One of the best travel options is to visit friends. If you don’t have any, make some, preferably friends who live near the water so you can not only enjoy their company–and hopefully they can enjoy their company–but you can do stuff like drag your children behind a pontoon at break-neck speed.
Menominee, in the far southern corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.), touts itself as the place “where the best of Michigan begins.” I guess you have to start somewhere. I wouldn’t call the area a big tourist destination, but it is situated between Lake Michigan and the Menominee River. My friend’s lovely home is tucked back in the trees off of–what else–River Road. Views matter when you are spending much of your trip in one location, and this view met me every morning for coffee.
When visiting friends, you should experience their favorite area activities. For us, this meant many hours on the river floating, tubing, fishing, floating, drinking Leinenkugel’s, and floating.
It also meant a nice walk along the downtown marina and along the lakeside…
…and sipping chai bombs–chai with a shot of espresso–at the quaint Serving Spoon. (I also had the Kick in the Ass omelet.)
Speaking of food wrapped in other food, check out regional specialties when you travel. Don’t assume that just because your destination is only five hours north that the area doesn’t have a history of Cornish miners stuffing potatoes into pastry dough. Enter the PASTY. No, not the stripper costume accessory. “The friendly food shaped like a smile.”
My friends have been Yoopers (U.P.ers) for about six years, and deciding it was high time to try this regional delicacy, secured varieties from two separate places for a taste-off. We all agreed Colonel K’s was the winner for its generous filling and denser crust. We also agreed that none of us would ever crave a pasty at any point again in our lives.
But there are always gems as far as food or dining in every town, and the gem in Menominee is the Joe’s Mouse House. Despite the giant rodent in front of the nondescript building and the even more nondescript entrance, ENTER YOU MUST. This family has been making cheese for many years, and a local told us that Tuesday morning means fresh cheese curds. So fresh they squeak when you bite into them. But don’t leave without a block of 15-year cheddar. Because of the aging process, crystals form inside the cheese, providing a surprising crunch. I think they are diamonds.
A short drive inland brought us to another local attraction. The DeYoung Family Zoo is great for families with children. If you visit in the summer, arrive at the opening hour when no one else is there and the, um, “aromas” haven’t fermented in the heat. Mr. DeYoung is passionate about his animals and his obvious desire for people to understand and appreciate wildlife. Throughout the day, he and his helpers bring animals out for visitors to see up close.
As fun an interesting as the zoo was, it was a relief to get back to the river on this hot day and jump into the water. Evenings on the river are spectacular. One of the highlights of our trip was the chance to celebrate the Fourth of July with a new tradition, i.e. watching the Moose Lodge campground fireworks, singing “With a Little Help from My Friends” with friends, and drinking glowing alcoholic beverages. (That light in the foreground is my margarita.)
Thanks for hitting the road with me.