Sunday, November 20, 2016

Michigan Memory Making, Part I

Mike helped present a paper at a conference in Detroit, and since we all knew he was going well in advance, the four of us made traveling back to an early Christmas present. While the kids may not have many other presents this year, we anticipate that they will treasure many memories from fond reunions with friends and places we have missed since our move.   

On Monday Eliza participated in her Daisy Investiture with the Girl Scouts. While she won’t be able to attend weekly meetings due to a schedule conflict with gymnastics, we look forward to her participating in other Daisy activities in the future.

We headed to the airport Tuesday, finally getting to embark on a trip we have been looking forward to for the last several months. So many people to see again, places to see, and things to do! Somehow we had forgotten how long it has been since either little one has been on a plane –not since December 2012! – so getting to fly was a really big deal!

Hallie got us a sweet deal on airfare, but this meant flying into Chicago and driving the rest of the way. No biggie. We know how to do road trips, and besides, this meant we got to travel to two big cities for a great price. We landed in Chicago fairly late and drove on to Michigan City, Indiana for night one.

On Wednesday, we drove from Indiana to our hotel in Michigan. We spent a fair amount of the day driving across the state. We stopped off for lunch at Culver's, and the sweet man behind the counter interacted with Eliza very tenderly and gently as if she was an important person worth hearing out. Midwesterners are beautiful like that.

Upon arriving in metro Detroit, we hit late afternoon rush hour traffic. We also saw that we would have to wait to check into our hotel until after Landon’s gymnastics practice. Yes, Landon had gymnastics practice while we were out here. Along I-94, the low fuel light came on coincidentally near to a part of the city we know, so we hopped off the expressway and drove to our old gas station. We took Conner to Jefferson to Lakeshore before finally reconnecting with I-94 in St. Clair Shores and arriving 20 minutes later than we had hoped at Cutting Edge in Clinton. Excellent facility and people, and we feel very grateful that they were able to give Landon some training time and an opportunity to show off his skills.

Diamond was able to meet us there after she got off of work, and in fact she beat us there due to our sidetrack. Yay for family reunions! We were so excited to see her again after nearly two years’ time.

We did some browsing at the Christmas Tree Shops before finally making it to the hotel in Madison Heights and checking in fairly late with two energetic kids still operating on Pacific Time. We did finally manage to get them settled down so Mike could do at least some work that evening.

Thursday morning brought the next set of reunions, this time with Mike’s coworkers from Wayne State University. People and activities continue moving forward, and Mike felt happy to catch up with colleagues on campus that day. The kids geeked out over all the leaf piles. Funny what kids latch onto. 

After our visit there, we headed out to Dearborn, meeting up again with Diamond at (of course) The Henry Ford. The trip would not have been complete without walking through those halls. Landon did not remember as much as we might have thought, but what he did remember he remembered well. We hit the Wienermobile, the combine, the Rosa Parks bus, and the auto shop, and of course Hallie had to get some mac and cheese at the Michigan Café. The museum and restaurant have undergone some subtle if significant changes in our absence. Now they have a grilled cheese sandwich with mac and cheese and bacon. Too much of a good thing is wonderful!

From the museum, we drove back up to the hotel, where everybody else left Mike to work while they trekked over to The Detroit Shoppe at the Somerset Collection in Troy. It’s hard work to burn the kiddos’ boundless energy.

On Friday, we spent some time in the morning in St. Clair Shores and Grosse Pointe, stopping at the Sanders Outlet, taking a ride along the lake and gawking at the mansions, and paying a brief visit to our old neighborhood and house on Maryland Street. So many happy memories for the grownups, and a few for Landon too. He told us he wants to move back. We didn't linger as we didn't want to look like stalkers.

We met Diamond after she got off work up at Olga’s in St. Clair Shores before driving back down to her house on Alter Road and then on to The D Shop at Comerica Park and Detroit Mercantile over by Eastern Market.

Landon and Coach Glenn

A word about the weather at this point: We came into town on the leading edge of a storm front (note the children in short sleeves in November). This meant sun and relative warmth through Friday afternoon. So gorgeous! Golden light off the plentiful remaining fall leaves made for plenty of autumn eye candy. Friday night into the weekend brought more typical November weather: clouds and rain/snow. Grr. Mike does not miss the cold. 

All too soon it was time for Mike to teach his doctoral students and make sure his end of Saturday’s presentation was ready and for Landon to get back to practice. So, we dropped Mike off and went back up to Clinton Township again. Good thing we know these roads as we already have spent a lot of time on them this trip!

Mike presented with his friend and former student, Shaun, at the UCEA Convention on Saturday. The two had a successful session with rousing conversations, and he saw a few other familiar faces as well. We also had a chance to meet each other’s families.

While Mike was at his conference, Hallie took Landon to Extreme Gymnastics, and he had a chance to visit with Coach Shane.

Then she picked up Diamond and grabbed a quick bite at Legends Diner. After Mike was done with the conference for the day, we drove first to Menards to see their “enchanted forest” (a bust – too funny/sad when we realized that the forest was their artificial Christmas trees displayed among fake snow and Astroturf trails. Oh, well) and from there to El Charro in Fraser, where Hallie had a surprise waiting for Landon: a reunion with our old next-door neighbors, the Taylors! The boys picked right back up where they left off, and this left Eliza in a bit of a lurch because she remembered Owen too and wanted to play.

After partaking in some tasty Mexican cuisine, we drove to The Great Skate in Roseville to burn off some energy. After a little learning curve, the kiddos took off like the little athletes they are. Even Diamond and Hallie got into the act.

By about 30 minutes in, guess who's skating backwards?

Skating finished, but the evening wasn’t quite done, so we took the wired-up kids to a McDonald’s playscape near the hotel to play some more. So too much! 

Sunday arrived with freezing winds. We drove down to the Belle Isle Building for church and happy reunions with friends from the branch still living in the area. So much joy to see them! It makes us nostalgic.

We revised some of our plans for Monday to extend our visiting time, so this meant we chose to go up to Frankenmuth today. Diamond had never been, so we went to Bronner’s and Zehnder’s to show off those two marvels of excess. So too full!

Then we went back to the hotel, and thus ended the first few days of our early Christmas in Michigan. More to follow next week. . . . 

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