reede, 12. juuli 2019

Up North. Sunrise Beach

The morning started before the rooster and the dawn, because someone had planned a working day. Once the dawn arrived, I was already standing on the beach, wine in one and camera in other hand and watched the sun rising from the horizon. Around 7am I walked down to grab a coffee from the reception and took a look at the promised pool. It was a house in the middle of the parking lot with pool and outside deck. Exactly what I'd always wished for - suntanning on the parking lot on beach chairs, breathe the exhaust gas and watch, which cars get hit by the seagulls.

After the coffee we walked to town, parked the car very conveniently and wisely right in front of the best donuts and pastry shop in the neighbourhood and stepped in to have a bite before hitting the sightseeing objects. We walked out with a huge cinnamon roll donut covered with chocolate frosting and a cherry pastry. The donut was gone like the first snow and even the fingers weren't sticky, they got so clean. The cherry pie was OK too.

First sightseeing object turned out to be  first beach on our walk, where we had a good look at the famous Mackinaw Bridge with the length of appr. 5 miles. We continued walking along the shore to the bridge. Visited the souvenir shop and walked under the bridge and then some in the town.

For the afternoon we had a bike trip on Mackinac island scheduled and like any reasonable tourist, we went to have lunch before that. We chose a brewery that had lot of positive reviews in Internet. Before we even managed to order some food, we saw on the menu that in this bar the recommended tip for service should be 8 dollars and we can also share our praise for the food and bier in sending the kitchen and service crew a round. We ordered two appetizers to share - loaded potato chips with bacon, blue cheese, chicken and sour cream and beef tacos. This type of loaded potatoes is an everyday or everymenu thing in this country - french fries are soaked in cheese sauce or nachos covered with guacamole and cheese or in this case, chips with all the mentioned. How to eat that is also nobrainer  for an average American - fingerfood (or rather hand- or elbowfood, because that's where the oil gets to) is also very common here. We weren't grateful enough to the service and kitchen staff to leave 8 dollar tip and buy drinks worth of the gun budget of North-Korea for the all crew, so after paying the bill and leaving a reasonable tip, we left and returned to the hotel. One of us had a little nap.

We arrived in the harbor, loaded ourselves and bikes on the ferry, sat down in the first row like the good students ever and stranded 15 minutes later on Mackinac island. It's a car free island, where people move around using legs, bikes or horses. Bike rental must be the main income of the island, considering that daily bike rent was 62 dollars. My old school Schwinn got several admiring looks though. We started with the east coast of the island and made first climbing stop by an arch rock, which offered breathtaking views over crystal clear turquoise water and white beaches. We chose one and biked there. The one, who grew up in a Nordic country, jumped in for a quick swim and after we had a little picnic too. We kept biking, looked at the Mackinaw bridge and noticed that the water on the west coast is way muddier. We walked up the hill and made our way back to the harbour town. From there we made a quick trip to the terrace of the Grand Hotel and enjoyed the views that the customers, who used last minute deal of 350 dollars a room, could enjoy from their windows. Watched the sunset on the beach, bought some fudge and returned to the harbour to catch the prelast ferry back to mainland.

Before coming to US this time I was sure that on 4th of July I will see the most grandiose fireworks ever, but turned out that Ann Arbor, being the University town, doesn't think much of this trifling entertainment and only few flares went up the sky, fired by residents. Today, however, right before stranding, all flares in town were fired and while sailing to the harbour and a while after we had the chance to enjoy an impressive show.

neljapäev, 11. juuli 2019

Up North. Global Cooling

Thursday lunchtime we packed our bags, planned to get on the road by 1pm, hit the road by 1:30pm, went to the store, turned the car direction north and made a U-turn. Turned out that we had forgotten the cooling bag. Bag loaded in the car, at 2:45 we hit the road again. Few hours later we had first lunch break at a lake. We got out of the car and ... right back in the car. We pulled out our warmest clothes and gave it another try. The wind wanted to blow us on the lake, but we managed to have our picnic and continued the trip to Harbor Springs. From the last trip I remembered it as an especially cute little sleepy town and now, in the peak tourist season it was full of all the rich people, who park their yachts in the harbour and then, looking like they would have just stepped out of Miami Vice, are listening to the street musicians or sipping on the glass of whiskey.

Around the sunset time we reached our hotel and despite not using the offer to upgrade our room (for only 55 USD we could have gotten a single room!) that was ever so kindly offered per email to us prior, we got a better room than we could have expected - facing the lake and sunrise, with balcony and bridge view.

Since Scott was slightly displeased the the uncleaned bathroom, where there were a lot of hair everywhere and the floor was covered with litter, they gave us an even better room, where the hair was only attached to the bathroom door.

kolmapäev, 10. juuli 2019

Go Blue. Lowlife.

