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Vacation in Petoskey

We stopped at Bob Evans for breakfast. I have to admit that it is one of my favorite places to eat. I normally prefer to avoid any sort of chain restaurant as a matter of course. However, Bob Evans is an exception. Their breakfast is great of course and that is what most people think of about the place. However, their other food is just as good. Melissa regularly gets the Wildfire Chicken Salad. I got the pot roast sandwich.

Paris, Michigan has a stone indian and small Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, it was on the grounds of an old fish hatchery that had been converted to a campground. This meant it was closed for the season. We drove through Kalkaska and saw the trout memorial and drove past the shoe tree. The trout memorial was kind of cool. The shoe tree was a tree with shoes in it, so not worth a side trip by itself. One place worth the side trip was the concrete statuary place. It included a mix of standard statuary and much larger life size objects, most of which were painted.

The Marian Center in Joy Valley was cool. We also stopped at the Cross in the Woods in Indian River. Either place is worth the stop but since they are close together you might as well do both.

The hotel was pretty basic. However, it had the standards, Wifi, breakfast, surge strip on bed stand. I was entertained by the fancy "clean remote". Breakfast was Jimmy Deans breakfast sandwiches. I am not sure if that is better or worse than the standard cereal and waffle bar. The downside was the Pool and hot tub. They desperately needed to be cleaned. Vacuum the sand off the bottom at least, but the chlorine was burning my eyes. It should not take that much chlorine.

We had dinner at the Grand Traverse Pie Company. Melissa had the chicken salad and and I had the french dip. Ironically, we did not have pie. The portions were large enough that we just did not have room. I understand that people often solve this by taking food home. However, we were on vacation and that was not really an option. I am sure large portions make it easier to raise prices but you lose out on selling me desert. Hopefully, we will get another chance so we can mark it off the list of places to try. The food was good though.

The next day was hitting a bunch of shops. First, was Charlevoix and the Apple Festival. They had a large number of artists between the regular shops and the Apple Festival booths. I do not like most of the art these places offer but I do enjoy looking. I did find one shop that had stuff I really liked. Unfortunately it was well out of my price range. The common price range was $1,000 to $3,000. One item though was $14,000.

One thing we got was free light bulbs. The local power company was giving them away. I almost felt bad that they wouldn't benefit at all. However, they didn't care so why should I?

We drove to Petoskey next. They had some art studios but it was much more,clothing and home decor. It also felt like there were three or four book stores which I thought was cool. We had lunch at a place called Papa Leo's. They had great stuffed mushrooms and their meatball grinder was great. One thing more restaurants need to do was slice he meatballs. Papa Leo's did it and it made the grinder much easier to eat and far less messy. Another thing about restaurants, why do so many people sit and eat in silence? Thirdly aimed at breweries. Sell food and put the menu on your web site. It makes justifying a trip easier for people like us. Have a cider or some other non beer on your menu. It makes it far easier to justify a trip when you are with people who won't or can't drink beer. Cider is gluten free and people who don't drink beer get something to try. I'd also suggest a perry. It would give you something even more unique to have on your menu. Beards Brewery had none of these things listed on their website or on the door menu outside so we didn't go there.

Harbor Springs was third. It was mix of art, small shops and businesses for locals. The highlight for me was the presence of an IGA, although we did not go into it, and a full service gas station. There was no sign the gas was just twelve cents gallon more than in Petoskey. I had initially chalked it up to being the only gas station for twenty miles. There was a sign warning you but it was not until a guy came out looking at me like I was an idiot did I realize.

Later, we watched the sunset over the bay and walked along the shore. It is not something we normally do but it was a lot of fun. We finished the evening with dinner at Petoskey Brewing. The fact that they had a menu was good since their website implied little food. They need to fix their website. However, the building itself was pretty cool. They had built it into an old brick brewery.

