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Michigan State Travels
Last year I participated in the virtual Big Ten, 10K run. This year we planned a trip to Michigan that coincided with the week for the same virtual run and one of my kids suggested I run on the campus of Michigan State. It was a great idea and allowed me to celebrate my 40th anniversary of graduating from Michigan State University.
The focus of the travel was spending time with family, at a family cabin we were at last in 2004 with our kids. It was very relaxing to be on the water and go kayaking on the lake before or after the speed boat time.
We did get into town and visited Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery and did some bike riding on the trails near Traverse City. The weather was summer perfect and we enjoyed the time with family.
After the family time we took a few days for ourselves in Ludington riding bikes on the local bike trail and playing some disc golf as well as walking along the beach. We really enjoyed our bike ride on the William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail State Park. Quite a mouthful of a name and a very pretty ride. This is a linear state park, meaning it is just the 22-mile trail and no camping or other items that may be associated with state parks.
Ludington was a town I went to as a kid to celebrate my birthday over Memorial Day for several years. I remember they always had a parade and the sand dunes were fun to climb. We enjoyed walking around the town and the free concert in town the Saturday we arrived.
I met up with some of my college friends and their wives in Michigan at the location where my grandparents had their 50th wedding anniversary. The place has changed ownership and is now a restaurant, but it was on the same “ball” golf course.
We were able to join in with my friends and see Chicago in concert at what we called Pine Knob as kids. The outdoor music concert in the DTE Energy Music Center was fun and the first concert I had been to since COVID started.
After our bike ride, we were able to play disc golf on the Hart Hydro course in Heart, Michigan. We did not find all of the holes correctly but had a good time playing this pretty well marked course. My wife and I both threw an Ace on a hole playing disc golf in a poorly marked, but entertaining course in Ludington, Michigan.
Enjoy the ride; you never know what will happen. We went on the Heart trail, and after over 30 miles of riding we were told a tree was down on the path. We were fortunate the winds did not pick a time when anyone was walking or riding by at the time it fell. It was odd to have to lift our bikes to get back on the path. We are always thankful to return safely.
Know what you want and pursue that path. I was able to go disc golfing after playing “ball” golf with my relatives. I asked if they would play disc golf with me and to my surprise they agreed. We had a fun time on a challenging course for all of us playing disc golf in Michigan. I plan to play disc golf much more than I ever plan to play “ball” golf.
Enjoy the time, be friendly and check the store hours. We biked on the Heart trail; prior to our visit we read about being sure to stop for ice cream at the Country Dairy about ½ way along the trail. They are not open on Sundays. As we happened along, we met a person who could only be an owner or a manager. She let us in to purchase some delicious ice cream as they were planning for a private party that Sunday. When getting back home and looking at the website, it was clear they are not open on Sundays.
A Fun Visit to NW Arkansas
North West Arkansas is home to Wal-Mart and my mom, who recently turned 89. It was a pleasure to visit her in Arkansas for that special occasion. My mom was thrilled that my daughter joined me on the trip.
In Bentonville, we visited the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. My daughter was fascinated with the two-story spider sculpture at the entrance. I appreciated the models we saw that had productive use of sea shells, answering one of my questions from Florida, “What do we do with the shells?”
- The museum has a fun collection of American art including some sculptures like the man waiting for his wife and the spider that my daughter liked so much.
- The Frank Lloyd Wright house was great to see as we have limited opportunities to be in one of his creations. The museum took this house apart in New Jersey and reassembled it in Arkansas.
Thank you to Wal-Mart for sponsoring general admission to Crystal Bridges—it was free!
North of Bentonville is the retirement community of Bella Vista. We took a walk to visit the VFW memorial where we have a brick for my grandfather and my dad’s military service. While walking around Lake Bella Vista, we saw a rare site: a black swan. I was reminded of the book about improbable events. Our improbable event was a 2 mile hike with my 89 year old mom.
We managed a trip to the Walton Art Center, south of Bentonville, near the home of the University of Arkansas. Fayetteville is a nice place to visit. We enjoyed the pedestrian street traffic on Friday night as several of the U of Arkansas students were wearing realistic Star Wars outfits, including light sabers. Too bad we were not quick enough to get a picture.
