Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Living the Dream...

Two major "new" things happened this month...one directly tied to the other. For seven or eight years now, I've been dreaming of moving to the Traverse City area. As a long-time visitor to the region, I'd made friends with countless people who enjoyed many of the things that I did -- eating, drinking, socializing and enjoying the agricultural and natural wonders of the area.

Before long, I found my visits north were more frequent...and they were lasting longer. I began spending a almost a week in Empire over Memorial Weekend in May, to welcome the summer season and five days over Thanksgiving to say goodbye to fall. On the trips home to Plainwell, which began later and later in the day as years went on, I longed to be back in this area where there was just "something" inviting and welcoming that I wanted to experience more and more.

In 2009, as Mollie was heading into her senior year - I made plans to move to Traverse City after her graduation. Caleb was planning to move to his dad's for his high school years, and with my statewide work schedule, I would still be able to make it back for his football games and other important school functions. Less than a week after Mollie's graduation (and two weeks after an amazing Memorial Weekend in Glen Arbor with the kids and their friends), I broke my ankle (a triple fracture) and was laid up all summer long. Moving was off the table.

As the year continued on, Caleb returned to high school and I decided it just wasn't fair to him to leave. So I set my sights on 2014 and went about my days parenting, working, traveling and yet, still dreaming about the move north.

In January, I began my online search for a place to rent. My timeline was any time after May and before September. In February, while searching CraigsList, I found the perfect home! Ironically, it was a place I was familiar with -- from the outside at least. I had driven past this beautiful log home many times over the past several months while visiting friends in the Lake Ann area and staying at nearby Sleeping Bear Resort. It had been for sale and every time I passed by, I thought (or said to anyone who was with me in the car at the time) "I wonder if they'd consider renting." Turns out, they were!

I sent a message as fast as I could and in a couple days heard back from Lakeview Property Management. I filled out the application loaded with references of my most connected TC area friends and a letter sharing my "dream" of living in the area and having a home large enough to entertain family and friends (both from the area and those from downstate). Without even having been inside the house, I knew it would be my new home. Luckily, I was able to arrange a viewing with a friend who was in the area -- who at least confirmed the house was not only suitable but "pretty big for one person." PERFECT...just what I was hoping for!

I was working at the Grand Rapids Boat Show on February 18 when I got the call that the house would be mine (it was between me and one other candidate)! How soon could I move? I immediately sent word to my Plainwell landlord, gave my 30 days and started making plans for move day: Friday, March 21.

Thus...we come to the two "new" things for March.

First - was driving a U-Haul. Not just any truck but a 26-footer (which ironically wasn't big enough for all my stuff...which I don't understand, given I was moving from an 1100sf house to a 2500sf house with a barn). Thankfully, I had the help of a dear friend and my kids and a few of their friends to pack this truck from top to bottom, side to side, front to back (along with a couple personal vehicles). A handful of lesser wanted/needed items were left on the curb for pickers to grab. Loading started around 8:45am and by 11:45am we were headed out. By 3:00pm we rolled into the driveway in Traverse City (defined by the actual address, but locals consider it Lake Ann). By 7:00pm, we were on our way to Hoftbrau in Interlochen for a well deserved dinner (and drink, for those of us over the age of 21).

In less than 12 hours, we had completely moved me from my hometown of Plainwell -- where I was the third of four generations to graduate from Plainwell High School (on my dad's side) and where I had lived all but two-and-a-half years of my life (and those years were 1.5 in Schoolcraft and 1 in Otsego).

So, my second "new" thing for March is living north of the Allegan County line. Three hours north of where I had always called home (it will still always be my hometown of course)...where I lived for the last eight years, just two blocks from where I grew up (from age 6 to 21). Away from my kids, my parents, my siblings and my family. I was off to live my dream and thankfully I had the love and support from my family and friends to make it happen. Of course, now I have this amazing 3-level log home on four acres just 15 miles from Lake Michigan, 15 miles from downtown Traverse City, less than 15 miles from Interlochen and about 20 miles from Glen Arbor. I think I'll see a few more visitors here than I did at my home in Plainwell. At least, that's what I'm counting on.

One of the reasons I was drawn to this area of Michigan was the sense of community it provided. Drop in participatory dinners, community gatherings, drinks on the deck (or by the fire pit or at the beach or on the boat), nearby wineries and breweries, hiking trails, spectacular sunsets over Lake Michigan, bocce ball, world-class festivals, amazing vistas around nearly every turn or over every hill. While I've spent a great deal of time visiting this area over the past 20 years, I'm looking forward to discovering new places, visiting restaurants that have been on my long-time bucket list, checking out the dozen new wineries that have popped up in recent years and making new friends.

