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sleeping bears, bumper cars, and the tip of a peninsula

Wow–I can’t believe we’ve been home for a week. Even though we’re already home I want to post about the last stop on our three-week adventure. We decided to check out Sleeping Bear Dunes and Traverse City on our way home so we booked the Courtyard Marriot for a few nights before heading home to the Windy City. South, Below the Bridge After our adventures in the "Yoop," we headed south to Traverse City.Heading south, below the bridge Unbeknownst to me Cherry Festival was going on in Traverse City during the time we were there. Had I known about the fest I may have selected a different area to stay even though I really wanted to spend time in Traverse City. It’s not that I don’t like fests it’s more about wanting to first experience a new city/area as it typically is (the other 51 weeks a year). But we didn’t know so we plunged in and embraced our time in the area (including spending one day enjoying the 84th National Cherry Festival).

sleeping bear dunes

A quick trip to Target to get Aidan a swim vest for the beach started our first full day in Traverse City. It was here that we got an awesome tip from the cashier on a breakfast joint. I say “joint” because this is exactly what it was. When we pulled up to the place Mike and I were a little leery from the outside looks of the place, but then as we reminded ourselves some of the best places we’ve ever eaten at could be classified as holes-in-the-wall. The place was The Rounds. It had that small diner feel with local old-timers sitting at the counter, and boy was the food good! Their omelets were some of the best we’ve ever had. They actually put their very tasty potatoes inside the omelet–what a wonderful concept!! Our waitress was friendly and chatty and gave Aidan a big bag of extra cherries to take with us.

After leaving with full tummies we decided to head out to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. A quick stop at the visitor’s center to pay our $10 entrance fee and we headed out to drive on the recommended 7-mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. Here we stopped at some of the observation areas to take in some views and learn a little about the geology and history of the dunes. Aidan was extremely eager to get to the actual dunes so we headed on over to test our endurance at the Dune Climb. I’ve read that there are areas of these dunes that rise 460 feet above the lake! While we did all climb the main dune and explored the sandy hilltops for several hours, we didn’t venture on to hike the 3.5 mile round trip to the lake. It was peaceful up on the dunes sitting, breathing, looking out at the beauty of nature, watching Aidan run free. And once we were done exploring the top of the dune it was a pure rush going down–doing “moon jumps” faster and faster as gravity pulls you to the bottom of the dune! Sandy, tired, and hungry we made our way into the town of Glen Arbor in search of food. We found Boondocks where we sat outside and enjoyed grilled veggie sandwiches and listened to some live music. It was a good way to end the day.

chillin’ by pool and cherry fest

We took advantage of being at a hotel and having an indoor pool and hot tub all to ourselves on our second day in Traverse City. Even though I typically like to keep moving and seeing things while on vacation, I have to admit it was so relaxing to swim and read and just hang out by the pool for a good portion of the day. Aidan is getting the hang of swimming and is loving it! I was so proud of him to see him swimming from one end of the pool to the other (with his noodle). It’s just a matter of time and he’ll be noodle-free and swimming like a dolphin!

After hours at the pool we decided to get cleaned up, eat at a local Mexican restaurant, and go check out the Cherry Festival. We found some free parking down by one of the beaches and walked along the bay to the happening spot of the fest. Walking in the heat through the crowds and noise and smells (some good and some not so good) it felt like a smaller version of Taste of Chicago. Aidan’s main interest was the large carnival and he was thrilled to see that they had bumper cars! All three of us stood in line and selected our cars (Aidan and Mike sharing a car and me on my own) and then we were off–spinning, turning, trying to drive, and all the while smashing and crashing into each other! Oh, what fun we had. Aidan was laughing hysterical at times trying to control his car to ram into me. We had so much fun that Aidan just had to go on the ride again! It was a fun night of bumper cars, ferris wheels, and spinning dragons. On our walk back to the car we enjoyed the evening sunset over the bay.

old mission peninsula

We were scheduled to leave on Friday but, with none of us really wanting to leave, we checked on Friday morning and the hotel had an opening so we decided to stay one more night! YAY! So, we decided to take advantage of this extra day and drive up to the tip of one of the peninsulas in the area, out to the Old Mission State Park. Here lies the Old Mission Lighthouse that was built in 1870, along with a restored turn of the century log cabin. We decided to skip seeing the inside of the lighthouse, but instead went exploring on the beach. This beach was an unusual one with mucky sand, shallow water, and stacked rock formations that made you wonder about crop circles and Stonehenge. ;) We decided to walk out to the very tip of the peninsula–and what a hike it was! Aidan abandoned his shoes early on, leaving them in the middle of the beach, and hiked the peninsula barefoot! He says that he likes feeling more connected to the earth that way. He is such my nature boy!! Our adventure to the tip was through brush, bugs, and shallow water and over sand, broken shells, and slippery rocks. Even though some areas didn’t seem to be well traversed at all, and we often seemed to be making our own path, we were all determined to get to the tip. And after some time we finally made it–it was way cool to hike to the very tip!

Early evening was upon us as we hiked back to our car. Driving back to Traverse City we all decided we needed some nourishment so we found a cute little restuarant and brewery on the peninsula called Jolly Pumpkin. While we didn’t try any of their hand-crafted brews this time, we did dine on yummy artisan pizzas, homemade humus, and some great curried sweet potato fries.

We spent the rest of our last evening in Traverse City swimming at the pool and enjoying one last dip in the hot tub. It was a great time!

Saturday we left to drive home at noon (Mike and Aidan never seem to want to leave a hotel one minute before checkout time)! :) It was a long drive home, but Aidan still had one audio book to keep us all entertained. This one was actually a pretty good one–A View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg. We took turns listening to the book and then jammin’ to some music, and the ride seemed to go pretty smoothly. We did end up stopping in St. Joseph to buy some Mackinac fudge. Yes, I know, we should have gotten it while we were in Mackinac–we actually did (and we got it free) but it got a little wet (and gross) in our cooler so we picked up some more. St. Joe’s was in midst of an art fest, and while I was up for hanging out a bit and checking out some of the local artwork, both my boys were ready to get home–so homeward we went.

It was a good three weeks!

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