It was cold in North West Arkansas. Next year (for 90) we will plan to go to Disney as my brother lives near Orlando.
Here are my Mom’s tips looking back on 89 years:
- Have things to look forward to doing. We went to the symphony. Like many of us when we get older, she does not like driving in the dark. She had tickets for all of us on a bus that a group regularly takes to the symphony. It adds to the social, as well as the cultural, experience.
- Be a blessing to others. Several people told me about the wonderful things my mom had done in their life. It was great to hear and made me proud of my mom. She was not resting; she went out to take care of a friend who is much older and cannot do too much.
- Keep moving. We went to Crystal Bridges, and although we did not walk fast, we went through the museum and grounds. We walked her neighborhood several times, seeing an armadillo and several neighbors doing the same thing we were–getting out and being active.
- Keep having fun!
Peer pressure is alive and well after high school and follows even 89 year olds. When asked about living in the same house for the last 30 years and when she might move to a smaller place, her response was all about her friends—fellow widows living by themselves and doing well. I am happy to report she is doing well in her large house and she is hiring out for some of the things she can no longer do.
Trip by the numbers: We went on several walks/hikes with Mom, a total of more than 4 miles. No bike rides, even though we had a few nice days.
A Cool Walk on the Beach
Our trip to Florida proved that there is nothing quite like a Florida sunset even when it is cold outside. Watching the sun set is something we rarely do at home. With the weather near a not “Florida like” 30+ degrees (0 C) we were joined in viewing the sunset by several other tourists, most of whom did not get out of their hotel or condo during the day. Of course for us, no matter how many times you witness the sun going down over the water, it’s always a magical experience. We managed to get out every night while we were in Florida to see the sun set over the water. Sometimes it was with a glass of wine and friends. Other times it was just a few of us brave souls watching the sun set in the west.
When it is cold, it sounds good to book flights to Florida. We imagined ourselves spending a week at the beach the first week of January, using plenty of sunscreen while walking on the beach and taking some bike rides nearby. When we looked at the local forecast and saw the highs at home would be cold, we congratulated ourselves on our planning, until we looked at the lows for the panhandle of Florida, in the high 20’s (-2 C). Okay, a few days it did warm up to almost 50 degrees (about 13 C), and it was generally 30 degrees warmer where we were staying in Florida than it was back home. We managed to walk for at least an hour every morning before lounging around and eating breakfast. Warm coffee was great after a cool walk on the beach. I even put my bare toes in the cool sand, although not for too long.
We did enjoy the sunrise in the early mornings. We did all the things on a trip to Seagrove Beach, Florida, we anticipated; we just had on more layers and never got to wear the shorts we packed. A good day on the beach was better than shoveling snow at home.
We saw several shells and some wild life while walking along the beach. The sand pipers were fun to watch scurrying along the beach. A sea cucumber and the crab were interesting to see—although it was too cold for them on the beach. We saw the sea turtle signs although we did not see any signs of the turtles. Please let me know your suggestions for the sea shell collection we took home with us. The beach was a beautiful white sandy beach that reminded us of snow. Of course, the cold weather may have influenced our thoughts.
We biked and hiked in the nearby Point Washington State Park. We were very impressed by the trails and the different plants that we encountered. We were pleased to be wearing long pants when we rode through all of the saw tooth palmetto bushes. I was amazed at the deer moss that was like a carpet. On our hikes we found a grove of cypress trees .
Kim and I are experienced road bike riders. We were able to borrow mountain bikes and ride in the state forest for several days. It was different for us to be on the mountain bikes, and riding in the sand is very hard. The state forest practices controlled burns; the sand is deep when trucks have been through in recent days. I am not sure who can ride on the deep sand-filled paths. I could not ride parts of this trail as the sand was over a foot deep for the width of the trail.
We did discover what we thought was a tree from Dr. Seus–the long leaf pine tree.
We enjoyed the aviation in the panhandle with a nearby air force base. We did stop at the fascinating Air Force Armament Museum and enjoyed our tour inside as well as outside. They have heat and air conditioning inside the building. It is a good place to go when you cannot go out on the beach.
- Being cold on the beach is better than not being on the beach at all.
