Sometimes you just have to get away….that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I love the U.P. (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), I brag about it, promote it and work pretty hard throughout the year getting people to find us……….. but when I know March is coming, I just want to be somewhere warm….I want to play the things I don’t get to play when home. I migrate to warm places for a few weeks or more depending on how things are going at the office. Usually it’s a great time to getaway, my wonderful assistant of 12+ years, Marcella and my great agents can hold down the fort and although physically gone, with technology, not many really know I’m emailing from the base of a palm tree…..What a great world we live in. How far we’ve come since the 90’s…and I relish every second of it.
So after the February St. Ignace Special events, Pond Hockey, WISSA etc., work and various volunteer organizations, I was more than ready to go. The Feburary 29th weather forecasts said 16 inches of snow and highways glazed in ice the next day….. I pressured “husband Jim” into leaving the state, a day earlier than planned and at night. This year, we’re taking mom so a quick call to her that we’d pick her up in a couple hours, be ready…we’re heading south to Florida and beating the storm. So, we did, and apparently everyone else in the midwest did too. Upon reaching Toledo (5 hours and after midnight) and with all the technology, my not so smart phone, no motel vacancies surfaced, well, maybe one but Trip Advisor stated “bed bugs” so onward we pressed. We drove through 3 states in the worst downpour we rememberd…I drove through Kentucky with my eyes closed I’m sure..finally came to an overdue stop at a rest area for an hour just to sleep….Mom was a trooper! we tied her to the roof and just rotated her on the hour to keep her from getting stiff. She never complained and was also glad to be somewhere warm. Finally, at the Georgia/Florida border, we found lodging and grabbed it, enjoying the now warm temperatures, 21 hours later. I’ve done that before, but much younger. Good sleep and onward. Destination Punta Gorda, (north of Ft. Meyers on Charlotte Harbor) ….and meeting up with the general (mom’s sister Aunt Janet), she was also part of the vacation….Last year it was the coast in Texas, years before, Mexico, California and other Florida locations……..this year Punta Gorda, why Punta Gorda?
…I know, most say Duh?
Ok, I’m a big fan, Pickleball hooked, and happen to live at the Straits of Mackinac on Lake Michigan so water is part of my life and it’s a magnet even when travelling elsewhere……….So what is Pickleball? it’s a game, invented by a family in Washington, and a dog named Pickles, 30+ years ago (true story) and now the fastest growing game in America. It’s on a badmittion size court, with a double size ping pong paddle with a plastic oversized whiffle ball and the strokes of tennis or pong…..It’s game, it’s fun, it’s exercise and it’s social. www.usapa.org, that’s the site that tells all…….Played it at a convention in Novi, MI a few years ago, someone there asked me to be an ambassador for our area, little did they know that was not such an easy position…… got hooked but with a lack of interest and support in this area, (and I keep trying), I have to travel to get game. Punta Gorda was advertised on the usapa site as having 100 players, they play 7 days a week, indoors at the community center, (6 days a week) then outdoors at the city park 3 other times a week and it was public, not private…..SO I PLAYED, every day and loved it. Then when the players found out that I picked Punta Gorda for my vacation desitnation because of the Pickleball, I was asked to tell the Mayor of Punta Gorda my story, my quest for the game, the economic impact of my stay in their community which lasted over a month. They were trying to get city council to see how many people were playing and adding more courts to the park. My aunt came, she’s turning 80 this year but recently picked it up in Detroit, they had a division for her too, so we all played, different levels but they had times for everyone….Special thanks to a gracious Canadian woman named Francis, a local Ambassador who single handily exposed at least 100 people to the game over the past 6 months. I played with ages 30 to 85, age had no meaning and many could outlast the youngest whipper snapper. (whipper snapper, wow, did I just say that?) What I confirmed was that there are a lot of people retiring and they are moving to places with activities…..They don’t want to sit around, they are more active than many young people, many who are glued to their social media and computer screens, content to live the online life…. The communities that embrace this new generation of active adults and accommodate those needs will reap the economic and positive social benefits that it brings, many stay, buy vacation or year-round homes or just return year after year….the economic impacts are astounding.
