13.Wine….Continued

Our adventures in Michigan continued the day after running the 13.Wine Half Marathon.  We enjoyed breakfast at the Blue Plate Cafe which was just minutes from the Lakeside Inn on the Red Arrow Highway. The food was appealing and the service was prompt and friendly.

Fruit, granola, and yogurt breakfast.

At the suggestion of our new 13.Wine Half Marathon friends, Ron and Lori, we continued north on the Red Arrow Highway to St. Joseph’s or St. Joe’s as the locals seemed to refer to it. We were impressed by the immense sandy beach and the recreational facilities such as a fountain pool and a remarkable carousel housed inside a glass enclosure.  We walked out to the end of the jetty (?), pier (?) that offered a chance to venture out into Lake Michigan without leaving land.  After our stroll, we thankfully sought refuge in the air conditioned carousel building to escape from the still oppressive heat.  Sitting in comfy chairs watching the carousel whiz by with enraptured children was an ideal way to recover from the heat before meandering up the hill to choose a spot for lunch.

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View looking down into St. Joseph’s

 

Mike on the jetty.

We settled on Caffe Tosi which is a bakery, restaurant, and coffee shop.  The atmosphere was welcoming and the food was just what we were looking for.

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We had lunch at Caffe Tosi.

 

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Caffe Tosi

After lunch, our travels continued to Saugatuck, the second place that we had been encouraged to visit.  We found it to be an enchanting water-side town with a multitude of galleries, wineries, and restaurants.

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Uncharacteristically, we had no lodging reservations – a situation that we found liberating.  After strolling through the town and scoping out a few establishments, we stopped for tea and then perused the local Yelp listings for some suggestions.

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We enjoyed refreshments here while we contemplated our lodging options.

Stellar reviews and a quick call answered by a most welcoming innkeeper directed us to the Beechwood Manor Inn.  A drive of only a few blocks brought us to a quiet, tree-lined residential street.  The Inn was beautiful and as soon as we walked in the door, we knew we had made a wise decision.

The Beechwood Manor Inn

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Our room was gorgeous, spotless, and luxurious.

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Quiet new-age music was playing when we entered causing me to instantly feel I was in a spa. Bliss!

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We enjoyed coffee on the porch the next morning before savoring a gourmet breakfast in the dining room.

Our hosts could not have been more welcoming and accommodating.  They provided suggestions for activities and dinner.  They offered beach chairs and towels for a visit to the beach and had a bottle of wine ready for us after we returned from more touring.  They recommended the Everyday People Cafe for dinner and arranged for us to have a table within moments of arriving there.  The restaurant was buzzing – obviously the hot spot of the area.  We loved our waiter whom we decided was a toss-up between Richard Dreyfus and Billy Crystal.  He was personable and unobtrusively attentive.  Perfect!  The food was, as my grandfather used to say, “an epicurean triumph”.

As we drove back to the inn we had to stop to take pictures of the stunning sunset.  It had been a truly outstanding evening.

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The next morning we enjoyed a gourmet breakfast at the inn then began our travels back towards New Buffalo where we planned to  spend the night before flying out of Chicago the next morning.  We had been reading about the dunes as we traveled in this southwestern area of Michigan but had not really encountered them first hand.  The Warren Dunes State Park was on our way to New Buffalo so we decided to stop to see if we could actually experience the dunes.  We were pleasantly surprised to discover that there truly are impressive dunes in the area.

 

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When we reached the top of the first dune we were greeted with more dunes.

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The view of Lake Michigan from the top of the dunes was impressive.

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The weather had been threatening all day but as we walked near the beach some impressive cracks of thunder and bolts of lightning sent us scurrying for the car.  Our next plan was to visit more of the wineries in Baroda.

Gravity Winery was our first stop. The skies were becoming dramatically dark and thundery as we entered the winery.  We were met by an enthusiastic employee who explained their tasting system where you choose 4 wines and they pair them with cheese for the whites and chocolates for the reds.  After making our tasting selections we enjoyed the weather excitement as we sat on the covered patio to do our wine tasting.031

We were impressed with all of the wines that we tasted and after some pondering we purchased a bottle of Lemberger to take with us.

We had run past Free Run Cellars during the race and we knew we wanted to visit it.  The name caught our attention and also provided a photo op for the typically camera-shy, Mike, who volunteered this perfect pose.