- Bike riding in deep sand is just as hard as a tall hill; new respect for mountain biking.
- Air travel in January is tricky with snow covering places all up and down the east coast.
- Beach access is a consideration when renting or buying near the beach.
- A month or two near the beach is a great way to spend a month or two.
Trip by the numbers:
Mountain biking: 41 miles, longest 15 miles.
Hiking,walking on the beach: 14 miles, longest 3.75 miles in the forest.
The Enchanted State Park
Our weekend to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio began on Thursday. It is great to get away when everyone else is still working. Keep up the good work if you are among that group…
It was raining when we woke up on Friday morning. And then it rained until about 9:30 in the morning. At that point in time the porch in our cabin was a good place to be, but a hike in the woods sounded better. It was cool and misty when we started out for our hike from Old Man’s Cave parking area. If you have not been to this enchanting part of the park, access is free; it is well worth the trip. The GPS had a little trouble finding the park. As we found out, once we arrived, even a cool, rainy Friday, several people had no trouble finding the location, including us.
At the beginning of our hike, on the way to Old Man’s Cave, we first walked down to the Hocking River. The views looked like we were in a Disney movie and we half expected to find a troll or a gnome coming out from under one of the stone bridges.
After we hiked through the Old Man’s Cave, we took a longer hike out to Cedar Falls. We really enjoyed the quiet on the hike; the water was flowing due to the morning rain and sounded great. We could see the “just past peak” colors peaking out of the hemlock evergreen trees. The hemlock tree has “whispy” leaves and they are not thick. As a result, our views on the hike were better than they could have been if the park had cedar trees instead of hemlocks. We are planning on coming back during the week next year in October to see the colors at their peak. Past peak the colors were really good.
We did make it to cedar falls. Apparently the early settlers mistook (like me) the hemlock for cedar trees. The falls were nice to visit on our hike, and we were glad we hiked the trail. The trail on the way back warned of being strenuous. We now understand that the hike up away from the falls, on the several steps, was tiring and being on the cliffs looking down did show us how high we had climbed. It was not bad; the only part that strained was the initial climb out from the falls.
We enjoyed finding a suspension bridge on the hike. It was fun for us to take a break and cross it more than once. The path led to Ash Cave, another popular spot in the park. Apparently Ash Cave was the site for public gatherings for years as it has good acoustics.
We enjoyed hiking through the tunnels and over the stone bridges. We found many waterfalls and pretty sites along the way.
We enjoyed our during-the-week adventure. We are going to look for more of them in the future. This park did not have a lodge and closed at 5 PM during the week. We were able to get directions from a fellow traveler on how to access our cabin and how to get around. It is always good to ask for help from an expert. We recommend the park as an enchanted trip.
We did not bike this trip. We did hike over 8 miles in the park and could easily have hiked more.
Murder Mystery Weekend
Part of the retirement joy is the ability to leave town during the week. We were able to leave for our murder mystery weekend on Thursday and enjoy the best weather day of the week on site. Leaving Friday after work, we would have missed a beautiful (cold) clear Friday as Saturday was cold and rainy.
Our visit to Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky was great. This picturesque falls is known as the Niagara of the south. Fall colors were happening and the weather on Friday was perfect for hiking. We were able to start just after breakfast, on the trail at 8 AM, hard at work!
The fun part about Cumberland Falls is that it is one of two spots in the world where you can experience a Moonbow. If you have never seen one, a trip to this terrific state park should be in your future. The last time we made it here we stayed in a cabin and hiked the trails by day and saw the Moonbow by night. It is hard to photograph the Moonbow. It is great to experience it. Experiences are what we are looking to accumulate in retirement and not “things.”
On our Friday hike we noticed the fallen leaves looked like snow cover on the ground. The trees were raining leafs, including giant ones from the big leaf magnolia tree. It was fun to watch the leaves fall across our path.
The colors were vibrant in the park.
On our hike we saw turtles sunning themselves.
But, the most interesting sound we heard on the trail was the “talking trees.” On our afternoon hike we stopped, as we generally do, to listen to what is happening around us. We heard a weird sound. Looking around we noticed that one tree had fallen into another and when the wind blew, as it was doing, the trees were trying to pull apart and made a sound. I do not recall hearing that sound before on a hike.
