Saturday, August 11, 2012
Back to the Land of Milk and Honey (and Whitefish and Fudge)
Katja and Vicki, happy to be together in Birch Creek
We are just back from our family reunion trip to Menominee. It was a great success. Here are some photos that tell the story.
Zimmerman's Deli, Ann Arbor
We left Cincinnati on Tuesday, July 31, and drove to the U.P. by way of the Mackinac Bridge. We stopped in our old home town of Ann Arbor on the way, picking up a takeout lunch at Zimmerman's Deli (which a Vogue food editor has recently called the best food store in the U.S.). Ann Arbor was bustling, though most of our favorite places from the 1960's were long gone, e.g., the Pretzel Bell, Artisans, John Leidy's, Follette’s Bookstore, Faber's Fabrics.
Katja at Sea Shell City
We are impressively slow travelers because we like to stop everywhere along the way. My favorite destination this time was Sea Shell City which has to be the kitschiest tourist destination in the Midwest, if not the world.
Crossing the Mackinac Bridge
It's exciting to cross the Mackinac Bridge. It didn't even exist when I was a kid, but now offers a physical connection between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas (though they remain separate worlds).
Murdick's Fudge, St. Ignace
Katja wanted to travel via the bridge so she could get some fudge, and she did so at Murdick's. Then we enjoyed a whitefish lunch at St. Ignace’s Gallery Restaurant, a virtually perfect welcome to the U.P.
Lake Michigan along US 2, west of St. Ignace
Menominee is at the southern tip of the U.P,, about 200 miles southwest of St. Ignace. The trip along the Lake Michigan coastline, with sandy beaches on one side and evergreen forests on the other, is gorgeous.
Delta Ave., downtown Gladstone, Mich.
The U.P. is mostly rural. There are no cities with a population as large as 20,000, and only 38% of the people live in towns of 2,000 or more. We stopped in Manistique, Gladstone, Escanaba, and Cedar River on our trip. This is downtown Gladstone where we patronized the Dairy-Flo.
Our very excellent motel
When we arrived in Menominee on Wednesday evening we checked into a motel on the shore of Green Bay where we were to spend the week. We were as excited as little children, probably because we’ve spent an entire week in a motel only once or twice in our lives.
Family photo at our Farm in Birch Creek
This was our first family gathering in Menominee in four years. My sister Vicki, Katja, and I were the grandparents in the group. Vicki’s, Steve’s, and our adult kids were there, as were their children. The back row from the left includes: Rhys, Greg, Valerie, Vicki, Katja, Dave, our daughter-in-law K, Jennifer, Wynn, Michael, Abra, and (in the back) my cousin Annie. The front row: our granddaughter V, Tim, Gillian, J, Vincent, Bridget, Oscar, and our grandson L. My cousin John B. took the picture. It was a congenial and fun group.
Menominee River dam and paper mill
I’d get up early each morning and go out and take photos of Menominee and Marinette before breakfast. Having spent my first eighteen years there, it was an exercise filled with nostalgia. The Menominee River and Green Bay offered the most photogenic opportunities.
Lions at the De Young Family Zoo, Wallace, Mich.
On Thursday morning we went to the De Young Family Zoo, about five miles north of Birch Creek in Wallace. It’s an astonishing place. Hidden away in Menominee County and established by a zoologist who left a major zoo in Chicago to build his own haven for wild animals, it has a larger collection of big cats than most world-class zoos. We watched the owner feed slabs of raw beef to the tigers and lions and wound up inspired by the possibilities of human determination.
Culver’s frozen custard world
We scrapped our diets for the week and enjoyed the fattiest and most caloric cuisine that we could find. Our best new discovery was Culver’s, a Wisconsin chain that specializes in butterburgers and frozen custard. The butterburgers were excellent, but the frozen custard was other-worldly – soft, rich, creamy, and delectable. Some days Katja only had a frozen custard sundae for lunch, while I combined them with a butterburger.
Henes Park Beach
Our family property is just a few miles from Henes Park which offers the best swimming beach in the twin cities. You can walk out in the warm Green Bay water for a couple hundred yards before getting up to your waist, and it was a daily hit for the kiddies (and the oldies too).
Vicki with the cousins
This was the first time for the cousins to visit Farm. Here’s Vicki with most of the bunch (from the left: Bridget, V, Gillian, Oscar, and L). Our own kids had all grown up visiting Farm together from since infancy in the 60’s and 70’s. Oscar asked his mom, ‘When I grow up, will I bring my children here, and you’ll be the grandparent?” Rhys nodded yes, and it brought a tear to the eye.
The Spies Public Library
We did all the spots in town – the marina, downtown shops in Menominee and Marinette, restaurants, the thrift shops, Pine Tree Mall, and the multiplex cinema. One of my favorites was the Spies Public Library where we took a look at my dad’s oil painting of downtown Menominee which was a memorial to his work on the library board.
Horse Team in the Waterfront Festival parade on Highway 41
Menominee’s Waterfront Festival was going on during our stay, and Katja and I watched the parade from the curb outside our motel. Along with fire trucks and police cars, there were five Shriner groups zipping about on motorcycles, miniature cars, or pedaling a twenty-person bicycle; students from the local dance academies; budding gymnasts; local politicians; high school cheerleaders; six marching bands; beauty queens in convertibles; Masons and Moose; and vehicles or floats representing just about every local commercial or service enterprise.
Katja at Bob and Lois A’s new house on Green Bay
Our friends Bob and Lois A., who own and operate a manufacturing firm in Menominee, have been building their dream house by hand on the Green Bay shore for over a decade, and they moved in last year. It’s a truly remarkable structure, and we were thrilled for them. We all enjoyed going out to dinner at Berg’s Landing on Sunday night.
Doris and Vic at River House (circa 1960)
Here are our parents, Doris and Vic, at their home on the Menominee River. They made our strong family tradition possible, and we owe them a great debt. Now Katja and I are back home again, and we miss our chums. It seems sort of boring around here so far. I guess that’s the inevitable consequence of a rewarding vacation.
-Vicki L (8-18): Hi David, Thank you many times over for recording highlights of our family reunion - it's a treasure. It was our first Farm Reunion run by the grandkids - bittersweet, of course - but so welcome to enjoy the clan without having to be part of the engine. …. it was great to see you both. Love, Vicki
-Kiera O (8-14): Dear Vicki and David, So enjoyed the photos on David's blog! Vicki the next time we're together you have to identify everyone in the group shot at Farm. You all look WONDERFUL!! love, Kiera