Tuesday, January 08, 2013


 For our tenth wedding anniversary/Christmas/what-have-you this year, my parents heroically took on the task of watching our four children for a few days while we went to northern Michigan.  It was just as lovely and dreamy and wonderful as I had hoped (although I will admit, I got kind of ridiculously teary-eyed about missing my kiddies.  Especially at night when I normally go in and check on their warm little sleeping bodies and tuck everyone back under their covers and kiss their soft little heads).


We drove to my parents' home on Thursday, ate lunch and got the kids settled in, and then drove up to the tippy-top of Michigan's lower peninsula to a little resort town called Petoskey.  It was an incredibly beautiful drive and I kept snapping pictures the whole way.  Sadly, it got dark fairly early (the sun started getting dim around 3:30!  We were really far north!) and I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the herds of snowmobilers driving along beside the road.  Or parking next to all the SUVs at the local grocery stores/eateries/bars.

We checked into our hotel and then made a quick trip to a nearby store to pick up some food for dinner and skiing the next day.  Isn't it funny how something as mundane as a grocery store run feels adventurous and romantic when it's just you and your husband?
We went back to our hotel, ate our sandwiches (which featured sprouts and avocado, which are some of my very favorite things, so I was really happy!), and sort of watched The Three Musketeers off and on while we ate and I tried not to fall asleep.  I was totally and completely worn out from all the driving that day.  Like kind of remarkably so--my body definitely reminded me that my fifth pregnancy is much harder than my first.  Neither of us slept super well because we were so excited to go skiing the next day!

 This is the first time either of us had skied in the Midwest, so we had quite a few conversations on the lifts comparing it to Utah.  Things we noticed:

1) The runs aren't nearly as long.
2) The lifts weren't as fast.
3) There were way more lifts for the amount of terrain.
4) Everyone is much, much, much more friendly and helpful.  I had to rent my boots and poles (and then go back to rent skis when the rental boots didn't fit in my bindings), and the entire process took about 5 minutes, start to finish.  They even sold us our lift tickets in the rental shop so that we didn't have to make another stop, and I literally walked in, had three different people helping me, and then walked out with a friendly employee holding the door.  It was the same when I returned the equipment at the end of the day.
5) Parking was way better and closer!  No huge hike lugging all of your gear before you get to the slopes.
6) Much more convenient lodge--huge fireplaces with lots of comfy chairs, lots of areas to eat if you'd brought your own food, and you could literally ski right up to the lodge and be in the bathroom in less than a minute (very important if you're pregnant, and something I hate doing in Utah--there are always a million stairs to navigate in ski boots!).  The bathrooms were especially impressive in that each stall had a rack for gloves, which sounds silly, but is awesome when your hands are freezing cold and you're dropping things all over the place.

7) Incredibly meticulous grooming and great snow.  I was really impressed.  We skied at Nubs' Nob, which has won quite a few awards for their snow, and it totally lived up to the hype.
8) Way more experienced skiers.  I did not see a single beginning adult skier all day, and the children I saw were all pretty decent intermediates.  This isn't a huge deal, but it's really nice to not have to avoid people who keep falling in front of you, or swerving to avoid crashes.  Again, this goes back to being pregnant--I didn't want to get hit by someone else and so I spent a lot of time reading up on forums to see what resorts attracted what types of skiers.  (There were hardly any snowboarders, and the ones that I did see were incredibly courteous--I didn't see a SINGLE person sitting down on the slopes all day, which is my biggest pet peeve in Utah.)
9) Super un-crowded!  Again, I did a lot of research about this, and it was AMAZING.  There were times throughout the afternoon when we were making first tracks on groomed runs.
10) More intermediate terrain--the only double blacks were in the heavily wooded areas and there were a lot more blue and green runs (we decided this would actually be a better place to teach our children to ski than in Utah, since there is more varied intermediate terrain).  I didn't ski any of the double blacks, because I promised myself that I would take it easy (I did ski all the black diamonds at the resort), but Neil said they didn't have enough powder to be very fun.  They were about 30 inches behind their normal snowfall for this time of year, so I imagine it would be pretty fun otherwise.
11) Less bumps/rocks/etc.  I always get nervous skiing in Utah as the day gets later because my eyes aren't as sharp and I worry about those little hummocks and rises and weird swoops in the ground that you don't see until you're right on them, and they totally knock you out.  This was totally not an issue here, which I think goes back to the fact that it was snow over dirt rather than rocky cliffs, plus the impressive grooming.
12) Surprisingly non-icy.  Only one black diamond was icy enough to be kind of scary; everything else was great.