Day three was the Tunnel of Trees. It was a nice drive with a places to stop along the way. However, things got a little more interesting when we realized Mackinaw City wasn't very far away. We took the back way and stopped at a small farm market and enjoyed more scenery. The highlight was in a little town called Bliss. This place appeared to consist of a small fire department building, an old school house converted to community space and an old general store. This general store was great. They had a single gas pump out front with a big Vernors sign hanging from the building. Did I mention he place was tiny? It looked like someone converted their house's first floor front to a store. It didn't matter though, they had a variety of convenience store, hardware store and other items with groceries behind the counter on shelves.

Mackinaw City, however, was not nearly so exciting. We skipped the fort and toured the lighthouse. We enjoyed the lighthouse and the park portion of the city was nice. However, the downtown area was a bit of a disappointment. I haven't seen this many t-shirt places in one spot since we went to the Smoky Mountains. The tourist trap ran thick and we would have been far better off if we had checked out what the fort had to offer. The highlight was a place called Enchanted Knights. However, that is not exactly the reason we went north. Another disappointment was the pastie place we found, Mackinaw Bakery & Tea Company. They offered them both hot and frozen. However, that wasn't much of a distinction since it turned out their hot pasties were frozen ones that were than microwaved while we waited. The flavor was disappointing as well. I haven't had a huge number of pasties but this place wasn't as good as the others I have had.

Radeberger Pilsner

I tried another new beer called Radeberger Pilsner from Radeberger of Germany. I have no idea who these guys are but this screams mass market beer. However, I do not mean that in a bad way. The label on the bottle was a fairly traditional looking label. The taste was good, clean and completely unoffensive. It is the type of beer most anyone could drink and enjoy. Compared to the other similar beers that I have had, the flavor is less one dimensional. However, at the end of the day there's nothing that would make me come back.

Hobgoblin

Today was Hobgoblin from Wychwood Brewery in the UK. The bottle describes it as a Dark English Ale. The packaging is quite entertaining and the company as a whole seems to take its theme to hard across its product line, website etc. It seemed to avoid being silly for the most part. The taste was better than average. I was still enjoying it at the end of the bottle which is more than I can say for most things I've tried. The flavors came across as vaguely chocolatey, malty or sweet as I drank it. I would probably get it again if I see it in the store.

Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale

The next beer out of the fridge was Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale. I honestly did not go in expecting much. I always seem to have bad luck with licensed properties of any kind. I figured beer would be no different. The bottle had a Fun Monty Python style label. The beer itself was an English Pale Ale. The taste was not overwhelming and seemed to taste a bit fruity or maybe like certain types of good bread. Although, there was more going than that. In the end there was no real after taste to mention and it came across as a perfectly serviceable beer. I am not sure that I would get it again. I would have to judge it on price and availability of other beers to try. It did not feel like it stood out from the crowd.

Xingu Black Beer

The next one up in the journey through the grab bag of beer was Xingu Black Beer. The label was entertaining for no reason. I think it was mostly the caiman that was mixed in with the other miscellaneous. The beer certainly looked the part. It definitely poured out black. However, it certainly didn't taste like what I was expecting. You could taste the malt and describe it a bunch of different ways. However, it wouldn't really matter to most people since the flavors were not that intense. I could probably drink it on a regular basis without thinking much of it.

I doubt I'll try it again. It just didn't do anything for me. It was interesting to try but unless you're looking for a Fisher-Price style "my first dark beer", I am not sure its worth any effort to find. It is another example of a beer that is no better than what you would find taking a tour of the beer aisle your local grocery store.

Cucapá Obscura

Another beer from the gift pack, Cucapá Obscura.

This one is a Mexican Brown Ale. I'm not sure why but this one was in a can instead of the bottles the others were in. The can was entertaining because it seems to play it up as a limited edition dark beer. My first thought was that this was a brown ale and not terrible. On the other hand, I didn't get tired of it either. I cannot say if the flavor would grow on me after a few of them since I only had the one.

