WIDMSV – Eagle River Inn; Brockway Mountain Drive; Visiting an Old Friend’s Family

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WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

 

We reached the upper parts of the Keweenaw Peninsula expecting cooler weather. Unfortunately, the ‘weather gods’ didn’t get the memo. It was in the mid-90s! Again, it’s not SUPPOSED to be that hot in the Keweenaw. For the most part, they don’t have air-conditioning. They usually don’t need it. Phew!

Eagle River Inn (Beach side)
Photo from their Website

Representative Room
Eagle River Inn

We checked into our room at the Eagle River Inn (which was so clean and newly refurbished, we could still smell the fresh paint). The Eagle River Inn has been a labor of love for Mike and Marc (the proprietors). They have spent every penny they could come up with on fixing up this wonderful inn which is only steps away from one of the prettiest, most accessible beaches in the Keweenaw. Their attention to detail is amazing. They have turned this location into a comfortable, friendly, destination inn that we will look forward to visiting over and over again.

One of our “neighbors”

 

Did I mention that the Eagle River Inn is DOG FRIENDLY??!!!! They are! I believe that the future of inn-keeping is in pet-friendly accommodations. More and more, people consider their pets integral parts of the family. The idea of leaving a family member behind in a kennel or alone at home is troubling. A key to enjoying a family vacation is for the WHOLE family to enjoy the time together. I really have to commend The Eagle River Inn for being so forward thinking.

 

It was far more comfortable driving in the car – with air-conditioning –so we decided that the Brockway Mountain Drive sounded like a good idea. The drive is a beautifully scenic road that runs from just north of Eagle River up to Copper Harbor. The views winding up the road are just beautiful. There are views of Lake Superior

 

Inland lakes

 

 Valleys

 

 Rock outcroppings

 

I have read that there were plan to put a cell tower on Brockway Mountain. (Okay, y’all, this wouldn’t be considered a “mountain” in the south – well, except maybe Florida. In Michigan, however, this is surely a “mountain” as the glaciers really scraped most of the state flat.) It is the highest point around and I understand the need for communications, but I certainly hope that they figure something else out that won’t mar the beauty of this amazingly pristine area.

 

Wild Berry
(World’s Best Ice Cream!)

As we reached the end of the road, we found ourselves just a little ways from the Wild Berry. I had found out that one of my high school classmates had grown up in Copper Harbor, Michigan. She and her family (the Nousiainens) had owned and run the Wild Berry Ice Cream store. Her brother, George (who had been a few years ahead of us in school), had moved back to Copper Harbor and was still running the store.

 

ICE CREAM!!!!! What a marvelous idea! It was especially welcome in this heat. We would have loved to visit more with George and his wife, but we weren’t the only ones thinking that ice cream sounded like a good idea. The place was packed! We did, however, get the opportunity to treat ourselves to sundaes made with local fruit and some of the best, smoothest, most delicious ice cream I’ve ever eaten. (In retrospect, I wonder if the ice cream was really as fabulous as I remember or if it was just because it was so very welcome.)

Thimbleberry

 

I opted for thimbleberry. A thimbleberry is related to raspberries. It’s a delicious, tart fruit with LOTS (and I do mean to capitalize that) of seeds! It’s absolutely delicious, but the pips… I tend to think they’re worth dealing with.

 

Bilberry

Jim opted for bilberry. Bilberries are related to what we call blueberries. In fact, in Europe, these are what they know as blueberries. This special variety only grows in the Keweenaw and especially in the wilds around Copper Harbor. Bilberry is known to be good for maintaining healthy blood-sugar levels and the leaves make a tea that is good for blood pressure. I guess that means that Jim was eating “health food.” Yeah, uh huh…

 

All I can tell you is that we both thoroughly enjoyed our sundaes, and it was great to be able to visit with family of an old friend. We immediately made plans to come back the next day for more camaraderie and, of course, more ice cream.

 

By the time we finished our ice cream and said good-bye, we were getting pretty worn out. It had been a very long day starting with birding (and getting eaten alive) in the morning and lots of driving in the middle. We decided to head back to the Eagle River Inn, grab some dinner, and try to get some sleep.

 

The road that we took back south followed the shoreline of Lake Superior. What a gorgeous place this is! We stopped at a couple of outlooks along the way. At one, there was a couple who were tossing a ‘duck’ out into the Lake for their chocolate lab to fetch. We enjoyed watching the dog swim out again and again (obviously enjoying his game), retrieving his prize, and returning it to his people.

