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Two Road Trips – 1 Planned and 1 Not

slots-932268_640On Wednesday of last week, Georgia and I took a “cabin fever” break by making a short two night trip to Wisconsin Dells.

We stayed at our favorite hotel in Baraboo and spent much of our time at Ho-Chunk casino. They had a promotion going on that awarded rewards play for certain tasks. 10 points for dining at one of the casino venues, 10 for signing up for the newsletter and others. We each ended up with $50 dollars of free slot play.

It was nice to get away during the winter and we ended up doing just a little better than break even so we were happy.

When we got up Friday morning, Georgia had a message on her phone telling her that Virgina,her mother-in-law from her first marriage, had died during the night. It wasn’t totally unexpected since she was 90 years old and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years.  This was Angeli’s grandmother and Max’s great grandmother. So, we started planning a trip to Michigan for the funeral.

We got home Friday night with the intention of staying there a couple nights then leaving for Grand Rapids. Saturday we learned that the viewing and funeral would both be held on  Wednesday so we decided to wait until Tuesday to go.

We went through our usual routine with Max staying at our house Sunday afternoon to Tuesday. He didn’t really understand what going on a trip was all about, since this was going to be his first, but he was excited that something was going on. He must have heard someone talk about a family trip because when we talked to him about it he would always say; “A trip with my family.”

Tuesday we loaded the car and got going about noon. The forecast was for show showers in Grand Rapids but nothing serious. That would turn out to be wrong!

We dropped Max off earlier than usual because he would be going with his parents. From their home in Chicago we continued our trip east. The roads we good for the first part of the drive.

We had decided to stay inland away from Lake Michigan to try and avoid lake effect snow but still, when we were still about 100 miles from Grand Rapids, we hit the first light snow. It was melting on contact so it was just making the road wet.

icy roadThe closer we got, the harder it was snowing. As the sun went down, the wet road turned to slush and then to snow covered ice. Our last 30 miles we were only going 30 to 40 miles an hour and the last 10 was more like 25 MPH.

We were relieved when we got to the hotel but we knew that Angeli, Edwin and Max were still behind us since they left later than we did. We could only hope the plows and salt trucks were out doing their job.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. They had even worse conditions than we did and for a longer distance. What should have been a 3 hour trip ended up taking them 4 1/2 hours and was white knuckles for the last 1/3 of the way. Everyone of us was very glad when the arrived about 11:30 PM.

Wednesday the weather was clear and the main roads were good. Georgia and I got to the funeral home about 10 AM for gathering of Virgina’s immediate family. Then at 11 the visitation for the public began. Angeli and Edwin slept in a little after their harrowing drive of the night before but they got there with Max before the funeral at 1 PM.

Max was a big hit with all the relatives he hadn’t met before. There is nothing shy about him. He was happy to talk to everybody. The only problem was that he couldn’t stop talking when the service was about to start so Edwin took him to a room reserved just for such occasions. Speakers on the wall  let them hear what was going on so they weren’t completely left out.

After the funeral service, we went to the church for a late lunch. Max got to run around and burn off some energy there at least.

That night we met up with friends for dinner before turning in to rest up before the drive home.

When we got up Thursday morning it was snowing again. Luckily though the roads were just wet so we went ahead and made the drive back home. The last 2/3 of the trip was on dry roads.

Any time we have to travel in the winter around the Great Lakes it can be a challenge. Lake effect snow can pop up on one or the other side of Lake Michigan anytime the wind blows. Sometimes though, we just have to go anyway.

MSU vs ND

Georgia is a Michigan State alumnus and she has been wanting to return to the MSU campus for a football game for a while now. This past weekend, the Spartans were playing Notre Dame so we decided to go. We made the drive to East Lansing on Friday for the game on Saturday.

Saturday morning we drove to the MSU campus to look around. Even though the game was not scheduled until 8 PM, many roads and all the parking lots were closed so there wasn’t much we could do except drive through. We went to downtown East Lansing so Georgia could shop in the Student Book Store there. We got lunch then went back to our hotel to rest up for the evening.

We hadn’t come equipped to tailgate so we got subs on our way to campus. We chose parking lot 48 since that one is the handicapped accessible lot and offered a shuttle to the stadium. The partying was already in full swing when we arrived a little before 5 PM. We ate our sandwiches then caught the first shuttle over to Spartan Stadium. The gates wouldn’t open until 6:30 but we were able to sit and soak up the game day atmosphere from just outside. The game itself was something of a let down as the final score was MSU 3 – ND 20. But hey, we were there for the experience not the score -yea right.

On Sunday morning, we went back to campus. The road and parking lot closures were gone so we did get a chance to park and see more before we had to leave for home.

Great Lakes Road Trip

My Aunt Juanita celebrated her 80th birthday in Eau Claire, Wisconsin over Memorial Day weekend. Georgia and I decided to extend our trip by coming home to Chicago the long way – through the Upper Peninsula then down through lower Michigan and Indiana.