In short, the runs are much longer and more exciting in Utah (I timed one run and it took us six minutes to get down the hill and back up the lift to our starting point), but all of the little things came together to make this a really impressive skiing experience.  The terrain wasn't interesting enough to ski more than one day continuously, but the area where we were skiing had 3 big resorts, so I imagine it would be pretty easy to spend a few days up there just skiing!  In any case, it was absolutely perfect for skiing when I was pregnant, since I always felt confident in the terrain, I didn't get altitude-sick (which is a huge issue for me when I'm pregnant) and I wasn't worried about other people crashing into me (and I didn't fall at all, although Neil had a pretty great one where we were getting on the lift and he just randomly fell over while we were talking.  I laughed so hard and somebody else gave him a hand up, and then I felt bad, but not really, because he had been showing off and skiing down the hills backward 20 seconds before that happened).  I felt so great all day!!  I was reflecting a lot on how glad I am that I am able to stay fairly active during my pregnancies; all the cardio and leg muscles I get from running made for a perfect day of skiing.

Plus it was super beautiful...the deciduous woods were gorgeous.

This is my shot at 24 weeks pregnant, since (as usual) I've been terrible at documenting this pregnancy.
 So there were signs like this all over town.  For some reason I found them hilarious.  When we checked into our hotel, we had to sign a separate paper solemnly swearing that we would NOT bring our boots, poles, or skis inside.
 After skiing, we stopped to get hot chocolate (and fudge) at Kilwin's, because how could we not? and there was a giant solid chocolate Santa.  When we got home I told the kids that we bought it for them but then I was hungry and I ate it all.  Heh heh.

So after we got warmed up and ditched our snow pants, we went to see Les Mis (still in our skiing clothes, which was kind of gross, but it was so cold that neither of us had sweated, so it was just the fact that we were wearing fifteen layers of tech shirts).  We both cried a lot, but I think Neil won the longevity-crying award because I cried all of the tears in my entire body as Fantine was dying.  Then we washed our faces and went out to eat at a really really fancy place where we both felt severely underdressed but had a great time anyway.  The food was AMAZING and the waiters were fabulous and so warm and welcoming.

We had a winter caprese salad with roasted heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil pesto, drizzled over with balsamic (more about that in a minute).  Then we shared a pizza topped with more pesto, asiago, red onions, grapes, walnuts, and grilled chicken (no vegetarianism that night, because I was craving some serious protein after a day of skiing on granola bars and oranges!).  And then finally we had a dish of oriechette tossed with perfectly wilted spinach, mushrooms, red onions, garlic, and spicy Italian sausage, topped with a tomato-cream sauce and fresh Parmesan.  It was one of the best meals I have ever had in my entire life and so, so, so perfectly satisfying.  And the balsamic--oh, the balsamic.  The waiter brought out fresh baguettes with a peppery olive oil and an 18-year-aged balsamic.  I couldn't stop raving about how much I loved it, so he brought out more (twice!) and told me all about the local place that bottled the balsamic, and gave us directions to it.

 So the next morning we tracked it down, and I was in heaven!  I have no idea how long we spent there trying different vinegars and olive oils, but it was a loooong time.  Finally we bought a black currant balsamic and the 18-year-aged.

 Then we wandered around the town looking at all the little shops and getting nice and hungry.


And then we decided to get a closer view of the bay (this photo is from our hotel balcony)...

 ...and walked out to that little lighthouse.

 This is how icy the walk was to the lighthouse.  I was TERRIFIED.

Neil, being Neil, was not.  He was overjoyed at the prospect of so many ice chunks that he could heave into the bay.

On our way home, we decided to do one of those things we'd always talked about doing but never done, and we detoured to tour the USS Silversides submarine (and naval museum, which was so fascinating and so fun to be able to read every single word of every single exhibit before the kidlets were bored and running to the next!)

So there were all these signs all over the submarine saying things like, "CAUTION:  This sub is still in working order!  Parents, please closely supervise your small children and do not allow them to touch the valves, handles, levers, etc."  And I was thinking how nice it was that I had no small children with me that I needed to supervise, but I kind of forgot that Neil is the same way...

Then we drove home and stopped just before arriving at my parents' home and had dinner together at our favorite Michigan restaurant.  And then we went home and snuggled all our little babies and told my parents about our adventures and generally felt invigorated and refreshed, which is probably the exact opposite of how my parents felt!  :-)  (One of the absolute highlights of the weekend for me was when my mom told me how proud she is of me for taking care of four fairly demanding young children and still working to be a fun mom.  I know I am so imperfect but it meant so much to hear that!)


Mary Beth said...

What a lovely vacation! I am so, so glad that you had such a great time--you both deserve it! Hopefully you can make something like this a regular thing.

Thank you for sharing! Love you!

Julianne said...

What a fun trip. Sounds fabulous!

Erica said...

I have totally been there before! Your post was such a good reminder of how wonderful that place is and now that we live such a few short hours away from there I'm determined to go back :)

Melanie said...

Ahhh... so fun! A trip like that is going on my list! And I'll be needing a sample of that basalmic- yum! My mouth was watering just reading about it!

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