Living the dream? You bet...and I wouldn't have it any other way. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by and say hello - and bring along some Michigan wine, beer, spirits, mead or cider...and help me toast my new home!

For more photos: https://www.facebook.com/PromoteMichigan/media_set?set=a.10152031860316169.1073741833.601776168&type=3&uploaded=17

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Walking on Water...

It's been a cold and snowy winter in Michigan. The coldest and snowiest that I remember in my adult life - and probably, for most of my childhood (although I was alive during the "blizzard" of 1978, I don't really remember it). It's been so cold that nearly 90 percent of the five Great Lakes combined are ice covered as of Thursday, February 13 (according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab). That's some serious ice-ice, baby!

I've had the opportunity to walk and snowshoe along the frozen shoreline many times over the past few years -- Muskegon, Frankfort, Empire -- but I've never seen ANYTHING like what I experienced yesterday in South Haven. Snow and ice for as far as the eye could see -- for miles to the south, north AND west. The normally sugar-sand beaches were covered in rolling hills of snow, ice chunks and mountainous mini caves leaving one to question whether they were at the lake or on some desolate planet.

Nearly as impressive as the landscape were the crowds of people out exploring this natural winter phenomenon. People were scraping away the snow to see the thick, white ice below. They were walking the pier to the bright red lighthouse. They were walking out great distances from the shore, posing, taking photos, taking photos of others taking photos, talking with each other about how incredibly crazy this all was. It's hard to really capture and explain the essence of what was going on out there -- in terms of the conversations that were had between total strangers and the shear expanse of it all.

Yesterday - I truly was one of dozens, no - hundreds, who literally walked on water (albeit frozen) in a way we probably never will again. It's unlike anything I have experienced before...and perhaps, ever will again.

Great Lakes Ice Facts

The Great Lakes, which hold nearly one-fifth of the surface fresh water in the world, are almost completely frozen over after an unusually cold winter.

As of Thursday, nearly 90% of the lakes are under a cover of ice, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

The last time they came this close to being completely frozen over was in 1994, when 94% of the lakes’ surface was ice.

If the rate at which ice has been growing continues, an all-time record could be set later this month.

“In the last one to two weeks, we’ve seen rapid accumulations on Lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan,” Michigan State University associate professor and state climatologist Jeff Andresen said.

The freeze is a major reversal from last year, when the five lakes only reached 38% ice cover.

The lakes’ water supply has been far below average in recent years, and the ice could prove beneficial by slowing evaporation and shutting off lake-effect snow.

Lake Michigan Facts

Lake Michigan is the third largest Great Lake by surface area and the sixth largest freshwater lake in the world.

Lake Michigan Length: 307 miles / 494 km.

Lake Michigan Lake Michigan: 118 miles / 190 km.

Lake Michigan Average Depth: 279 ft. / 85 m

Lake Michigan Maximum Depth: 925 ft. / 282 m.

Lake Michigan Volume: 1,180 cubic miles / 4,920 cubic km.

Lake Michigan Water Surface Area: 22,300 sq. miles / 57,800 sq. km

Lake Michigan Shoreline Length(including islands): 1,638 miles / 2,633 km.

Lake Michigan Elevation: 577 ft. / 176 m.

Lake Michigan Retention / Replacement Time: 99 years

Where Lake Michigan got its name:

Champlain called it the Grand Lac. It was later named "Lake of the Stinking Water" or "Lake of the Puants," after the people who occupied its shores. In 1679, the lake became known as Lac des Illinois because it gave access to the country of the Indians, so named. Three years before, Allouez called it Lac St. Joseph, by which name it was often designated by early writers. Others called it Lac Dauphin. Through the further explorations of Jolliet and Marquette, the "Lake of the Stinking Water" received its final name of Michigan.

Another story recounts that Nicolet, the first European to set foot in Wisconsin in 1634, landed on the shores of Green Bay and was greeted by Winnebago Indians, whom the French called "Puans." Lake Michigan was labeled as "Lake of Puans" on an early and incomplete 1670 map of the region that showed only the northern shores of the lake. However, only Green Bay is labeled as "Baye de Puans" (Bay of the Winnebago Indians) on maps from 1688 and 1708. On the 1688 map, Lake Michigan is called Lac des Illinois.

An Indian name for Lake Michigan was "Michi gami."

For more photos: https://www.facebook.com/PromoteMichigan