We left on Friday, May 25th, and spent the first night in Wisconsin Dells. On Saturday we went on to Bruce, Wisconsin to visit my mother. Along the way, we stopped in Cadott to have lunch on the 45th parallel where a sign announced that  we were half way between the equator and the north pole. We spent that second night in Ladysmith.

Sunday was the birthday party in Eau Claire where I got to spend some time with family members I hadn’t seen in years. We spent that night at the hotel where the party was held so that we could visit later into the evening.

Monday was Memorial day and we spent the whole day driving from Eau Claire to Munising, Michigan. Along the way we were in and out of some very heavy rain storms so we were not able to do much sight-seeing along the way. It was bad enough in Escanaba, Michigan that we had to pull off the road for a while. This video shows the roads after the rain started to let up.

 

Tuesday started out chilly but dry so we took a Lake Superior Cruise to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The water was very smooth making it a pleasant two and a half hours on the water. We got some great pictures of the rocks that have been carved by the wind and water. The rain started up again right at the end of the cruise so we got back in the car for the next leg of the trip to Paradise, Michigan.

The UP has been hit hard by wildfires this spring and we were headed right into the biggest one – the Duck Lake fire – which had already burned over 20,000 acres. The heavy rain helped us on this day was we were able to go around the fire on roads that had been closed by heavy smoke before the rain. We had hoped to stop at Tahquamenon Falls but the park had been closed for several days because of the fire and was still closed when we went by.

The park closing as well as the closing of several campgrounds in the Paradise area meant that almost no tourists in the area. That really hurt the area businesses since Memorial Day weekend is a big one for them. We were one of only three couples staying at our hotel that night. Every restaurant in town was closed by 5 pm so we had to drive 20 miles to get dinner. We did get a very nice room overlooking Lake Superior that night and the desk clerk called us later in the evening to let us knowTahquamenon would be opening the next morning.

We visited the falls on Wednesday morning just as the park reopened. With very few other people there, we were able to take our time and enjoy the views and sounds of the falls. Then it was time to head south since our next stop was going to be Traverse City in lower Michigan. Today we only had overcast and light rain, no downpours like the last couple days.

We reached the Mackinac Bridge about mid-day and stopped in Mackinaw City for lunch, shopping and some pictures of the bridge. Then we continued on to Traverse City and checked into our hotel for the night. This was our wedding anniversary so Georgia and I went out for a nice dinner before turning in for the night.

Thursday we drove to Maple City where we met up with one of Georgia’s distant cousins at the Nash-Pettengill Cemetery there. Everyone buried in the cemetery is a part of Georgia’s genealogy so we always make a stop when in the area.

From Maple City, we made the short drive to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore where we started out with the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This 7.4 mile drive is a great introduction to the ecology of the Lake Michigan dunes area. Pull off areas along the route highlight special viewing areas.

After the drive we stopped at the climbing dune where we had lunch and then on to Glen Haven. Once a tourist town, Glen Haven is now a museum village owned by the National Park Service. A blacksmith shop, inn, cannery and general store are among the building now being used as educational sites.

From Sleeping Bear, we leisurely continued along the Lake Michigan shore to Ludington with stops at some of the scenic views and small towns along the way. After dinner, we checked into our hotel for our last night along the shore of the Great Lakes.

It was raining again on Friday as we drove from Ludington to Grand Rapids. We would spend Friday and Saturday visiting family and friends there before coming back home on Sunday.

ArtPrize

Georgia was hospitalized four time in August and September for gastric pain. It appears the gastric bypass hasn’t fully solved her problem. Right now she has a tube in the bypassed portion of her stomach that comes out through her abdomen. It is there so a gastroenterologist can do an ERCP and look for possible issues in that portion of her stomach. The tube has to be in place for 2-3 weeks before the ERCP.

With all those hospital stays, we have had to stay close to home for the last couple months. But, this past weekend, Georgia was feeling pretty good and wanted to get out for a while. We decided to go to Grand Rapids, Michigan to visit friends and explore ArtPrize. I took Friday and Monday off to give us enough time there.

After a stop at Four Winds Casino for lunch and slot play (I won $100), we got into Grand Rapids on a rainy Friday afternoon. We spent that evening and all day Saturday with friends and family. The weather was beautiful on Sunday when we went downtown for ArtPrize. We were joined by our friends Dennis and Mary and their daughter Roxanne, with her baby Ian.


ArtPrize is a huge art show that is spread out over many venues all over town. That meant a full day of walking for me. Georgia had her TravelScoot to help her get around.  Having friends with us made it a very pleasant outing. There was no way we could see everything but we got to as many venues as we could.

We ate lunch at Peppino’s Pizza downtown. From there we walked to the Grand Rapids Art Museum which is one of the larger venues for works that must be kept indoors. Then a short walk back to the car and to our hotel.

We drove back home on Monday with a short stop at St. Alexius Hospital to pick by some CDs with the images from the tests Georgia had while she was in the hospital there. She needed those to take with her to her first appointment with the surgeon who will do the ERCP. That appointment happened Tuesday afternoon and her procedure is now scheduled for Monday Oct. 10. Hopefully it will shed some light on the reason for the attacks she suffers.

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