 

We wanted to make certain that we got back to Fitzgerald’s (the superb restaurant at the Eagle River Inn) for our dinner reservation. The special was smoked prime rib! They have a huge smoker in the parking lot of the Inn. It smelled so wonderful when we left that we wanted to be sure not to miss out.

Fitzgerald’s
(Photo from their Website)

We were rewarded handsomely! That was one of the finest meals we’ve had in a while. The meat was smoked to perfection and the accompaniments were excellent. Jim had a smoked-fish appetizer. I tried it, but I decided that I’d save the room for dinner. I did, however, have a nice ‘Bookers.’ I must make a special note of the tremendous variety of whiskies that Fitzgerald’s stocks. Whether it’s bourbon or scotch whiskey that float your boat, they probably have your brand – or a brand that you’ve been wanting to try. They also have an excellent selection of whiskies from other parts of the world (Canadian, Irish, even Japanese).

Sunset at
The Eagle River Inn

 

After eating a huge meal, and the long day, we were ready for a good night’s sleep. This was the first time it really occurred to me that we were much further north. At 11:00 p.m., it was still light (and still HOT)! After snapping several photos of the amazing sunset and a late lakes’ freighter, I finally drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow is the Fourth of July! I figured I wouldn’t be getting much sleep at all then.

Lakes Freighter

 

Up Next: The Fourth of July – Keweenaw Style

 

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WIDMSV – Visiting Houghton and The Eagle Has Landed

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WIDMSV? What I Did on My Summer Vacation!

 

After spending a couple of hours birding the Pesheekee Grade, we were ready to eat. There really isn’t any place to eat breakfast in the Michigamme area that we could find, so we headed on to Houghton. As much as I would have loved to visit the KBC brewery, it really wasn’t a prudent place to consider for breakfast.

 

The first restaurant we attempted to go to had been highly rated, but we opted out after a really poor experience. I am not going to name the establishment in my blog, because my southern heritage always taught me that, if I couldn’t say something nice – say nothing at all. Besides, even mentioning it here is giving it more attention than they gave us.

The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub

 

Luckily for us, we found The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub (http://www.librarybrewpub.com). It wasn’t quite time to start serving lunch yet (it was just around 11 a.m.), but we were courteously seated and given water and menus. Our server, Brian, was very nice and made us feel quite welcome. We opted for lunch and were very pleasantly surprised. I had the shrimp po boy and Jim had a combination sandwich. It was roast beef, cheddar cheese, and a BLT all rolled into one. He loved it. The experience was completely pleasant and the food was superb. They also are one of the innovators and first to use the new bill-paying service called “Tabbed Out.” What a smart idea that is! I hope more restaurants start using it soon. (Automatically pays your tab with your chosen credit card without having to wait for the check. It also computes tip and pays the establishment without passing your credit card around. BRILLIANT!)

Keweenaw Gems & Gifts
(Photo courtesy of Keweenaw Gems & Gifts)

We felt so much better after a good meal that we decided to stop at Keweenaw Gems and Gifts (http://www.copperconnection.com/) to see what kind of wonderful stone and metal arts we could find. What a ‘dangerous’ store. There were so many wonderful treasures, we had to really narrow down our focus. Once again, we could have totally blown our budget. We did make a couple of purchases. One was this lovely polished Petoskey Stone (Michigan’s State Stone) clock for Jim’s desk at work.

Petoskey Stone Clock

I just have to mention Lily, the Labradoodle. Lily comes to the store with her people. She’s the ‘official’ watch dog. Once she actually meets you, she’s a terrific ‘hostess.’ What a fantastic dog!

Lily
(Photo courtesy of Keweenaw Gems & Gifts)

We also purchased some gifts for friends. I just LOVE getting my Christmas shopping done before the Fourth of July!

Look at all the Treasure!
(Photo courtesy of Keweenaw Gems & Gifts)

From Houghton, it was on to Eagle River. Eagle River is on the western coast of the Keweenaw peninsula. Our destination was the Eagle River Inn http://www.eagleriverinn.com/. We had read interesting reviews of the inn and I had written to the new owners and was very favorably impressed by their positive attitudes and their obvious desire to provide a terrific experience for their guests.

