Michigan’s Upper Peninsula Breezes

Center of the Freshwater World

Mackinac Bridge

Summer Lake Breezes at the Straits of Mackinac-If you haven’t been to the Straits because you are afraid to cross the Mackinac Bridge, all I can say is “I’m so sorry for you”.  So next time you want to head over to Mackinac Island, consider taking the beautiful 5 mile drive  across one of the greatest structures in the world.  Crossing the “Big Mac” is the only way you will truly experience the Upper Peninsula and all it has to offer…..Yes!,  many think they have arrived in Canada and it was an easy border crossing….but what can I say….Google Maps should set you straight…crossing from historic St. Ignace gives a fabulous view of  Victorian bluff homes and island activity.  Once you’ve made that first trek, a new lifetime of adventures await you!

Speaking of Straight…..Many have discovered the “Straits of Mackinac” and have found it to be the most pleasant of all weather patterns….yes, I know, and I’ve heard it over and over, “I’m never shoveling snow again”…Well certainly I can understand that statement if you don’t like snow….But think about it, many of us do LOVE snow…and lots of it, then there are those who detest it…..But Michigan has 4 seasons, all beautiful in their own ways…How lucky are we to pick which ones we want to live in….Some pick all, some pick 1, or 2 or 3….but each has it’s own following.  I love getting away a few times a year to break up a least favorite season…so I’ll head to Florida or some other warm place…but I’ve been there during their off season when temps are high and I cannot imagine living there year-round….many can and that’s great for them….but I’m a “Northern Michigan Girl”…don’t put me in high 80’s and 90’s  for very long….and don’t tell me to stay inside with air-conditioning because I want to be outside and breath the air and play.

City Marina Area

I personally LOVE summer and fall and half of winter, and half of spring….so I choose to leave a couple times a year and re-energize the soul and visit other areas all while still running the business with the technology that allows us to do that in this day.  My husband LOVES ALL 4 seasons and is perfectly content to send me on my way while manning the home base with a snow plow, shovel and ice-fishing shanty, and of course his camp!   You’ve never seen a happier man during my little jaunts away.

Fall Color in Brevort near Cut River Bridge

The Straits of Mackinac Region, also known as the “Center of the Fresh Water World” is where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet, at the Mackinac Bridge specifically.   Continuous lake breezes keep the region cooler than most areas in the Midwest, offering relief to us and many southern travelers and guests when temperatures soar in other areas.  Although we experience some exciting big winds on occasion, hurricanes and tornadoes have no place here…and wildfires are not a threat.  Diving in a lake anywhere will provide relief and pure pleasure and knowing there is nothing in that lake that could hurt you, (alligators, sharks and a ton of other predators) is such a safe feeling.

Brevort River

So as we enjoy the great summer temps, the cool breezes off the area lakes and big billowy white clouds that break up the blue skies, we always have our sweatshirts on hand because in Northern Michigan, the weather can change as fast as the sun can set….the fireplaces can still get an early morning workout and we always anxiously await what the next day will bring because “Up North” has its own agenda and the only one in charge is nature itself.Locals who cruise the frozen lake, St. Helena in backdrop


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Spring traffic at the Straits of Mackinac