 

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We sampled the wines and loved them.  Sadly, we were unable to ship them home so we left with only a cork screw.  We were truly impressed with all of the wines we tasted while on the Michigan Wine Trail.  We had been clueless about this fabulous wine country. The ability to visit multiple sophisticated and distinct wineries within one town was an unexpected surprise. We loved the intimate feel of these small wineries which clearly invested so much personal devotion to their products.

Our trip continued the short distance back to New Buffalo.  What a difference a couple of days made.  What had been a town teaming with tourists on Saturday was now, on Tuesday, a relative ghost town.  Apparently midweek in late August was not the peak of tourism.  We ventured down to the beach and were met with literally hundreds of seagulls covering the beach…as well as signs indicating that the beach was closed due to E.coli.  Ah ha!  That may have explained the shocking difference in tourists.

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Once again, we did not yet have plans for where to stay.  After some research we happened upon the Lake Country Inn.

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The Lake Country Inn, New Buffalo, Michigan

Due to the quiet pace of the town there was a sign directing visitors to call a number if interested in the inn.  We called and were assured the owner would be over momentarily…which she was.  She gave us a tour of the available rooms which are all a different, distinct color.  They were all lovely but we/I selected the “Green Room”.  The inviting over-sized chair and ottoman were a big selling point.

 

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This inn also offered towels for the beach, as well as a community kitchen with a fridge for saving leftovers or chilling wine, wine glasses, cork screws, dishes, etc. A continental breakfast is served in the kitchen in the morning.

We settled in and enjoyed our bottle of wine from Gravity before heading across the street to Brewster’s Italian Cafe for dinner.

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We needed to leave for the airport early the next morning so we enjoyed a quiet last vacation evening in our indulgently cozy room.

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The Bottom Line: What had started out as a chance to run a fun race in Michigan evolved into an enlightening and highly enjoyable mini vacation.  We would highly recommend a visit to this region for a chance to taste fabulous wines, view the stunning beauty of Lake Michigan and the dunes, and to experience the establishments, sights, and culture of the local towns.

13.Wine? Definitely!

While perusing possible races for a trip to Michigan, I came across the 13.Wine Half Marathon. As someone who enjoys wine, the thought of earning this magnet made this race a strong contender for our Michigan race.

Having this magnet was a driving force behind choosing this race.

As I read about the route that traveled through vineyards and past wineries and the post-race event that included wine tasting, I was completely sold on the race. Further investigation revealed that the race benefited the Therapeutic Equestrian Center.  Being a therapist, the mother of two equestrian daughters, and the “mom” to our girls’ two ponies that live on our farm, I easily convinced Mike that this had to be the race we ran in Michigan.

After completing the Tour de La Porte 5K in Indiana we headed to Michigan…which was a mere 20 minutes away. Our first stop was in New Buffalo which is a lakeside resort town.  There are huge marinas with huge boats and a huge beach. The town was hopping!

Since we were starving and ready to celebrate our morning accomplishment finding a spot for lunch and a beer was our top priority.  The Stray Dog Bar and Grill looked inviting so we ventured in.

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Our waitress was attentive and solved my indecisiveness about which beer to order by bringing a few beers to taste before we made our selections.  Our choices ended up being perfect and we/I loved the glassware so much that we wandered over to the gift shop after lunch to purchase a few items to add to our collection.  Lunch was great, too.

The Stray Dog Bar and Grill

The Stray Dog Bar and Grill

The restaurant is adorned with scads of vintage and current photos of dogs and their owners.  They were everywhere!  We loved it!

After lunch we strolled towards the beach, past the vast marina that was teaming with a myriad of vessels heading to and returning from Lake Michigan.  After a brief photo op we decided to head toward our next destination of the day, The Lakeside Inn

Beach at New Buffalo

Beach at New Buffalo

 

The Lakeside Inn

The Lakeside Inn

The Lakeside Inn is a National and State of Michigan registered historic site. It is nestled among residential homes on a quiet, wooded road.  The inn was charmingly quaint without some modern conveniences- such as elevators.

Lakeside Inn lobby

Lakeside Inn lobby

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Lakeside Inn

Our room was quaint and sparse, but clean and spacious.

After settling in briefly, we drove to the “Party on the Pavers” in Baroda (where the race begins)  to pick up our packets and shirts.  The heat was still staggering but we ventured on.