Marc & Mike (Proprietors, Eagle River Inn)
(Photo by Shawn Malone)

The Eagle River Inn is right on the beach. It’s only a few steps from the deck to the water. It’s especially nice because the beach there is nice, stone sand and the water is clear and the bottom is that same sand. Many places on the lake are rocky which makes it difficult to get to the water. It’s even harder when the rocks are covered with vegetation. (I wonder if we noticed more of that due to the extraordinarily hot weather or if it’s a symptom of invasive, non-native vegetation I’ve been reading about.) I will be writing more about the Inn (and their terrific restaurant, Fitzgerald’s) in coming posts. I’ll say right now, though, that I wish we’d scheduled more than two nights at the Inn. Here’s a photo of a sunset we saw our first night. The sunsets there are so breath-taking, you’ll undoubtedly see more photos of them in coming posts.

Sunset – First Night
Eagle River Inn

Up Next: Eagle River Inn and Brockway Mountain Drive

 

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Our Visit to Florida (Part 2)

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In my previous post, I talked about the birds and the sites we saw in two quick days in Florida. Now, I’m going to tell you about another part of our “bucket list” for the trip…restaurants.

 

Don’t know about you, but some of my fondest memories about growing up in St. Petersburg involve restaurants and (later) hang-outs. I’m willing to bet that there are places that you went to as a child or a teen that you still have fond memories of.

 

Sadly, one of my most favorite places is no longer. Aunt Hattie’s Restaurant was around for years and years. There were waitresses there, when I was a child, who told stories about Babe Ruth coming in with a large entourage for meals. Apparently, he’d always say he was paying, but he only had a $100 bill. You have to remember, that in those times, a meal wouldn’t be more than a couple of dollars and no restaurants would have change for $100. I guess the Bambino was always “comped.” Loved that story and the place. It was across the street from Albert Whitted Airport and near the Coast Guard base on Tampa Bay. When I was very little, it was a small place that specialized in “Chicken in the Woodpile” (chicken and dumplings). They also served the most amazing chocolate pie (never learned the secret – DAMN!) They had a small wishing well outside. Later there were several expansions and they started a small gift shop in the front (so people waiting for a table could shop – LONG before Cracker Barrel). A wonderful man named Kenny Jones was a woodworker who fashioned gnomes and elves for the restaurant’s garden. (Mr. Jones and his shop later did many pieces for Tampa’s Busch Gardens.)

 

Chattaway’s is still there! In my early 20s, a group of friends and I “discovered” The Chattaway Drive In (affectionately known as Chattaway’s). The owner, Everett, used to have a panel truck that he would use to pick up supplies that said, “Chattaway: You can’t beat our meat!” Seriously! You know what? Even after all these years, you still can’t. There are times that I get so homesick for a Chattaburger (their namesake burger) that I am almost ready to jump on a plane. Needless to say, the first place we headed from the airport was not the resort where we’d be staying, it was to Chattaway’s. (I taught Jim the wonders of the Chattaburger and the ethereal onion rings years ago.) There’s something so comforting sitting out on the patio eating THAT burger, onion rings, and quaffing a beer. I must say that they’ve really spiffed the place up quite a bit from the days when there were just concrete tables with benches, bar stools around the bar, and a few tables and chairs inside, but the food is still the same…WONDERFUL.

 

Chattaway's Patio

Another “must have” when I travel to St. Petersburg is grouper. Grouper is a delicate fish (which seems pretty strange considering the size and flat-out ugliness of the fish itself). I know that there are those who like grouper fried or blackened, but I think that’s near sacrilege. For me, the only proper way to eat grouper is broiled or grilled.

 

We both also had a hankering for conch fritters. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of eating conch, let me ‘splain. A conch is a large sea “snail.” Okay, don’t get grossed out. It’s the animal that comes in those beautiful, pink-lined shells that you see in photos being blown like horns. The meat is tough, so it needs to be chopped quite fine. Most fritters involve the conch, corn meal, onions, peppers, and celery. They’re truly delicious.

 

Lucky for us, we found Sloppy Joe’s – Treasure Island. This is the same team as the more famous Sloppy Joes found in Key West, Florida. Sloppy Joe’s is in one of the resorts on Treasure Island and is fairly well hidden from the front. However, they have a large, casual dining area inside, and wonderful tables on the patio overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and the sugar-sand beach of Treasure Island. They also serve a mean conch fritter!

