The Road Trip Adventure - Day 2: Cherries and Pie and Wine and Driving (Oh, My??)

July 5, 2013

Originally, we would have just gone home today. We went to the park, got some food and slept away the night. Our job here is done. But one day in the office, I was talking about how we were going to go to Michigan to the park. Robyn casually mentioned another co-worker was going to the Cherry Festival in Traverse City. My ears perked up as I heard about the sweet sound of cherries. So a little research was in order.

The National Cherry Festival is held every year in Traverse City, Michigan. My first thought was, "I'm sure Traverse City is right around the corner from Muskegon. I mean, how big is Michigan??" Sometimes, I'm not that smart when it comes to geography. Traverse City is 2.5 hours from Muskegon. But I would not be deterred when cherries are involved. The idea was floated to Mom and she was in. Elias?? Well, he would be fine wherever we decided to go. And if he wasn't, well...he didn't have much of a choice.

Normally, we stop at Starbucks at the beginning leg of the trip. But we were in Montague, MI. Starbucks wasn't in the general vicinity. So we grabbed some grocery store bagels from the continental breakfast at the hotel and we headed north. Traverse City is North of Muskegon/Montague for those keeping track...

The first hour and a half were fine. Sure, Nigel the GPS steered us a bit stupidly, but we were driving at a pretty good clip. I don't understand why if the speed limit is 55 or 60 mph, I can drive 80. But if the speed limit is 70 mph, I can barely hit the speed limit. Weird. About an hour before we made it to Traverse City, we were on the "scenic route." The "scenic route" is really just code for "you WILL hit stop lights in smaller towns, get used to it." This is not a bad thing, but it does slow down the arrival time. And I was really jonesing for some cherry pie.

We made our way to downtown Traverse City and tried to get Nigel to get us as close to the festival as we could go. We ended up in a pretty decent rockstar parking space. After 2.5 hours, we bounded out of the car and right into the Humidity from Hades. Yikes. It was hot outside. Keep in mind, we never had a Spring in Chicago. Elias and I were in Europe when the heat finally showed up. And I work indoors. So I'm not quite yet used to the heat of the summer. It was bad. We walked a few blocks towards the Visitor's Information Center where we made a quick pit stop and picked up a few flyers for later, then we crossed the street into the festival. Cherries...I'm coming for you!!

And...I'm not gonna lie, the whole thing was a bit of a let down. I'm not sure why. As we crossed Highway 31 and went into the grounds of the festival, we saw plenty of trailers of giveaways. There was a Lego tent to the right. Chobani was giving away free yogurt on the left. Dish Network was there doing something. And maybe there was a booth where folks were selling cherries. We soldiered on. Off to the left, there was a square where the food vendors lived (more on them in a sec), plus a question tent and a place to buy merchandise. There were four or six vendor booths selling the stuff we really came for...sugary cherry goodness. Right here was the best part of the festival.

We walked into one booth and a lady spent a good 5 minutes making us try salsa and chocolate sauce and other condiment-type items. Tasty, but not what we wanted. There was a booth on the end that had pie and turnovers. Yes, please. Gallagher's Farm Market also sold Cherry Root Beer. It is known by everyone that I'm not a soda (ahem...Pop) drinker. Occasionally, I'll partake, but it's very rare. And it's never something in the cola family. Root beer, though...I'm so in. So the fact that there was a Cherry Root Beer...Yeah, I'm so in. It was pretty tasty. I'm not sure the company that made the beverage, but I could look that up for the future.

A decision had to be made at this point. It wasn't quite noon, but we needed to figure out food before we dove face first into a pie. The foot options in the main square were limited. There weren't the regular options - Hamburgers, pulled pork, hot dogs. Nope. There was the gyro booth and the Thai booth and the Chinese booth. Now I'll give them high marks for diversity, but the choices just seemed...limited. As we had walked into the festival, we thought we saw the old standbys that would work better for us. And they did. Around the corner. Far from the good part of the festival. Whew. Elias was a little squirrely because he wanted something that they just didn't have here (though for the life of me, I can't remember what it was). He ended up with an Italian Sausage, while Mom and I opted for a hot dog. We decided to go back for pie, then head to the next location.

When Mom said we needed some pie, I was 100% ready. But before we found our food and we were in the square, there was a sign for the Grand Traverse Pie Company. I had scoped that place out the night before as a place to stop before heading back to Montague. And I was very happy they had a booth at the festival. So I said we needed to have a taste test. Who doesn't want to have a taste test with pie??

Side note #1 - it is a Cherry Festival. Now I know not everything needs to be sugar related, but I'm pretty sure we only saw two booths serving pie. This fact Boggles. My. Mind. I would think every booth should have some sort of cherry pie. Cause if they did, we would have had more than two pieces of pie. This to me is the biggest indication as to why the festival for us was a bit...meh...

