Tag Archives: Petoskey

Petoskey Wrap-up

We’ve enjoyed our month here in the Petoskey area. When we weren’t biking, hiking, and visiting famous tourist places like the Soo Locks and  Mackinac Island, we also did quite a bit of touring on the motorcycle along scenic roads. One of these is known as the “tunnel of trees“, a winding, hilly byway which reminds me just a bit of the Smoky Mountains roads. There are so many beautiful views of water here, one around almost every bend.

Sometimes you encounter the unexpected, too. The other day, we were taking a motorcycle ride around a lake and found that the road crossed an inland waterway. Not by a bridge – by ferry! Propelled by a chain drive, the ferry chugs back and forth transporting an endless stream of passenger cars. We waited in line for a bit, as the ferry capacity was only 4 cars.  When it was our turn we drove on, paid our $3, and took the five minute ride across the water. Upon reaching the other side, we simply drove on. You don’t see that every day!

I’m still painting rocks, and found the mother lode here on the rocky beaches of Lake Michigan. Since free is good, we took bins to the public beaches and loaded up! Lake rocks are perfect – rounded and smooth.  No exaggeration, I probably stowed at least 75 pounds of rocks in the basement – hopefully a year’s supply! Jeff used to fuss about weighing down the bus, until we got an actual weight on our rig that showed us to be 8000 pounds below capacity. He no longer says a word about my rocks!

We also took full advantage of the Little Traverse Wheelway bike path. On a busy art festival day, rather than drive and hunt for parking in downtown Petoskey, we rode our bicycles the 5 miles into town. No muss, no fuss. We browsed the art fair displays and I acquired a Petoskey stone, in jewelry form.

Going south on the bike path takes you to Charlevoix, another charming harbor town. It’s a pleasant 25 mile bike ride (round-trip) from our campground. We spent a fair amount of time in Charlevoix – browsing the shops, walking the parks, and watching boats go through the drawbridge channel.

Charlevoix hosted its annual Venetian Festival last week, so one of our final activities in the area was attending the festivities. At the concert venue (a harbor-side bandshell with grassy risers), you are permitted to set up camp chairs beginning at 8 am, which we did. Jeff joked that in Miami, you’d go back and your chairs would be gone! Here, people still respect others’ property – our chairs (and everyone else’s) were just fine. We went back later in the day to enjoy dinner, the carnival, live music, a boat parade, and fireworks. All free!

Attending functions in a small town creates a completely different atmosphere than in a big city. Sitting in my camp chair, watching the local audience of several hundred in their chairs (or sprawled on blankets),  I could see all ages chatting, relaxing, and enjoying the music. A group of three little girls danced in circles while a toddler jumped up and down to the beat. Two young boys played tag around the blankets. Between bands we chatted companionably with the couple next to us. The air was just comfortably warm as we watched the sun set behind the harbor. No public drunkenness, no angst, no apparent conflict. It was all so peaceful … and just happy. These unique moments are what make RV life so special.

The weather here was (most of the time) lovely, with cool nights and warm days. We made new RV friends and caught up with a couple we originally met in Orlando. We’ve enjoyed this beautiful RV park – I’m spoiled now!

But now it’s time to move on to the upper peninsula and our next adventure!


Kilwins Chocolate Factory

006The chocolate shop chain Kilwins just so happens to be headquartered in Petoskey! And they offer free tours!

The main shop is just off the bicycle path and we tried to tour during our 4th of July bike ride, but alas, the tours were cancelled that day. We attempted to go that weekend but alas, no tours on the weekend. (Obviously we weren’t attentive to their tour sign OR the website.). The third time being the proverbial charm, we finally made it on a proper day and time to take advantage of this feature.

Kilwins has 113 locations in 23 States, so I had seen it around before, but had never been inside a shop to the best of my recollection. Each Kilwins location makes certain things in-house: fudge, caramel apples, caramel corn, brittles and such. But other items such as marshmallow candies, tuttles (their version of turtles), enrobed and molded chocolates – are only made in their Petoskey shop and shipped to their franchisees.

The “factory” area is surprisingly modest, considering how many stores they supply.  We grouped at the appointed hour and listened to a brief overview of the franchise history and products. We then donned very attractive disposable hair covers (Jeff got a bonus beard cover) and shoe covers before heading through the magic doors.

This is a high-end, small batch, manually-produced product line. That’s why it’s pricey! But it was fascinating to see brownish gel get cooked up and then whipped up onto snowy white marshmallow gooiness. Poured into a large tabletop mold and allowed to cool, it is then coated with powdered sugar and manually cut/packed. Farther along, we watched two long chocolate enrobing machines (one each for dark and milk chocolate) coating various centers with chocolaty goodness.