 

The fritters came in a boat-shaped plate with an avocado remoulade. They were light, yet substantial with lots of good crunch. Delicious! I followed up with a grouper sandwich. The filet was day-caught fresh, perfectly cooked and huge! The bun was good, but the best part was that it didn’t get in the way of the fish. Appropriately, the fish was the star of the show. It immediately fulfilled my grouper “jones.” Jim had the grouper tacos. In that preparation, the grouper was fried into strips and added to tacos. He said they were excellent. All of the above was enjoyed with a couple of draft beers. Authentic (and extraordinary) key lime pie was dessert.

 

I can’t imagine a more beautiful way to end a great day and a wonderful meal than the sunset we were treated to. Here we were, relaxing on the restaurant’s patio, when the sun began to set and treat us to an incomparable Gulf-coast sunset. I must admit to being a bit of a “homer” when it comes to the sunsets in that part of Florida. What do you think? Isn’t this amazing?

 

Up Next: Our Trip to Florida (Finale) – Yes, more about food.

 

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Our Visit to Florida (Part 1)

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

If you read my last post, you know that Jim and I recently went to my high school reunion. It was held at the Sirata Beach Resort on St. Petersburg Beach. This previous post was about the reunion. This post is about the setting.

Sirata Beach Resort

 

The Sirata Beach Resort is and older resort. The amenities (wonderful beach, pools, beach bars, water activities, café, etc.) are quite nice. We found the food in the café to be good and reasonable, the bars were a bit pricey, but that’s not abnormal for a resort town. (I guess it shows that we don’t go clubbing, it’s expensive!) The hotel room itself was a bit odd. We had a king suite. The layout was backwards to our way of thinking. The door from the hall opened immediately into the bedroom, and the living/entertainment area were in the back. The television in the bedroom didn’t work, and the shower came on immediately when the water was turned on. Those negatives aside, the room was clean and the staff did a wonderful job of making the bed and assuring that the towels were replaced. To a person, every staff member we met was friendly, welcoming, and helpful. With that kind of environment, it was easy to overlook a couple of glitches.

 

As you know, Jim and I are birders. I guess I’ve been a passive birder all my life, but only got into really being interested in knowing the different species for the past 15 years or so. We were visiting one of the very best birding spots (although it’s better known for birding in the winter), so we took the opportunity to go out to Ft. Desoto Park.

 

Adult Ibis
Juvenile Ibis

Having grown up in the area, the actual Fort was not something we wanted to go see again. It’s interesting, but the birding was on the beach. We went to the east end of the island first. This is an area where we had seen large numbers of migrating birds (including warblers) the last time we visited. Again, the last time we visited was in the winter and this time we were between migrations. However, we did find some Ibis (the white ones are adult; the darker colored one is a juvenile). We also found a Great Egret.

Sanderling (thanks, Allen C)

Above is a photo of one of the many Sanderling (thanks, Allen C),

Willett (Allen C, confirmed)

and several Willet on the beach. In the trees around the picnic area, we found an active Palm Warbler (sorry, no photo) and several Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers (also, no photo).

White Peacock (thanks Cathy)

There were several beautiful butterflies, as well. Unfortunately, the wind was fierce, so our opportunities to find and photograph were hampered.

 

Gulf Fritillary (thanks Cathy)

This is a great spot to see and photograph the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

This is a photo of one of the freighters that regularly travels under the bridge. Many years back, one of the pilot-boat captains made a terrible error in piloting a huge barge under the Skyway. Unfortunately, the barge hit the bridge and sent a huge part of the span tumbling into the water. Sadly, several people lost their lives when cars went over the edge. This is the new Bridge. Only remnants of the old bridge remain as fishing piers on both the north and south side of the waterway.

 

Egmont Key

We also got excellent views of Egmont Key with its working lighthouse.

 

We then went down to the pier across from the Fort. As we were walking out toward the pier there was a great hubbub! Several dolphin (bottlenose) were playing under the pier. They were also eating the leavings of the fish that were being cleaned on the pier. We hustled out to see and, sure enough, there were dolphin swimming around the pier. Wish we’d gotten photos, but it’s virtually impossible to guess when and where a dolphin would surface. It was thrilling to see how well they are thriving in my “home” waters.

 

Ruddy Turnstone

Out at the end of the pier there were several “cleaning stations.” We found out that dolphin aren’t the only animals happy to clean up after the fishermen. These photos are of a Ruddy Turnstone (very confiding) that was enjoying the bounty left on the cleaning table. There were several other turnstones clambering around on the rip-rap jetty just to the side of the pier.

