What a year it has been! Right off the bat I crossed of “visiting the Upper Peninsula in winter” off my travel bucket list when we rang in the blustery cold New Year in downtown Marquette. It would be the first of seven trips to the UP throughout the year: snowmobiling and yurt camping in March; lighthouse touring, book research and a paranormal conference all in August; a beer fest and to volunteering for Michigan Cares for Tourism in Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula in September.
Building on my increasing interest in Ernest Hemingway (including being appointed to the board of the Michigan Hemingway Society), I made a trip to Key West a priority this year. And what better time to go than my birthday! I was actually in the well-known Hemingway haunt Sloppy Joe’s Bar at midnight to ring in my 49th year (and we returned back here several times during our week-long trip). From island dinners to haunted tours, cigar lounges to historic sites, it was a memorable week (but one I don’t feel compelled to repeat. I mean, there are SO many other places to explore in the U.S. and beyond). To read more about this adventure, read “A Michigan Girl…in Key West.”
Sticking close to home, but probably the most physically and mentally “reaching” of the trips this year was a 2-day camping excursion to North Manitou Island. Now, I haven’t tent camped since I was in high school (and even then, it was at a fully modern campground). Taking a 90-minute ferry boat ride out to a remote island in northern Lake Michigan with no conveniences such as showers, flush toilets or electricity, stretched my limits (in a good way). Of course, we went in early July when it was HOT and the black flies were BRUTAL, but I still made it as VIP as I could (including having T-bone steak for dinner the first night, bagels and lox for breakfast the next morning and plenty of wine! All the details are published under the headline “Getting Out of My Comfort Zone (& into the Woods).”
And since I just can’t get enough of Hemingway, a trip to Chicago to see a one-man show Pamplona starring Stacy Keach (a show which had been cancelled last summer after the actor had a heart attack on stage during opening night) and to visit the author’s birth home in Oak Park (also the hometown of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright). Add into that trip a burlesque show, cemetery visits, a stop at the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and the alley where James Dillinger was shot and killed, and the weekend was complete! You can get more of that adventure by reading “A Michigan Girl…in Oak Park & Chicago.”
To kick off the holiday season, a mini vacation was in order to Niagara Falls, Canada. As I recall, I have been here once before…around the age of 10…while on an extended vacation researching our family tree. Talk about boring for an elementary aged kid! However, it was that trip, without question, that helped shape my life as a traveler, historian and writer. Not only did we get to see the illuminated falls at night from our 28th floor hotel room but we took a boat trip out and around between the Horseshoe Falls, Bridal Falls and the American Falls. Of course, winery tours, mouth-watering steak dinners and shopping were in order…along with walking through a cemetery at night because it was rumored to be haunted. Check out “A Michigan Girl…in Niagara Falls” for more about this trip.
My final trip of the year took me back to Florida, with my adult children and their significant others. When they approached me with the idea of bypassing the Christmas tree, presents, dinners and other expenses in lieu of family trip south, I was game. We began searching online for the perfect locale, and with recommendations from friends we selected Anna Maria Island on the Gulf Coast for its quaint and authentic charm. Plus, we found the cutest little bungalow with three bedrooms (and more importantly three bathrooms), a pool, hot tub and within walking distance to the beach. Although the trip was short (arriving Monday afternoon and leaving Friday afternoon), we packed in a ton of fun and quality family time, including bike rides, card games, mimosa breakfasts and yes, even a viewing of The Polar Express. For the full story, read “A Michigan Girl…in Anna Maria Island.”
What does 2019 have in store? Well, for starters, an 8-day trip to Greece to celebrate my 50th birthday in May with the love of my life (I can’t imagine experiencing this amazing place with anyone else). Maybe a road trip out along the east coast to visit some “dark tourism” sites such as Salem, MA; the Edgar Allan Poe gravesite in Baltimore, MD; the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, MA and cultural sites such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Mill Run, PA; and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, VA. Oh, and if we’re lucky, a trip to Nova Scotia to Oak Island.
And, right here in Michigan I still want to kayak Turnip Rock in Port Austin (the tip of the thumb), visit Mackinac Island in winter (although I will NOT be getting there via the Christmas tree ice bridge on a snowmobile), take in a baseball game at Comerica Park and visit Belle Isle. I’m sure other new opportunities will come up, and I’m excited to explore as many as possible.
Where will your travels take YOU in the coming year?