Pushing North — Traverse City

OK, now it’s getting good.

I’ll say it right up front — Traverse City is awesome.  I’ll expand upon that momentarily.  First of all, our drive.

Easy, uneventful trip getting up here, and we’re staying at the Traverse City KOA, which is really nice.  Not saying that the Sandusky one wasn’t… ok, maybe I am a little bit… but this one is outstanding.  Wooded, clean, decent amount of space, trails, grass, happy kids playing, thumbs up all around.

Immediately after setting up, we drove up to the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery pub/restaurant.  I mentioned the craft beer scene in Michigan earlier, and evidently TC is one of the epicenters within Michigan.  Jolly Pumpkin’s brewery is actually down near Ann Arbor, but they run this really cool set of two restaurants and a tasting room in this beautiful old inn on the lake north of town here in TC.  Supposedly it’s haunted, which ups the cool factor.  The pics at top were taken while we were waiting for our table.  Solid dinner, decent beer, amazing venue.

One of the things that took us, or at least me, by surprise, was how “beachy” Lake Michigan is in this area.  The water is quite clear and not particularly cold this time of year, the sand is fine and soft, and if you were standing there looking at the color of the water and not the evergreens and grass you could almost, almost think you were in the Caribbean.

Then Tacco started browsing Zillow, like we’re wont to do these days, and our collective jaw dropped when we saw what our typical price range would get us in Traverse City.  “But the winter!” you say.  Sure.  Bitter cold, lake effect snow, all that.  While I’ve never spent a winter (or any time at all outside of the last week) in Michigan, I’m reasonably certain that’s all true.  But man, it looks fun.  Along with the normal road signs are signs telling you what to do when you’re on your snowmobile.  There are nordic skiing trails everywhere.  Ice fishing.  One of the houses we saw on Zillow boasted a skating rink in the back yard.  Keeper: “I don’t get it.  Wouldn’t that just mean pouring a bunch of water into your back yard with a hose?”  Decent point.  Still though, all of that sounds really cool to me.

And then, on day 2 here, we drove up to visit friends of Tacco’s from Evanston (who now live in TC) and went out on their boat on Lake Leelanau.  Cruised, did some tubing, anchored at a sand bar for a bit and had a water fight.  The second “map” pic above shows that, as do the pics below.

See what I mean?  Plus the quaint-yet-hip downtown with the lakeside park and the canal on which kayakers and SUPers were tooling around in between stops for beer, good food, maybe a gelato.  Sleeping Bear Dunes a half hour to the west, the wilds of the UP an easy couple of hours north, fudge on Mackinac Island, cherries everywhere in June / July, what’s the down side exactly?

This was the conversational road we were beginning to travel until we paused, looked at each other, and laughed as we shook ourselves back into reality.  I won’t be spending half of my life commuting to work and back from Traverse City airport via Detroit or Chicago any time soon, no thanks.  An aspect of my job that I love is the fact that I can technically commute to my domicile airport from anywhere.  But it’s almost too much freedom. (almost)  There’s a perennial debate among airline pilots about living in the ideal place versus living near work. Most pilots I know say that once you experience the convenience,  increase in free time, and decrease in stress associated with not having to commute (via plane), you’ll never go back and wonder how you ever did it before.  A few, though, say that even if that’s true, living someplace you truly love transcends it entirely.  I find the former argument compelling and logical, but the latter resonates with me deeply.  Clearly I haven’t resolved this yet.  At any rate, we got a kick out of the fact that we allowed ourselves to wander so far afield before snapping out of our meanderings.  These are actually important conversations for us to have even when they’re theoretical, given that one of our goals is to figure out where we intend to settle after we’re done RVing.

Returning from my tangent, we had a few watershed moments in the Traverse City KOA.  One was Woodsprite’s learning to ride a bike.  Yes!  She was distressed upon our departure from Maryland when told that the training wheels wouldn’t be joining us.  “No problem, just teach her to ride,” you might think.  Woodsprite is a tricky one, though, in that not only is she more resistant than most to getting out of her comfort zone, but she is adamant about how to learn things.  Taking instruction has no place in her world.  Never mind that both of her siblings and both of her parents have been riding bikes and helping others to do the same for quite some time, she thoroughly wore each of us down in turn by asking for help, which we enthusiastically agreed to, and then doggedly ignoring every technique we presented to her and everything we said with “NO I’VE GOT IT!!”  It fell somewhere between comical and pencil-in-the-eye painful to watch her make literally hundreds of attempts to start pedaling from a dead stop and making maybe 6 inches and a half pedal throw of progress before putting her feet back down.  She did this for two evenings straight, only stopping the first night when we called her in because it was too dark to see.  Like it often does, though, her persistence paid off, and she nailed it!  Now riding her bike is pretty much all she wants to do.

The other item we put into the Things We Learned folder here is that going with the flow only takes you so far when you’re traveling in an RV in high season.  By that I mean that if you don’t want to end up in a Wal-Mart parking lot, (if you buy an RV, be prepared to be asked multiple times whether you knew that you can park in any Wal-Mart parking lot for the night.  Everyone seems to know this.) finding a place to park 32 feet of RV on a weekend is no easy task.  Finding a place you actually want to be is even more challenging.  Prior planning goes a long way.  We’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time over the last week searching for our next campsite, and at the moment we’re finding that people have probably been planning their August weekend camping trip to the UP for months.  Us, not so much.  We also have not been thinking at all in terms of weekend vs weekday.  We need to.  Complicating things further for the upcoming week is the fact that I have a six day trip for work coming up, and need to leave Tacco and the kids somewhere reasonable (and at least somewhat near an airport) for that entire time.  There are very few vacancies.  It’s a challenge that I think we’re converging on a solution to, but it’s still taking shape, and not without compromise, effort, and a bit of stress.  Effort and stress being part of what we took this trip to minimize, we probably need to start looking a bit further ahead.


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