The water is the other element…This area is known as one of the worlds great sailing areas, much like the Straits of Mackinac……much of this area is built on canals and channels with a plenty of boaters and avid sailors, fishermen and women…anything that gets them out on the water… the love for the water is addictive. The most popular areas of the community are the public parks and they are well maintained parks, on the Harbour, with tennis, basketball, walking trails, Gazebos and places for people to gather….musicians congregate weekly and attract huge gatherings and listen to the various local musicians as the sun sets over Charlotte Harbour, much like our weekly summer music venues in downtown St. Ignace but a much larger scale. Food vendors offer Chicago Style hot dogs and creamy local ice-cream all in the park. Weekend festivals add to the entertainment and culture. It’s well done and helps make this historic district of the community so attractive.
Before I left, I was asked to sign up for the Charlotte County Senior games….Are you kidding…I’m 55, well, I feel 35 but apparently not and now qualify for the senior division at 55..so I did….I signed up for Pickleball and Cornhole (bean bag toss)….these people play hard and lots…..Activity drives them…I loved it. They offered competitions in every sport you could imagine. I consider myself a pretty descent athlete, can hold my own on the tennis court, ping pong table, golf course and now Pickleball court but little did I know, I was about to meet the best, avid players, seasoned tournament professionals who travel and play in other areas where the Pickleball bug has caught on…..I learned big lessons here and knew I would be a better player and person because of this experience……..so it went, eliminated before the finals, but what an inspiration…these people play….and they’re all ages….and I’m inspired once again….the activity drives them, gives them something to look forward to, the social part is huge and you just meet all kinds of people from all different states and countries.
So as far as “Cornhole or Bean Bag Toss”, which I also LOVE!, I’ve got a gold….and it wasn’t that I was a world class thrower although I can hold my own, apparently I was the only woman that entered, that in itself, resulted in a gold..so I tossed on a 90 degree day in Englewood Beach with a man in a walker, a nice young man who was the recreation director and some professional throwers from up north, (looking for real competition) .Ok, we had some laughs and I learned a new technique, had a blast and have gold to show for it….another adventure!
Meanwhile, my husband Jim, who would prefer to be back home fishing on Brevort Lake (in the cold and ice) even if that meant cooking his own meals, just went with the flow and supported my month of obsessive activity (which did include a little tennis and golf of course). On occasion I felt guilty with pleasure and did consider buying him a plane ticket home but after 38 years of marriage, he knows it’s best to hang in there and pacify me as when he gets home, he’s still retired and playing and he knows I’m back in full action and he’s free to wander on his own agenda so he gets through it….besides, he is a great chaffeur and my mom and aunt adore him and he them, so it was ok……..Thanks for my new friends that had boats and he ended up fishing in Charlotte Harbour and catching some FABULOUS AMBERJACK…..almost as good as Whitefish. If he had his fishing boat, he would have been a very happy camper but with our last minute decision to Florida, it wasn’t feasible.
A final trip to the ocean on the way back, “Ormond Beach” and Daytona Beach Shores resulted in some new Pickleball and tennis friends. If you stood on the ocean shore and blinked, you might think you’re on Lake Michigan but it was the Big Atlantic and I had missed the big water and knew soon I would be back on my favorite Great Lake. Once again, activities for people were attractive reasons for people to settle in an area and these two communities provided. And another year is past and I am rejuvinated for the busy remaining months of 2012 and meeting new people and helping them find homes and vacation properties and discovering this amazing area of the Straits of Mackinac and all the activities it has to offer. Knowing that the heat of the south should send people north to the land of the “Great Waters” where summer temps are a thing of envy and vast areas of forests and seas of adventure await that big wide world of the unaware. We need that economy that so many southern states count on, where air-conditioned rooms are the way of life. We sit under the stars, smell the lake breezes and embrace the regions moderate temperatures. A child sits under a “Dark Sky” and witness’s a constellation of stars for the first time, or a teenager from Texas states that he’s never played outside in July……the wonders of northern Michigan…….only if the rest of the world knew.