Party of the Pavers

“Party on the Pavers”

The Party featured live music, food, and a multitude of wineries (and at least one brewery) offering samples of their beverages.  Sadly, we were in our self-imposed day-before-a-race-one-drink-limit mode so we regretfully left thirsty. We did, however, pick up our spiffy shirts, purchase my coveted magnet, and nab a bouquet of sunflowers that I couldn’t resist.  Despite the searing heat, this looked like an event that we could have happily immersed ourselves in.  But after slipping into a blissfully air conditioned corner market for a bottle of iced tea, we headed back to the inn.

We loved the burgandy (of course) shirts.

We loved the burgandy (of course) shirts.

 

The Lakeside Inn has a private beach on Lake Michigan just across the street (and down a long stairway) from the inn.

Mike heading to the beach.

Mike heading to the beach.

A long way down

A long way down

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Lakeside Inn’s  private beach on Lake Michigan

Being use to the Atlantic Ocean beaches in Maine, I sometimes forgot that we were beside a lake….a Great Lake, but still a lake.

 

The next morning we rose early and headed to Baroda for the 13.Wine Half Marathon.  It was cool and misty which, once again, was a welcome change from the heat of the previous day.   As we waited in the open field for the race to start we were greeted by several fellow runners who readily struck up a conversation with us.  The race began while it was still cool and misty-something that resulted in virtual unanimous gratitude from the racers.

The course started out down hill along a quiet country road.  In about a mile we turned and traveled up a moderate incline.  Once we turned at the top of that hill we were running beside fields and fields of grapes, corn, and soybeans dotted with peach and apple orchards.

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Note-these photos of the route were taken the day after the race when we retraced our steps with a camera and car.

Running through this scenery was enthralling and provided a welcome distraction as we contentedly ticked off the miles at a respectable pace.   We welcomed the diversion of a conversation with a fellow runner as we neared mile 9.  However, it was at about that point where I began to falter.  My ever gallant husband did not desert me but continued to encourage me as we traveled the last few miles.  We were able to finish within our goal time (which during the heat of the previous day we had temporarily adjusted to “just doing it”) and once again basked in the satisfaction of completing another race.

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The post race party included liberal wine and beer sampling in our classy glasses.

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Mike and I happily partook in the post-race wine tasting.

Mike and I happily partook in the post-race wine tasting.

The offerings were consistently delicious.  A woman who had run near us for most of the race introduced us out to her companion as “the couple that crossed the finish line holding hands”.  We explained why we were in Michigan and they, Ron and Lori, offered a myriad of top-notch suggestions for our upcoming, as yet unplanned, travels for the next two days.  We became so immersed in our conversation with them that we didn’t notice that most runners were departing.   On our way out I couldn’t resist hearing more about the Therapeutic Equestrian Center from a volunteer with the program. We left the 13.Wine Half Marathon bouyed by the fact we had just completed the race in our 18th state and knowing that our entry fees had supported a program that we were confident would make a significant impact on numerous people’s lives.

Now that the race was over, we were anxious to visit some of the wineries that we had run past.  After a quick shower and change back at the inn, we returned to Baroda for lunch at the Round Barn Public House. We savored our lunch and wine and beer with that incredibly satisfying post-race “high”.

The Round Barn Winery was our first winery stop.  There was some sort of festival in full swing when we arrived which only added to our celebratory state of mind.

Round Barn Winery (obviously)

Round Barn Winery (obviously)

 

We paid for a one person tasting which consisted of 5 samples.

We paid for a one person tasting which consisted of 6 samples.

This adorable wine glass is used for the tastings and is yours to keep.

This adorable wine glass was used for the tastings and was ours to keep.

Six 1 ounce samples following wine at lunch and a 13.1 mile run convinced me that there was no need for additional winery tours right away.  The thought of lounging on the beach sounded idyllic so we returned to the Lakeside Inn for reading, relaxing, and swimming.

Savoring the beach after our 13.Wine half marathon

 

We capped off our day with a delicious dinner at the Red Arrow Road House which was virtually around the corner from the Lakeside Inn.  The atmosphere was casual and lively-the perfect place to celebrate the completion of our 18th state race.

We take our duty to sample local beers seriously!

 

Look for more about our travels in Michigan in an upcoming post.

State: Michigan

Quest Race Number- 18

The Bottom Line: The 13.Wine Half Marathon was a fabulous race!  The course was idyllic -a tad hilly in a few spots but quiet, beautiful, and inspiring (keep running and there is wine at the finish line). The t-shirts, medals, and wine glasses were a welcome bonus. The race was impeccably organized and run.  The people we met were unfailingly outgoing and welcoming.  And…you can’t beat this really cool magnet.

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