 

Turnstone on Rip Rap

We left the long pier, but stopped again at the shorter, more easterly pier on our way back to the resort. This pier had a small refreshment stand and we were parched from the blowing sand. Along the beach were lots of gulls and several terns. I have to admit it, I really need to bone-up on my shorebirds. I would really appreciate knowing what the different species are that are in these photos.

Common Tern? Sandwich Tern? Laughing Gulls

Sandwich Terns, Common Terns? Willet, and Laughing Gulls (thanks Jacco)

On the Bayway (the road back to the resort) I made Jim pull over because I saw a large group of Wood Storks and there was a Roseate Spoonbill with them. Hope you can see it in the photo.

 

Roseate Spoonbill/Wood Stork

Considering the weather and the time of year, we didn’t do too badly. Of course, all it did was serve to reinforce that we need to make another trip at a different time of year and (hopefully) when the weather is more cooperative.

 

Up Next: Our Visit to Florida (Part 2)

 

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Old Friends at the Beach

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Who say’s you can never go home again? You know, I always thought that was probably true. That was until I went to my 40th high school reunion on the beach in Florida. 40th?!!! Yep, I’m an old f*&t, alright.

 

Sunset: St. Pete Beach (Reunion Site)

I could right a whole blog on just how we came to decide to go to my reunion, but I won’t. Suffice to say, I was informed that my high school class had a website and that the reunion was being planned. I went to the website and found out that so many of my old friends (some of whom went from 1st grade through high school graduation with me) were planning to attend the reunion. I also got in touch with my very best friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen since her wedding 35 years ago. Once plans were made to go to Florida, I learned that more and more old friends would be there. I started to get excited. The decision was sealed when I found another person whom I hadn’t seen in more than 40 years. My best friend in junior high school is living is Sarasota (just across the Skyway Bridge from our reunion). I was going to have the opportunity to see (and introduce Jim to) two of the people I had loved and missed most.

 

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

I’d attended my 10 year reunion and had been somewhat underwhelmed. Let’s face it, at that point, we were all clawing and scratching our way into the business world or starting families. The emphasis, at that time, was on jobs, money, cars and babies. Since I didn’t have a high-powered job, didn’t have any extra money, drove a pretty ugly car and was single with no children, I really felt pretty alienated. Right then and their, I decided no more reunions. I’m glad I changed my mind.

 

Now, we’re all old f*#ts, and we could care less about any of that. We’re just happy to see old friends have made it through the “wars” and survived. Sadly, more than 40 of our classmates have passed on. It’s not something we think about on a daily basis, but it’s a fact of life. The older the lucky ones of us get, the more other we find have left us. It was quite a shock to read some of the names on the website, and I’m so very glad that we had a memorial service on the beach to remember and honor those who have gone to their rest.

 

Just SOME of the Grads

Most of the crowd have grown children (who really weren’t a topic of much conversation) and are in the twilight of their careers. We’ve all figured out that the secret isn’t the money or the position so much as it’s the satisfaction of doing something we enjoy to the best of our abilities. Some lucky souls have already retired (grrrrr), but the rest of us are hoping to be able to do so before our next 10 years pass.

L to R Judy Rausa Mamo, Me, Cheri Wix Hill, Julie Parker Lilly

The very best part of the whole reunion was getting so many of our old friends together and finding out we still can laugh, be silly, and, yes, for one weekend be 17 again. No, we can’t limbo like we could, but we can enjoy the music and each other’s company like 40 years had somehow magically disappeared. The bonds, while stretched across time and space, were still there.

L to R: Me, Cindy Clare Brickey, Gloria Byrd Mann, Julie Parker Lilly

I have to tell you, though, that the funniest thing that happened during the when a dear, old friend came up to me aghast and said, “You’re not DEAD!” My name wasn’t on the list of the departed, but she had been told that I had died. So, now, I was either Lazarus or a zombie. I had to suppress a giggle and a desire to say, “I can smell your brain.”

Richard Lilly, Julie Parker Lilly, Me, and Jim

 

Now that the reunion is over and we’ve all gone back to our four-corners of the globe, we’ve promised that we will stay in touch. I think we will. I hope we can find a way to get together, too. It sure would be a pity to lose touch once we’ve found each other again.

 

A Fabulous Group

Do you have a reunion coming up? You might have just as much fun as we did. I just love reunion stories. If you have one you’d like to share, please add it to this site.

 

Up Next: More Fun in Florida 

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