I think, it might have been Bill Bryson, who mentioned in one of his books that the next step from taking a bus in US is living out of a plastic bag. In our town the public transportation wouldn't be not too bad, mostly it can even be seen as private ride, if they would consider the rush hour traffic when preparing the schedules. Separate lanes for buses on the streets is however as unthinkable as the the pedestrian wanting to cross the street. Today, for example I got off the right in front of the shopping center, but to cross the street to the side of the center, I had to walk few hundred meters to the nearest traffic light. And then back. And should the bus drivers get the idea of requested stops, the bus transportation in this university town could become totally considerable means of transportation. Today the driver just skipped two stops, where I pulled the wire and pushed all the buttons and stopped in a random place far enough to make my walk home longer than it would have been from the stop I got on the bus. Actually I can't really hold it against him - to mark the bus stops, there is just one pole with little sign that has a bus and a person drawn on it and the number 969-0400. That's as far as it goes with the information they have about the routes and schedule available. Also there are no pockets for buses, no roofs or benches for the pedestrians. Often the little sign is just put into the grass.

But in general I pay about 5 times less for the bus than I would pay for Uber, the bus has aircon as well, most likely I'm the only client in both means and additionally the bus driver doesn't care how I'm doing or where I'm from. Win!

teisipäev, 9. juuli 2019

Go Blue. Go Detroit!

Dear loyal reader, do you remember from one of my previous posts, what the capital of Michigan is? Nope, it's not Detroit. And indeed it's the same Lansing that no-one else but people, who live in and very nearby of Lansing has ever heard of. But I didn't want to write you about Lansing, that I've yet to see  by the way. But Detroit that is not mentioned enough in this blog, but is a great city.

To start with, there's so much of abandoned - factories, neighbourhoods, main railway station, bank buildings in downtown and basically two third of the city, right. And second, from the shore of Detroit river or on Belle Isle one can almost touch Canada. It would also be possible to cross the bridge or take the tunnel and visit Canada for a day or two, but since I have little trust in the immigration on this side, I'd rather not test it. So, we keep looking at Canada from this side of the river.

Detroit also has my favourite brunch place. It's the one, where I don't have to read the menu and make my choice between 16 different stacks of pancakes, 7 waffles, more than 20 omelets and variety of burgers, but can sit down and place the order for my salmon bennies. The same ones that have hopefully already been praised in this blog - English muffin (why they call this bun a muffin, I can't explain to you) topped with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers, poached egg and sauce hollandaise. And there are two of those piles on my plate, accompanied by lettuce or starting from recently also house french fries. Muy good!

We have decided not to focus on abandoned buildings (as we usually do), but educate ourselves culturally and visit an exhibition. Not far from the city center is Heidelberg Project. In 1986, the artist returned to Heidelberg, the street where he grew up on, and found it in shambles. Bruised by the loss of three brothers to the streets, he was encouraged by his grandfather to stand out from the crowds and to pick up a paintbrush instead of a weapon. Next few years he was painting the houses, carried out the stuff left in the abandoned homes, arranged all that stuff in different piles on the properties in the neighbourhood and the mammouth installation, known as Heidelberg Project had started. At the moment there are several artists, who contribute to the project with old shoes, toys and everything else one can think of. You can find there the Arc of Noah, which is an old boat full of huge soaked and soon probably mossy soft toys.

After the mentioned art exhibition, where we had the chance to exchange few words also with the extremely non-talkative artist himself, we went down to the Riverwalk, hopped on the bikes and made around 6 miles along the riverfront. On the positive side, both of our sides got equally red from the blazing sun.

Last stop before driving home was the Detroit Eastern Market, where accordingly the season we got tomatoes, apples, peaches and some lamb koftas. There's also a Polish stand, where in the middle of the summer we could have bought fried dumplings, different huge sausages and sauerkraut.

laupäev, 6. juuli 2019

Go Blue. How much the customer service here loves coffee.

I have sort of voiced my dissatisfaction with the small talk here - how everyone, who comes within 2 meter radius of you, always wants to know, how I'm doing. I'm not used to it, but know to expect it. Similar with the written communication with customer support - before even touching the problem, we always inquire how both are doing and in Amazon they also thank me as the valued customer for being a Prime member.

Recently I found out that the customer support of another online store always has hot coffee handy. Just in case, should it start raining in the middle of the summer or it's just cold in the winter. As an example part of our recent conversation:
After giving them my order number and address
Christine: Perfect! Thanks for that information, Gaili! Please bear with me while I pull up the order.
Gaili: Thanks, Christine!
Christine: No prob! ;)
Christine: Despite this, how are you doing today? I hope that you're having a pleasant weather in Michigan. It's already summer here, but it suddenly rained! Good thing I have my favorite cup of coffee to keep me warm. :D
Gaili: I'm great, thanks! Enjoy your coffee! :)
Christine: Glad to hear that!
Christine: I definitely will! Coffee is life! <3 Lol!