The past few days, I’ve been really curious as to the ships that pass through the Straits and my front window.  Recently a 100 year + old ship , the SS Keewatin came through, towed by another ship and in transit to Canada….. it really got me thinking about the purpose that ship served prior to being a museum in southern Michigan.  The story as told to me is that the SS K. was one of the ships that came to Port McNicoll, Ontario every season from 1912 – 1965 carrying prairie grain which would then be sent via railway to Eastern Canada & overseas.  There was a railroad station on the waterfront and therefore, the SS K was also a passenger ship – for the wealthy.   People would take the train from Toronto to Port McNicoll.  In 1965 Canada Rail decided to end its Great Lakes shipping service so everything stopped and hundreds of people left the Port McNicoll area in search of other jobs.  The SS K was slated to be demolished but it was purchased by a man in Kalamazoo who wanted to turn it into a museum & it has been in Lake Kalamazoo ever since.   Because of the upkeep provided, most of the machinery still works although it cannot travel this far under its own power.
A developer (Skyline Investments), Gil Blutrich, purchased all of the Canada Rail 1000+ acres of property in Port McNicoll (all on the water) with an intent to build a luxury lifestyle community.  This currently is under construction on the far side of Port McNicoll.   He has been intent on buying the SS K with this becoming a floating restaurant and community centre to his 1 1/2 billion dollar ‘vacation community’.  He also plans to duplicate the dockside railway station with 6 historic rail cars which will also house a restaurant and clubhouse for a marina.  There are a number of people who have relatives who used to work on the SS K and there is 1 man  (used to be a cabin boy) who is now the project manager for bringing the SS K back to the area.  Obviously there is a big celebration planed for the day of arrival – June 23.
Yesterday morning as I opened my eyes and saw the early morning sun cast it’s golden glow on another strange looking ship, I grabbed the binoculars and saw this low, long vessel, looked like a cruise ship, (not that common to see) this wore the label, Grand Mariner..…a little Internet research showed it to be one of 3 ships cruising Americas Inland Seas…smaller boats that carry around 100 passengers, geared towards a laid back cruise, good for shallow waters and channels…a more senior audience it said…..a social and well-travelled group.  Good commentary by the captain and an all around enjoyable 5 to 11 days at sea and a BYOB policy.  I imagined the good time they were having discovering small tourist towns scattered through the Great Lakes and making new friends and embarking on new adventures at each port…. and I wished that some day, I would be lucky enough to ride that ship.
On my way to work, I notice yet another cruise ship tied up at Dock 2, downtown St. Ignace….I have to say it just gives you a little chill when you see one of these grand vessels and imagine all the different people, lifestyles and adventures they’ve been privy to . It also reminds you of our deep history with the Chief Wawatam Car Ferry and the lives and culture that had been impacted by it’s presence at the Straits of Mackinac.
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The Mid-Winter Road South in Search of Warmth and Pickleball…Pickleball?

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.

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Pond Hockey, WISSA and the winter of 2012

February Special Events

Well, February has passed and all the craziness of gearing up for the winters main events is over…….despite the fact that winter was not on our side, we survived and a whole bunch of people came to the U.P. and many for the first time, 159 hockey teams and WISSA participants representing more than 10 countries…. and everyone seemed to have a great time. Yes, St. Ignace knows how to throw a party! A lack of solid ice moved the pond hockey and WISSA (World Ice Skate and Sailing Association) from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan and finally resting at Chain Lake….Chain Lake?  many asked “where the heck is Chain Lake?”…according to the shuttle bus drivers, even a lot of locals didn’t know where it was. I can best describe it as this serene body of water you see to the west when coming from I-75 north into St. Ignace, swans own this lake and there is no prettier setting than when the sun is setting in the west and casting its magic on this little basically unknown to many, secret body of water. Lots of history though…..goes back to the 1600s or before when it was used as a passageway from Lake Michigan by the natives and then the traders,voyagers and missionaries into St. Ignace, establishing what is now our historic city. A good size portion of this lake is federal land, the city of St. Ignace owns a parcel and that was utilized for dropping off spectators and participants for the 10 day event.  


