocery store for some meat and vegetables for dinner. On our way to the park, we found a Meijer, which stated it was open 24 hours. Across the street there was a Walmart too! We decided we would check out what Meijer had to offer. So, we ended up getting some chicken, hot dogs, turkey bacon, and some veggies.

We headed to the campsite around 3pm, and got settled in. We used our truck tent for the first time that evening, and used our air mattress. We were really excited to check out the lake area as we got a campsite with walking distance to the beach area. After we got settled we put on our flip flops and headed down to the beach. This particular campground had a bunch of modern bathrooms, and we noticed there were so many little kids riding their bicycles. There were also an overabundance of RVs and other campers and people with all sorts of different types of tents with screening. We selected a campsite that had a creek that ran right behind it with the bathroom and shower area right across from the site, which was very convenient for us.

That afternoon we walked along the beach area, and it was quite windy and cool in the mid-70s. We took some pictures along the shore, and then headed back to make dinner together. I was in charge of the French fries, cooking the extra chicken, and Michael was got the task of grilling the barbeque and buffalo chicken and the corn on the cob. I made the extra chicken tenderloins two different ways: one with cubed chicken with a southwestern flair and one with lime and soy sauce.

We had a nice dinner on the picnic table that was on our site and I was tasked with starting the fire from the firewood we purchased at the park ($4.50/bundle). S’mores were next on the agenda! Yum. Yay, then we were ready for showers and for bed in the truck tent. We woke up early the next morning and packed together our belongings. Frisbee #3 was placed at the state park in the morning, and we took a nice little hike into the park which led us straight to the beach. It was a quiet and calm morning for a nice promenade along the shore. It was so beautiful and serene at about 9am.

Overall, we found Michigan to be really proud of their college sports teams. The people here seem to be really nice and welcoming. They also really value the arts and are keen on their local craft beer in Grand Rapids. The Great Lakes are very “Great” to say the least. Lake Michigan is beautiful! It definitely reminded us of the ocean because we could not see the end of the lake from shore on a clear day. Ann Arbor was a neat little town with lots of things to do.

We were finally ready for our departure to the next state: Indiana!