The reason we went this weekend to Cumberland Falls was that the lodge was hosting a murder mystery dinner. We really enjoyed the interaction and the participation with the cast in solving the mystery. We made a few new friends as well. We are now planning on going with some of our friends to a local showing of a similar production put on by the same company.
One lesson stood out for us. The park was enjoyable for us because the park was purchased and given to the state for all to enjoy. It made us think about our legacy. We are not heirs to a fortune, yet we can all give back in our own way.
Other highlight: Late October is a great time to go to the southern part of Kentucky; all the trees were at or near peak. We also learned that the state park has fun with Halloween decorations and the staff got into the spirit with costumes.
We did not solve the murder mystery, although a few people in the audience had the correct answer. We managed to hike over 9 miles. We do not mountain bike, so, no biking this weekend for us.
Do Retired People Just Play Golf All Day?
Many assumptions are made about life after retirement. I know that I had a few assumptions on what people did or do in retirement. Many think of endless golf games and outside entertainment in Florida. In retirement I have played two golf games, admittedly, not very well. In comparison, I just played trumpet at my third wedding this year. I am excited to have played at more weddings than golf courses.
I love the thoughts from Roger Whitney, “Go, go years, slow go years and no go years.” In my retirement we are in the go, go years. Here is a recap of what we have been up in the last week—from a travel perspective.
Last week I was able to help out a friend who had received a retirement gift of baseball tickets and he and two others joined in at the Reds game. We even got to see a dramatic finish in the 10th inning (for the other team L). What a fun opportunity to stay out late and not worry about being late for the office the next day.
Kim and I went out to the local playhouse for a production of Shakespeare in Love. We really enjoyed the acting and the escape. We also did not worry about when we left or came back home.
Last weekend, we hopped on a plane for Rochester, Minnesota, to be a part of the wedding for Karen and Phil. I was pleased to play trumpet for their wedding. Our hosts for the weekend, Chris and Cindy, were also part of the music for the wedding. I really enjoyed our time with Karen and Phil as well as Chris and Cindy.
We did a tour of Rochester, including a visit to the Mayo properties in downtown Rochester as well as a quick visit to the Plummer house.
The area around Rochester (in the summer!) is really nice. Of course they have these things called “sky bridges” that connect the buildings downtown so the residents do not have to go outside in the winter.
We enjoyed the walking as well as the bike ride we did near Silver Lake. Minnesota is the “land of 10,000 lakes” and the county we were in is one of three counties that does not have a natural lake. Interesting trivia for the day.
Geese by the hundreds dwell on the Zumbro’s shoreline where it widens into Silver Lake. The geese are a scenic addition and responsible for the local restaurant’s name where we ate breakfast, the “Canadian Honker.” The food was good and the location was nice. The local story is that the power plant keeps the water in the Rochester part of the Zumbro River warm all year long and the geese never leave.
For fun, Kim and I rode a tandum bike. It was an interesting experience as we bike ride a lot at the same time, just not together on the same bike. I think we are, for now, keeping our individual road bikes.
A few lessons learned.
- Be helpful. The history of the Mayo Clinic is that it was founded by people that helped out.
- Be intentional about friends. Our friends Chris and Cindy “Friday with friends” event where they are intentional about getting together with friends each week.
- Always be yourself, unless you are Batman… We saw this sign at a men’s clothing store in downtown Rochester.
We also spent the prior Friday exploring the bike trails in Aurora, Indiana. We were pleased to find the trails. They are close to the house and provide a nice ride along the Ohio River. It is good to see the scenery from the other side of the river, looking into Kentucky.
There is a new person retiring all the time. Are you next? The gate agent on our flight to Rochester was retiring. As our incoming flight was delayed we had a few minutes to chat. She is off to Peru and then will be looking for some volunteer work.
We went to a local farm and enjoyed their fall festival, including a hayride and picking a pumpkin. The spiced cider was not yet ready for us, maybe next week! Happy fall to everyone.