Upstream of the enrobing machines is where the magic happens — fair trade high quality cacao nibs are massaged, married with sugar and cream, and processed into liquid chocolate in a continuous flow process. Pumps and pipes carry it overhead to the enrobing machines. Two taps allowed our guide to extract samples of each type of chocolate (milk and dark) and skillfully dipped out spoonfuls for each of us. There’s something about the silky-smoothness of just-right-temperature melted chocolate that’s just over-the-top good. Mmmmmmmm. I felt a bit like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory and wanted to dive into a pool of the stuff! Oh. My. Goodness.

Side note:  One of the guests asked our tour guide how long it took before he didn’t eat the chocolate anymore. He said one month …. and hasn’t had chocolate for over a year! Working around it so much, he’s not even tempted a bit to sample any. I guess even a good thing can be over dosed.

At the conclusion of our tour, we were given a tuttle sample and a coupon for 20% off, which of course we promptly used. The candy IS pricey, but nice for a splurge – once in a while.

Cycling Petoskey: Little Traverse Wheelway

016We are finding in our travels that many towns have embraced the concept of off street paths for biking and walking. It’s SO much safer and more pleasant to ride dedicated bicycle lanes, enjoying the sights and exercise. I hope the trend continues and expands!

The Little Traverse Wheelway passes literally across the street from our RV park. The street happens to be a busy highway, which is a bit of a pain to get across, but once on the other side we have full access to the paved path. The 26 mile “rail to trail” bike path extends from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs, and we are located just north of the middle. On the 4th of July we saddled up, crossed the busy road, and headed north toward Petoskey.

The trail followed along the road for a while, then ducked toward the shoreline through city parks and private lands. At this point we were on a bluff above the beach, but soon the trail descended to lake level as we approached Petoskey. Late-blooming lilacs scented the cool breeze. We took occasional breaks to walk the shore and search for Petoskey stones. We strolled out on the Petoskey harbor breakwater to the small light house at its tip. We watched as two youngsters dove from a passing boat to swim (race) to the breakwater while their parents docked the boat. We observed to make sure they made it OK (it seemed like a long way to me), but they handled the distance quite competently!

We cycled through Bayfront Park, which was surprisingly uncrowded on this 4th holiday. In South Florida, every park would be overflowing! The scenic lakefront park includes a waterfall flowing down the bluff which was popular on this warm day.

Continuing on past downtown Petoskey, we headed north toward Petoskey State Park. We didn’t reach the northern terminus, but flipped it around after reaching the 10 mile mark, to head back south. Near town, we happened across a carriage preparing to take a bride to her wedding. We called out our congratulations as we cycled by.

It was approaching lunch time (and it had gotten QUITE warm), so we stopped for a bite. A steep ramp / staircase from Bayfront park led up to the Petoskey downtown area. We had originally targeted a Thai place, but it was closed for the holiday, so instead opted for American cuisine at Chandler’s Restaurant. My cobb salad was delicious and Jeff’s 5 Dragons sandwich (their spin on a classic Reuben) was so huge, he packed half home. Cooled off, rehydrated and replete, we remounted our bikes and took a leisurely spin back home for a total of 20 miles.

Next time, we’ll head south and see what is happening in that direction!



National Cherry Festival

002After our stay in South Haven, we headed north to the lovely city of Petoskey, Michigan. I know I visited here as a child, but the details are hazy. I do remember the Petoskey stones, the unique fossil rocks collected by my grandmother and displayed in our backyard garden. We booked a month here, to enjoy the cool, clear Michigan air.

This area of Michigan is scenically beautiful — with long rolling emerald green hills, forests, and quaint lakeside towns. We’ve already taken several motorcycle rides, exploring the nearby towns of Charlevoix and Harbor Springs. Earlier this week, we saddled up and headed down to Traverse City, home to the National Cherry Festival, fortuitously happening during our stay.

I didn’t realize that so many cherries are grown here, but apparently Michigan is the largest producer of tart cherries in the US, to the tune of 227 million pounds per year! That’s a lot of cherry pie! Cool and rainy spring weather this year delayed the cherry onset by 2 to 3 weeks, but there were still plenty of cherries to be had at the festival.

Traverse City is a typical Michigan lakeside town, with a medium-sized downtown wrapped around a harbor. By South Florida standards the Festival wasn’t very large …. just a square of vendor tents and a “fair” area with carnival rides and food. But the air was cool, the sun was warm, and lots of free samples of cherry products were to be had. After browsing the fair and downtown, we found cherry salsa, cherry balsamic vinaigrette and cherryaki sauce in our possession. I also had to have a piece of fair-booth cherry pie because, well, you know. Jeff indulged in a root beer float instead. Sacrilege.

Leaving Traverse City, we headed up a small peninsula to Brys Winery. This area is located just above the 45th parallel, a latitude that is famous for being just right for vineyards. Lately, our winery visits have offered primarily fruity wines, which are not our favorites. But this winery stocked a surprisingly delicious 2016 estate Merlot – every bit as nice as some of the California wines we’ve enjoyed. A bottle that found its way into our now-laden motorcycle.

Cherry sauces and wine on board, we cruised back to our home base in Petoskey. Just another day on the road!