I am not a huge fan of Brown Ale's and this one isn't exactly going to get me to run out and buy a six pack. The price is really the thing with this beer. If you get it reasonably cheap than it is worth a shot. Oddly, the thing that sticks with me the most is that its a beer from Mexico that's not Corona, Modelo or any of the other forgettable beers I have tried.

Yanjing Beer

I got a pack of ten different beers for Christmas. I figured it would fun to take some notes and see what I ended up with.

The first up is Yanjing Beer from the Beijing Yanjing Brewery Co, product of China. I have to say this was not a particularly auspicious start. I did not see anything on the label that classified the beer as anything other than a one-size fits all beer. The packaging was fairly generic looking green bottle with a generic Chinese motif. The taste was not offensive or particularly spectacular. In the end, I've had it before under a dozen different labels.

Yanjing is a generic mass market beer that would end up the shelf next to Budweiser. I'm sure its a perfectly serviceable beer if you just got done mowing the lawn or you're hanging out with your buddies watching the game. However, what is the point? You'll fine plenty of other choices that are at least good, at least as cost effective and much easier to find.

I am thinking this one was included to bring down the cost of the ten pack.

Wine, Beer and Food festival

This year we decided to try the Grand Rapids Wine and Beer Festival. There are a couple of these that happen in the area. This is just the one that worked out for us. It is a pretty simple setup. There is a big hall with booths each offering a variety of beer and wine. There were a few other options including things like light food and a jazz band playing in the corner. It was a nice way of trying a bunch of different things. However, you can only do so much of it. It really was an experience that called for a group of friends going together to socialize. It was fun for us to try once but I am not sure it is worth it for us to go again.

This is how my life seems to go.

Tried to make mead today
I had to assemble turkey fryer to boil the ingredients.
Took forever because I'm not mechanically inclined.
Had trouble with the much gas/air mix because I couldn't see the flame.
Finally had it sorta figured out when the sink sprung a link.
sigh...

Honey, Pumpkins and a Hole in One

The morning started off with a simple project. We go to the Byron Center Farmer's market to pick up some honey for making mead. Eighteen pounds of honey later and I was all set and the kids were having fun. In the process we learned from Melissa's mom that Pumpkin Fest was going on in Zeeland. The five of us headed off and the kids had a blast at the petting zoo, getting faces painted, and wandering around the downtown.

The downside was a disastrous visit to Pizza Hut in Zeeland. Despite the festival going on they were woefully understaffed even if it had been a slow day. It wasn't slow, the place was packed. The main waitress was trying to cover about four times as many tables as she was qualified for. It took so long for them to get us our pizza that we ended up eating the appetizer and having them box up the pizza. The kids had completely lost any control and desperately needed some naps. We made it home with little further incident but it was a rough ending to what had been an otherwise good day.

On a totally unrelated note, Melissa's dad hit a hole in one the other day. He got the plaque and everything. This is actually his second.

Beer is ready

I finally bottled my beer on the 7th. It actually tastes not bad. This has been confirmed by my wife so its not just me. This is good because I ended up with 46 bottles of it. :-) I'd hate to have to drink 46 bottles of something I didn't like.

I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to brew again. I'd like to do it again before winter so that I can try cider. If not I may try mead or something like that. We'll see what happens.

Beer brewing

I got a kid for brewing my own beer for Christmas. I had helped Matt a few times and thought it would be fun. I finally had time to do it on Monday. I thought I did anyway. I learned something very important that I had not noticed before. Sammy sleeps in the mornings and is awake all afternoon, ALL afternoon.

I guess I should explain that my plan for my day off was to send Henry to daycare and keep Sammy home. This would save us a little money on daycare and I could still get some stuff done. Unfortunately, I ran errands in the morning when Sammy was mostly asleep. This meant that she was awake while I was trying to get the beer going. It turns out she doesn't like daddy brewing when she's awake. :-) I was able to get it going finally and its downstairs, hopefully fermenting. I do want to thank Melissa for not freaking out when she came home to trashed kitchen that reeked of wet dog. I'm not sure why it smelt like wet dog instead of grain but the odor was not a pleasant one.