Much of the treed area of Chain Lake is un-buildable.and certainly no great public viewing available…..(yet)….. homes are situated on the east and west side for part of the lake. Too shallow to really use as an all sports lake but its a great nature lake and I believe they pull a fair amount of Pike and other small pan-fish.   Avid snowmobilers will pass along the east end in route to the trail system.  Land is cheap here, always has been but hey, maybe having this world-class event and pond hockey event, this small lake, mostly overshadowed by the areas 2 Great Lakes and Big Brevort Lake, will come in to its own.  The city could potentially open up an area for parking and special events…… and why not, it was a great backup spot for most of the events. For the WISSA event, the big Sails really needed the big lakes but what do you do when mother nature is in charge…..exactly what everyone did….make it work.  An undertaking this big doesn’t happen without a ton of planning and kudos go out to so many people from the Special Events Group and all the pre-planning to a load of volunteers, Chamber of Commerce, Visitor Bureau, city workers and just community members who wanted to be part of the event activity…..What an effort! Hurrah and congrats to this community to pulling another great event off. So just as the season is ending and in fact never got started, we get dumped with 18 inches of snow or so, followed by 60 degrees, come on….we are YOOPERS, we need winter, real winter, snow, ice, bring it on. Some say it is the way the planets line up in the solar system and thus caused the mild winter..I don’t really care…..just give us back our winters so our economy can get back on track, people can ski, snowmobile, snowshoe and hike and ice fish, like we’re suppose to do in the winter. Ok, enough……I’m done ranting, just want the old days back………… A special time for the Mackinac Properties office is always helping  participants in the pond hockey tournament find special lodging but this year, working with our international participants proved to be even more interesting.   Dealing with language translations,   finding the right needles and threads or (fish line) to fix ripped sails, finding electric adapters for their European electronic devises (thanks to my neighbor Patty, the  international traveler) who actually owns this stuff,  and just getting them accustomed to our area……it was a memorable experience……Imagine the look on my face when Andrei from Russia asked where the APPLE store was so he could buy an i-phone…..(apparently they are much cheaper in the U.S.) I just laughed, such is life in a small town.    Simone from Quebec and his friend Catherine, (all rock stars in their respective countries) placed tops in their divisions) .  Even as competitive as they are and the drive to be the best, they take great delight in friendly bantering back and forth.   …These athletes have formed relationships through these international competitions and have shown us that good sportsmanship is alive and well….Many have visited each other in their respective countries.  St. Ignace happened to be the gathering place……….and it was our privilege to host these popular events and help foster lifetime friendships…….so……. no matter what the weather, or the level one competes at, in the end, it is the communities open arms and gracious hospitality that most will remember. Well done gang!

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World Class Events come to St. Ignace, Michigan

Yesterday, I walked out on to Lake Michigan with the event organizer Mark Sposito and one of our special event volunteers,  Mike Kamyszek, it was 23 degrees and a stiff wind was biting at our nose….the ice between Green Island and the Lake Michigan shore on Boulevard Drive appeared thick and solid, 8-10 inches… we all smiled, this was good news….because it just could be the backup site for the upcoming February winter events, LaBatt Blue U.P. Pond Hockey and WISSA championships. (World Ice & Snow Sailing Association) .  Who would think, a little town like St. Ignace, located at the most southern tip of Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula, would be the location of 2 world-class events in one month.  Well, no surprise to us, we live here and appreciate what we behold every day…but mother nature has not cooperated so well up to this point.

What was a thriving winter economy years ago due to the great snowfalls enticing snowmobilers and cross country skiers, fisherman or just winter enthusiasts has changed over the years…..thus new winter activities that usually survive all the elements have been put in place.  Now we pray and dance for snow and ice. With under 3 weeks to the first event, and 160 pre-registered hockey teams from across the country await their challenge, and Ice-Sailors from across the world merge into the U.S. for the first time in 17 years, into unknown territory, and a small town awaits their arrival and pulls together to make these events successful,   some very sleepless nights for many, hover over us.

The location for both events is the wild blue icy bay of Lake Huron in downtown St. Ignace.  It’s just a great location…..but lack of good ice may throw us into a backup plan.  The good thing is, THERE IS A BACKUP PLAN….it could move to Lake Michigan,  just a few miles south, towards the Mackinac Bridge, at a spot that, well, maybe the best backdrop for these 2 events one could ever ask for.  Perched behind the backup spot, as big as big gets, is the majestic Mackinac Bridge.  The logistics are being put together and with a little cooperation here and there and this and that, if the downtown bay conditions aren’t great…..this Green Island/Straits of Mackinac  site will do just fine, in fact, it will be a photographers dream.

So, as months and months of efforts from so many people involved in these special events come to a head….and people from everywhere make their plans to come north, someone out there is looking over us and saying, don’t worry “all will be well in the U.P.”