Mom and Elias went to Gallagher's for pie and a cherry turnover. I went to the Grand Traverse Pie Company for pie. A la mode. Cause if you're gonna do a taste test with pie, there had better be some ice cream involved. We met back up in the airconditioned tent for the test.

First up, the cherry turnover was spectacular. I had a bite from Elias (who declined to be a part of the pie test because he is obviously a Communist.) and promptly decided we needed to go get three more for breakfast tomorrow since the continental breakfast at the hotel was...adequate. Mom and I dug into our pies. And each other's pies. Mom's pie was a traditional cherry. Very good. A little tart. Mine was a cherry crumble. Very, very good. Very sweet. And we did love the ice cream. There was enough to slap on to Mom's as well. This was what we wanted from the festival. So in a way, we got everything we wanted??

Mmm...turnover...

"My" Pie...

"Mom's" Pie...

We were hot. We were filled with pie. We just picked up a few more turnovers and hit the road. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention a fabulous little shop in Traverse City we stopped in before we went on our next stop. The Red Dresser caught our eye as we walked to the festival. It looked kind of quirky and full of the crap I love but don't need. And it pretty much was. It had clothes and jewelry and those kinds of things. But it also had vintage furniture that had been painted and reimagined. That was what I loved. Basically, it was an upscale flea market. Or a more resonably priced Anthropologie. It makes me want to go to a real flea market and look for crap like this. Or it makes me wish The Red Dresser existed in Chicago or Naperville. I didn't actually buy anything, but I wanted. I wanted several things...

As we drove to Michigan at the start of the adventure, Mom mentioned several times about looking for wineries during our weekend. She was pretty darn adamant about it. So when we were in the Visitor's Center in Traverse City, we talked to the guy at the center about vineyards in the area. He gave us a pamphlet on the Old Mission Penninsula. Wineries were all up and down the penninsula and we basically had our pick on which to choose. While we sat and ate our lunch at the festival, I did a quick TripAdvisor/Yelp search and figured the best place to stop would be the Brys Estates. So we drove up the penninsula and found the winery pretty easily.

Side Note #2 - What in the world is up with streets in Michigan?? Some of these "smaller" streets were completely lacking in any kind of speed limit sign. So I didn't know if I should be driving 35 or 65. Everyone in the car was on the lookout for a sign so that I didn't get pulled over for speeding. But there were no signs anywhere. It just seemed so very wrong.


Brys Estates is located on a lovely swatch of land overlooking the water. It had a very serene feel. Kind of like the vineyard we visited in Les Arcs (though no roses at the end of the row of vines). Plus, it was a beautiful day. We wanted to sit outside with a glass of wine, but it looked like food needed to be bought too and we weren't totally sure what was happening. And honestly, before we knew it, we were being shuffled into a tasting room. It actually happened pretty easily. We walked in and a person asked how many, then showed us where to go. The tasting was $5 and Mom wasn't super thrilled about paying to taste the wine. So she and Elias took off for a comfy looking leather couch. I snuggled into the wine tasting. $5 for 5 samples of wine. Bring it on...
For the most part, I went with the light wines. It is Summer, after all. Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Pinot Noir/Riesling, and Pinot Noir (last one wasn't really light, but...). And yeah. Pinot Noir/Riesling. This is a thing. They take (I believe) 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Riesling and blend them for a lovely drink. I'd never heard of it before and walked away with a bottle of my very own. I also got a hit of a Pinot Gris/Riesling mix as an added bonus. Completely enjoyable. And I bought enough wine to get my $5 tasting fee refunded. So I totally win!! Or, they won. I think I spent $50 to not spend $5. They won.
We considered driving a bit further North, but we wanted to get back to the hotel area, so we made our way back down to Montague. The discussion was had at a certain point about going back to the water park at Michigan's Adventure. We would probably have enough time. We just had to see how everyone felt. I knew Mom wasn't going to be super interested. I was pretty tired, but Elias seemed to want to go. That was, until he totally zonked out in the car. When we got closer to Muskegon and he was awake, we had to make a decision. Waterpark and dinner or just dinner?? The vote was unanimous. Just Dinner.
By this time, we all were enjoying the outside dining. Even Elias. So when we made it to the Harbor View Grille, we didn't even pause when the hostess asked if we wanted indoor or outdoor. Outdoor. Definitely. Again, we overlooked the water, though today it was maybe a harbor or something. It actually was a lovely view of boats and some good looking buildings. We had sandwiches, steak and fish and chips. The food was pretty tasty here. For the most part, we have had really good luck with dining on this adventure. We also ended up with some decent desserts. Blueberry Bread Pudding and Chocolate Cake. We really couldn't complain too much.

The end of the night ended pretty early. It actually was fine, because it had been two long days. We were all pretty tired. So we threw in the second half of the pilots and we finished those up. Elias fell asleep first. Mom and I stayed up playing games on our Kindle and iPad for a while longer. Tomorrow, we were heading home. And we needed the energy to survive one more leg in the car...

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