With Amazon I had recently this conversation when trying to locate a lost package:
Grace: Hello, Gaili.I’m sorry you didn’t receive your order. Let me check.
How are you today?
Gaili: Can you help me out - when should I expect to receive it? :)
I'm fine, thanks! How are you?
Grace: That's great to hear.
I am fine, thank  you so much for asking.
I'll find a resolution to help you with  this. I am  your superwoman for the day.
Gaili: Yay!

pühapäev, 30. juuni 2019

Up North. Scrambled omelet

Very conveniently right 10 minutes before sunrise we opened eyes, made sure that there is not another episode of "Sun and hedgehog in the fog" going on and went out to see the sunrise. The golden sun, rising from behind the blue lake was worth every minute of getting out of the bed at 6am. Especially since we could go back to bed at 6:20am. Just to get up again at 8am, pack our bags and be ready be the chosen diner at 8:58am.

I took scrambled eggs with hash browns, bacon and melted cheese. And rye bread. Scott had some next level hot dog that was additionally covered with minced meat and onion, a breakfast sandwich and half a serving french fries. Their half a serving would feed the children in a smaller African country for a week. Anyway, the food arrived and mine was served on a hot pan. My scrambled eggs were replaced with omelet and when the waitress came to ask, if everything was good, I very politely asked her to tell the kitchen that my meal should have scrambled eggs not omelet. She told me that actually it's scrambled eggs, just fried like omelet... I figured that we could leave the tip same way that it's actually a tip, just in the shape of verbal praise.

We made our way to one of the most picturesque roads in the country - the River Road, where we started visiting one gorgeous place and views over the river after another.

Since today morning the bill was brought before I could voice my wish to have some pancakes too, we stopped in a pub on the way home, where I got my two blueberry pancakes in the magnitude of family size pizza. Scott had wrap and house chips and cheddar tots.

Very handily there was a huge outlet center on the way home, where I left over an hour into Tommy Hilfiger shop alongside with an amount of money that is still looking at me very disapprovingly from my bank account.

laupäev, 29. juuni 2019

Up North. Zoo.

Last night we saw a place called Bavarian Bakery and Restaurant on the map. Quick Google informed us that it has the best pastries in the neighbourhood and German breakfast. We scheduled it in. Also, since our bedroom window faced the lake and staying on the east coast, also the sunrise, we also planned to watch that in the morning.

Today we woke up around half an hour after the sunrise and spent a while trying to locate the sun behind the fog. Like the bear was looking for the hedgehog. We got dressed and made our way to the restaurant to have some pastries and other unhealthy food there. After looking at the menu our choice was to share a Bavarian Plate. It appears that Americans consider two eggs, two sausages, biscuit and gravy, a slice of cooked ham, hash browns and two slices of bacon typical German breakfast. The Germans also seem to like to compliment all that with either toast or pancakes. We had chocolate chip pancakes. To share. One portion. Was really good. However, having lived in Munich, I'm puzzled now, how I never ended up eating the typical Bavarian breakfast there.

The day was planned to be active - to start with a little hike on the peninsula near Tawas. Before hitting the trail I saw the swings and of course I had to go and make good use of one. But before I managed to get myself on it, I saw an anaconda, carrying a frog in the mouth rushing through the playground. Scott tried to tell me that it's  a garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis, in case someone would like to google), but last time I checked he didn't have a degree in zoology, so I wouldn't trust him on that. Anyhow, I had almost circled bigger part of the peninsula, when the snake was finally more or less set with the frog and Scott agreed to step away from the fascinating lunch. We walked to the information stand which promised us that we have the chance to meet the garter snake, see deer footprints and even a fox. I could only hope that there's only one snake loitering around in the area and currently busy digesting the frog and none of his relatives would be out. Already before we managed to see some footprints, we saw a family of deer crossing the road and camping in the bushes. And soon after there was also the promised baby fox near the path. Full package. More than I would have as a matter of fact wished for. As a bonus there were different colorful birds, frogs and beach bums.

The city of Tawas and the beach park are apparently connected via a picturesque walk and bike path, but biking twice 11 miles didn't seem reasonable in this heat. So, we drove to the city, parked the car nead the beach, hopped on our bikes and biked to the Dairy Queen. While Scott was waiting (and waiting and waiting) for his hot dog, I had the Extreme Brownie Chocolate Blizzard and to everyone's amazement could only eat half of it. I'm not really used to shovel Nutella with a touch of ice cream in my mouth. We biked some more in the city, went to shops, chose the breakfast place and drove back to our cottage.

Rest of the evening was spent eating, napping, lazying on the beach, jumping in and out of the water, watching the reflection of the sunset on the lake and discussing where to go for dinner and making a desicion of not going at all.