Posted in Festivals, Recreation, Scenery, St. Ignace, U.P. Pond Hockey | 3 Comments

Amtrak, The Ride

December 1 2011- A recent real estate convention in Anaheim brought me to California.  Visiting my kids, now both on the west coast, pro-longed my stay and so when the Southern Cal kids flew out of LA to the Detroit/Saints game in New Orleans, (the annual Schlehuber Bowl) on December 1st, I decided I would go north to visit my daughter who had just moved to Oregon.  I had never seen the stretch of land between LA and Carmel and was excited to get it checked off my list.

Ok, so I’m a northern Michigan girl,  and its a long drive up the coast to Oregon so after procrastinating my options on mode of travel,  pondering the rental car & the 4-5 day trip (recommended time to see all the sites) or the rat race of the airlines, I decided NOT to fly or drive..I inquired a little and found that Amtrak runs up the Pacific Coast, and for pretty reasonable, so I got a ticket to Albany Oregon and my first 27 hour train ride.  First time on Amtrak, (kind of on the bucket list), loved it!  would do again in a heart beat.  Beautiful ocean coastline, rugged mountains, glacier lakes and many remote little towns, amazing scenery! The train staff were interesting and had a west coast sense of humor…The website indicated there was complimentary Wi-Fi but when it didn’t work, I was told it really hadn’t gotten hooked up yet , (apparently they’ve been telling that story for quite some time now), (that’s not so cool),  but I was able to tether my cell phone for access and was able to work from my seat..at least when there was a cell signal which was ample.  I hate to say that I get excited over little things like a double plug within distance of my left arm but I do….having that luxury for my laptop and cell phone is one that does not come on many planes so the 27 hour trip on train vs. 3.5 hour airline flight was still worth it.

So, if I could pass on any tips from my first Amtrak experience, these would be a couple:  When they pull up to a station on the route and say “this is a short stop, don’t wander far”, (mostly speaking to the cigarette break crowd), they mean it!  so getting left (aka stranded) at the Santa Barbara station wasn’t good…and the staff doesn’t have much of a sense of humor about that either, (ok so I really had to call the office and didn’t want to talk on the train,  it was only a few minutes in the bathroom), but finding the “Transportation Rockstar” cabbie that got me 110 miles north to the next stop before the train got there was a ride worth the fortune it cost me, (you can’t buy that kind of entertainment!).  The cabbie asked me why I picked his cab out of the 6 that were lined up.  I told him if I was going to spend a lot of money and ride two hours with a stranger,  they needed to speak English and have good looking legs, he had both. Actually he was French but spent most of his life in the U.S.  so verbal skills were good.

Once boarded back on the train after 2 hours, they hardly missed me, a few people thought I had gone to the bar or lunch…one figured I missed the train but all my equipment luggage and extra money were still in tact.

The parlor is a great place to sit with the big glass windows and view the scenery unobstructed so once back on the train, I checked that all out and what a treat I got.  There were 2 volunteers from a local historical society who gave a 2 hour history of the southern mountain region of Oregon and the Native American history, (similar to ours just not as old).  So while winding through this amazing mountain pass and seeing the snow covered landscape, anyone in the parlor who was interested got a 5-star history lesson!  I pay extra for that if I travel but they were happy to show off their region, LOVE VOLUNTEERS!
Dining in the white linen table-cloth caboose is an interesting event.  They seat you wherever there is an open seat so I was seated with a couple who were taking a 50th wedding anniversary trip and started in North Carolina.  It’s a annual event for them, somewhere on Amtrak, they love it.   When I pried for more information about their life, they told me they were circus owners…..but were tired and ready to sell (they own 2) but selling a circus in this economy was not so easy…I’m thinking, are you kidding? I can’t imagine!! selling a house in this market isn’t an easy task so I can’t imagine a circus…anyway, nice couple and after 50 years seem to still like each other.   Never met a circus owner, asked how he got involved in that industry and he said he didn’t finish high school, left home got involved in a circus now he owns 2 (apparently made a fortune)….Love that old “entrepreneurial” spirit!

