Monday, August 1

Pure Michigan

Beulah, MI.  It might not be anywhere on your list of places to go, but you might want to rethink that.  It’s a lovely little town on Crystal Lake near Lake Michigan, about 35 minutes from Traverse City and a short drive or bike ride from Frankfort.  There’s a lovely beach and you can easily access the Betsie Valley Bike Trail.

So much of that area is most definitely Pure Michigan and can make one better appreciate those otherwise annoying commercials with the cloying voiceover.

This was a delightful weeklong getaway.  It was not my intention to be disconnected virtually, but the place I booked had a fairly weak wireless connection which made it difficult, and occasionally impossible, to be connected.  Well, I was on vacation, so I suppose that’s not a bad thing.

Easy, slow mornings with afternoons of bike riding or shopping or hiking or even some combination depending on the length of the bike ride.  One morning started very early because I got to go on a hot air balloon ride!  I can’t begin to tell you how many years I’ve been trying to do this.

I had a 3:30A ride check, calling in to Grand Traverse Balloons to see if we were a go.  Bundling up and heading out long before the sun started peeking over the horizon.  My friend gamely came with me to help photodocument the event.  She trailed the van as we drove to the launch site and then was able to trail the chase vehicle.  I got to help fill the balloon, until they started with the flames.  Probably best for all concerned.  Once the balloon was filled, the crew held the basket while the 10 of us climbed in and then they let go and we were. . . aloft.  It was so soft with no actual sense of movement as the ground gently fell away from us. 

We floated for about an hour.  The best conversation was between the pilot and the chase crew as they decided where we would be able to land.  Before we left, the pilot gave us rules which included not yelling at the people below, refraining from mooing at the cows and barking at the dogs, and staying in the basket until we were told to get out because some folks were friendlier than others when a big ol’ balloon landed on their property.  And then he said something like, “Fortunately, most of ‘em aren’t very good shots.”  Nice.

It was a truly spectacular morning.  For more hot air balloons shots, go here.

The Pure Michigan commercials try to remind you how beautiful Michigan is; how wonderful it is for shopping, relaxing, and playing.

Go on up to Traverse City and park near the tourist information office or anywhere along the bay area.  There are plenty of parking lots, especially near the shopping areas.  Check out the wineries.  My friend and I spent some time at Left Foot Charley’s and had a blast.  We visited Fustini’s and did a tasting of flavored oils and vinegars so we had to go back to pick up all of the kinds we wanted to buy as gifts.

One afternoon we biked along the Traverse Bay coastline to Sutton Bay.  It was a lovely ride though we ditched the bike path because we had road bikes rather than mountain or hybrid bikes. 

We found several roadside stands where we could pick up more than our fill of cherries and blueberries.  There really is no such thing as too many blueberries.  Ever.

It’s less about looking up while tooling around Michigan, whether on foot or by car or by bicycle.  It’s more about feeling the muscles in your shoulders and neck start to unknot as you inhale deep breaths of sweet pine-scented air.  It’s remembering what it feels like to sit.  Just sit.  And watch the waves.  It’s enjoying the breeze and the feeling of being disconnected and yet connected to the earth, to your friends, to your self in a very different.  Pure Michigan.  Pure enjoyment.

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