Sunday, January 18, 2015

Road trip to Michigan for Christmas

Looking ahead to a long two-week holiday break from work -- Johnson & Wales University closes down over Christmas and New Years -- Susie and I packed up, loaded the car and headed off for the wilds of western Michigan. The idea, which proved to be a sound one, was to spend Christmas with Susan's mom in Grand Rapids. And so we did.

The drive through Massachusetts and New York state was uneventful with good weather. It took us about seven hours to cross the border into Canada where we spent the night at John's Gate Gourmet Bed & Breakfast in Niagara on the Lake. For dinner we walked a very chilly three blocks to the Cannery Restaurant in the Pillar and Post Inn. The service was outstanding but the food unremarkable although remarkably overpriced. Still, it was nice to try a selection of local wines. and the festive feel was certainly in the air:

Johns Gate B & B
It was a bright, cold morning when we loaded ourselves back into the car and headed back for the highway. Before we made our way to the QEW, though, we took a quick swing through the center of town and thought it would be a great place to spend a night or two, particularly in the spring or summer. The views across the lake to the other side of Ontario and across the mouth of the Niagara River to the USA were simply gorgeous.

Our last six hours or so to Michigan were as uneventful as the previous day's drive and the weather cooperated the entire way. In fact, we saw no snow the entire time we were in Michigan. Amazing! And we made both border crossings in record time with virtually no traffic backups!

Susie and I spent the next week or so pretty much hanging out with family, although we did see a couple of friends. We enjoyed a tasty lunch at Nonna's in Ada and Charley's Crab in downtown Grand Rapids. We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Marco's Bistro: quiet, great service and tasty food wrapped in a nice price. One couldn't have asked for anything better.

chicken pot pie at Nonna's

quiche and salad

We also scored several opportunities to see family during our week in Grand Rapids: our kickoff was a little quality time with Susan's Uncle John and Aunt Tine VandenBerg at their Raybrook apartment.

Bernice and Tine - golfing partners
Susan's cousin Mary Vandenberg Speyer coordinated the meeting at Raybrook
We also made a return trip to Raybrook to visit Aunts Betsey DeKorne and Fran Van Halsema -- with so many cousins to keep track of, Susan finally got a chance to catch up on all the family news!

Another goal during our trip was to get out to the Ten Have compound at Clear Bottom Lake, just west of Rockford. So, even though it was quite cold the skies were clear when we headed out to Clear Bottom to check on the progress of the new Ten Have home. When all is said and done, hopefully by spring, Uncle John and Aunt Marian will be comfortably settled in their wing along with cousins Jennifer and Scott and their daughter Clare. This is going to be one fantastic summer at the lake!

uncle John keeping an eye out for crazed squirrels

"OK, so this thing here is gonna go there and we're gonna have this over there. . . "

cousins Susie and Jennifer
Sadly, while we were in Grand Rapids, Susan's Uncle Bob DeVries passed away after battling cancer. I didn't know him well but the little time I spent with him over the years he always had a warm smile on his face and strong handshake; he was also pretty good at telling a story or two.

Aside from spending quality time with Susie's mom and seeing family and friends, we did get the chance to check out a few pieces of property. After last summer we began looking seriously at moving back to this part of the country to be close to Bernice. Anyway, it was a good opportunity to see what the property values are like compared to the eastern seaboard (good) and the availability (not-so-good). But we're in no big rush, at least for the present.

Our return trip to Providence went off without a hitch -- border crossings were OK, although not quite as smooth as our outbound leg. But we managed to make it to our overnight in Rochester in good weather, although our dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse reminded us to keep our expectations .low when it comes to (most) chain restaurants.

The final driving day, New Year's Eve, was pretty uneventful, although we encountered a few annoying snow squalls in central New York. But by the time we hit the Hudson River Valley it was smooth sailing right into Rhode Island.

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