Last tip:  When they give you a claim ticket for luggage, don’t lose it….at least if you de-board in Albany OR, you may end up with the Nazi luggage man where even with a drivers license and picture ID and no one else left picking up any luggage and only one bag left on the cart, I was not allowed to take my luggage till I filled out a claim form….no amount of pleading or common sense prevailed….I pulled out all my warm and fuzzy Michigan stuff to no avail…..”Welcome to Oregon”, not so much..(so I’m in the tourism business too and have a clue).  At first I thought maybe you could chalk it up to him just having a bad day but other regular riders in the station said it was “most normal” for him….hmmmm, he wouldn’t last at my company! So I won’t hold Oregon responsible for him but Amtrak might want to send out a hospitality tester:)

Interesting people ride trains…..and all of that makes for interesting stories…. I’m glad I tested new waters and got to add this story to my list…I’m also glad I had my wallet and cell phone with me when I got stranded at the station…I can laugh about it now but every once in a while I wonder how my trip would have changed had I not had my wallet and phone with me when the train left without me…..hope I never know.

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California-The Trip

They bank up the shores with sand, 20 feet tall to keep out the winter storm surges

November was a blur of activities.  It started out with a trip to Anaheim California to attend the national REALTOR convention and ended at a ribbon cutting with (pet activist:)

Bailey at the doggie fountain

daughter-in-law Alicia for a fabulous new dog park in Murrieta.  The convention is an annual one but in a different great city each year.  It’s a great place to get new ideas, get excited about new industry tools and activities and network with agents from all over the world.  It’s extra special now that my son Russ (J.R.) is in the real estate and mortgage business in California so we get to trade ideas, share concerns about the market, test out new programs and share in the industry that we both love.

Of course, while on the west coast and in the mountain area, I love to check out the new fabulous wineries (BIG BUSINESS)  which are as many and as popular as the great golf courses.    I always get to try out a few new courses and maintain the mother-son ongoing challenge of low score which I have still hung on to but feel it slipping away rather quickly.  It’s only a matter of time…but the challenge is great and it is something I shared with my dad while he was alive.  My dad lived to beat me on the course which he only did once in his life but after doing so, published it in the local paper for the world to know:)  Great competitive fun which also carries over to the ping-pong table which I can no longer hold “winners title”  but am requesting a new paddle for Christmas as well as more heat in the garage for some winter practice games, the backhand really needs work.

Before leaving California on Amtrak to Oregon, (whole other blog), I toured the southern coastline which is my favorite place to be.  From Seal Beach down to Imperial Beach (near the Mexican border), I walked the open boardwalks along the shore, checked out Farmers Markets (organic peanut butter from Traverse City) talked with residents, shopkeepers and tourists and took in the salty sea air on the many ocean piers that dot the shoreline.  I looked at real estate, zoning issues, public parks public housing and transportation issues.  You can have the crazy traffic up I-5 and everywhere else but there’s nothing like those long expanses of walking paths and public spaces that allow you a front row seat on the great Pacific Ocean.  Some would spend time shopping because they sure have it here and I have, but lately, I have found shopping way overrated and would much prefer to discover somewhere new.  Other than the crazy highway traffic and it is!, there are certain things that California does really well.  Providing recreation, parks and open space is one of them.  Visiting the shore will remain the popular option for most as living or owning a piece of California waterfront is out of reach for most, (but it sure is fun to look).    Makes Michigan waterfront still an amazing and affordable option for many.  Keeping the shorelines open for the world to use and bringing in a mix of housing so people can live, shop and play and small towns can prosper is a delicate task but one that has been done effectively in many places.  Here’s hoping our communities learn by example…

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World Ice and Snow Sailing Association

How did a little town like St. Ignace capture this world-class event….A lot of hard work from many volunteers and the confidence from WISSA that the the Straits of Mackinac is as deserving a place as any in the world. This is only the 4th time since 1980 that this event has been held in the United States.    Last year this event was held in Finland and this year it’s traveling across the globe to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and the little harbor town of St. Ignace.