Trip by the numbers:
States visited: Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio. Does a stopover at the airport count as a visit? We did two stopovers in Chicago, so did we visit Illinois? I say, yes we did…Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. We were several nights in Minnesota, had a bike ride in Indiana and a play and a baseball game in Ohio.
- Biking miles: 26, with the addition of Minnesota to our list of states for a bike ride.
- Hiking/Walking: 7 miles.
- Trumpet playing at Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
Water and Water Falls
After our travels to the Biltmore, we needed to get some fresh air. We hiked, or walked, up the stairs to the top, and them some more at Chimney Rock. We walked the 500 steps up to the top. We also took the additional 330 steps from Chimney Rock to Exclamation Point, the highest point in the park. Of course we had to hike to see the Hickory Nut Falls as well, since it is in the same park.
Since we biked through the Biltmore Estate, Kim thought it would be fun to kayak the French Broad River. It was a great time kayaking for over 2 hours on a bright sunny day. We saw the Biltmore (hard to miss that house!) and the path we had biked on the day before. It was a great day for a float, and I believe the tops of our feet are still sunburnt.
Finishing our travels in North Carolina and on advice from a former coworker, we made plans the next day to hike in DuPont National Forest to see three separate waterfalls better than the one we saw at Chimney Rock, which was pretty cool at over 400 feet up! The Forest trails were well-marked. Several mountain bikers rode nearby. This is a little known gem with over 80 miles of hiking available. We could have hiked another mile to see another falls as well. This is a park to check out. Of course we laughed at the way they prevent climbing on the rocks—check out the sign on the yellow post.
Next stop South Carolina.
Our first stop in South Carolina was the fun city of Greenville. We enjoyed riding Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit River trail. We would have ridden longer if it had been cooler. The temperature for the ride was over 95 degrees. We did meet a local store owner in downtown Greenville at the Pedal Chic bike store. The staff was helpful and we found a great parking spot and starting location for our ride.
We also rode on the Ft. Jackson Army base. It was interesting riding on a road that encircles live firing. The range was in full use as we went around it. The roads and hills were good and the path well marked.
It was also hot when we rode, so we did only one loop. The sign says share the road and the brown side says restricted access—this is how you get to the firing ranges. Follow the rules!
We visited the University of South Carolina as well as Clemson University. Yes, I got to play a few rounds of disc golf in South Carolina as well. I am glad my son knew the course layout in Columbia near his house.
The course near Clemson in Central called Grand Central Station; it was well marked and fun to play.
As a child my family often drove from Michigan to Florida on I-75 to visit grandparents. We always saw signs on the road for “See Rock City” and Ruby Falls. We made a stop at Lookout Mountain and visited Rock City in Georgia. The tour was good and cool walking through the rocks. Quite an enjoyable place to visit and worth the stop. We are not sure we saw all seven states from lover’s leap although we sure tried. We did visit all of them except for Virginia.
Ruby Falls in Tennessee is on Lookout Mountain near Rock City. Two fun attractions near each other. We did not make the time to see the military park on Lookout Mountain and it would make a good stop for our next time through. The cave tour was fun and the falls were grand. We also enjoyed the cool cave and were surprised to see that we were about the only ones that dressed for the travels.
A few lessons learned.
While visiting Rock City we met a lady who lived her whole life near Rock City. She was working in the fudge shop (yes, it was good!). She enjoyed Rock City as a child, with her children and her grandchildren. She loves Rock City and encourages all to come. She has been a retired nurse for several years and enjoys hearing other people’s stories, especially first time visitors. She was sharp and loved to share her story with others. I learned that if you have a special place, it is fun in retirement to work (part time) at that special place.
The military retirement must be good, and it should be for those who serve. We ran into several military retirees who live in and around Ft. Jackson. We thank all who serve or who have served for their service.
Too many touristy adventures can be too much. We needed a few days’ rest. Next stop, Alabama.
Other highlights: Walking around downtown Columbia and a big rainstorm! We enjoyed dinner and were happy to be inside. Downtown Columbia, SC, was a happening place.
Trip by the numbers:
States visited: North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
- Biking miles: 33 miles, 2 rides, longest 21 miles.
- Hiking/Walking 14.7 miles, 7 separate walks, longest 4.1 miles in DuPont.
- Kayak, 7 miles on the French Broad River.