STS is coming to the USA in 2012

A cool wind is blowing thru the world of windsurfing, and with it comes a fresh new way of racing. Developed in Latvia, the Short Track Slalom (STS) takes place on plowed ice. It packs more action into a tight space than any other form of wind powered competition.A system of quick starts, rapid heats, and instant results makes racing dynamic and compelling. The close quarters and high speeds are spellbinding for sailors and spectators alike. Precision jibing, lightning acceleration and dramatic crashes are standard fare for this extraordinary new discipline. Think of it as a cross between sailing and short track speed skating.The venue (a plowed area 200×200 meters) is a simple matter in cold climates. The small size, easy containment, and high action density make the STS a natural for the new world of spectators and media.Get ready!

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A Hike at Rabbits Back Peak

To most, it’s just a hump in the landscape on a Lake Huron Bay just outside of the city of St. Ignace in the village of Evergreen Shores.  To many who live here, it’s much more….It’s a history, a story of a time gone by, an era when this intriguing rock was a well-known landmark, a kind of “castle rock” of its day. It was a nickle climb, so they say. The land is populated by small two tracks, a reminder of a time that it was being developed for a campground but never really got off the ground.  It is full of majestic cedars and many varieties of evergreens and rock ledges as well as hidden cement footings that hold stories of a previous life in a bustling harbor town.

Towering over the Mackinac area, it offers a 365 view although the ancient cedars are starting to block some of the wide open view of years past.  It is the highest point in Mackinac County, 30 feet higher than the famous “Castle Rock” on I-75.

The “Peak” holds stories of years gone by.  Many Native Americans have their own stories and beliefs of what the landmark really holds, some believe it is a sacred ground and holds sacred bones of early settlers. You can see the area that once was the bustling “Trading Post” where a small tourist shop on Mackinac Trail marks the original (or close to) position of this place where the voyagers met and traded their goods and stories.  A spot identified from Lake Huron as “between” the towering two peaks (Castle Rock and Rabbits Back Peak). See the a story below from “Chief White Wolf”.

I remember as a teenager, new to the area, climbing this rock and thinking it was the coolest place I’d ever been.  I’ve climbed many times since then and this climb was with a non-profit group that we work with, The Great Waters Center for Lifelong Learning, most of the group are newer to the area and had only ever wondered what that hump represented.  A local Native American historian accompanied us to give the group the history of the “Peak” through his eyes.

As we stood atop the peak, an eagle soared over the cedars, the setting sun shed a late afternoon glow on nearby Mackinac Island and the St. Ignace harbor, the smell of cedars filled the air and fall was upon us.  There was no better place to be on that day.  All is good in our U.P.          Rabbits Back Peak

The Rabbits Back

Woods, Historic of Mackinac

Here is a rock of peculiar shape about three miles from the point where the Indians gathered in 1680.  Here, it is said MANABOZHO, the Great Hare, who was a Huron Deity, once gave a Huron the gift of Immortality tied in a bundle, enjoining him never to open it; The Indian’s wife, however, moved by curiousity, cut the string, and the precious gift flew out.  Ever since then the Indians have been subject to death.

MANABOZHO was a Diety to all of the tribes in the Lakes’ Superior and Michigan region, and our local tribesman say that he was usually in the form of a Great Hare, and was very kind to the Indians, but as the Indians began waring and adopting the ways of the early traders, he became so grieved that he turned himself to stone. Ever after those who had heard of his wonderful works, have in sorrow or want, gone to this spot and laid gifts around him, and they claim wonderful healings and other supernatural benefits from this great stone rabbit.


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Summer of 2012

Where did the season go?  Honestly, it’s been busy but I just found this picture that I took in August on Brevort Lake, at the Sunset Breeze vacation cottage and decided to post it so it would remind me of the summer that just turned into fall.  I didn’t miss it….I was there….participated in as many activities and events as possible and as busy as it was, this picture reflects the calm that sometimes we get to enjoy.  Nothing like waking up on this lake first thing and seeing the beautiful colors stretching across the 7 mile span, listening to the sound of an occasional loon but more often the quack of the neighborhood ducks taking a stroll along the shore.   Summer came and it left…..How did I not make time to report it all….I will get better soon.

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