midwest road trip

We have had a busy start to our upper midwest road trip.  

Our journey started with a 4 hour delay in our layover in Denver.  Thankfully, it is a nice airport.

We arrive in Grand Rapids and got straight to our hotel and collapsed.

This morning started out with blue skies, dotted with puffy white clouds and a lot of wind.

The hotel shuttle took us to the airport to get our rental car and the driver asked us where we were from.  We said Arizona and he got very excited.  It turns out that he and his wife are planning on retiring in a few years and want to live in Chandler.  So, he was happy to find people who actually knew about the area.  He asked us if we would send him a copy of the local paper and told us to use his tip for the postage.

As we do on every road trip, as soon as we get the rental car, we head to the store to get some snacks and supplies.

Our first 'official' photo of our trip

Our first ‘official’ photo of our trip. 

Our plan for the day was to head up to Traverse City by way of Manistee, Michigan.  But, our road trips have always been full of unexpected detours.

As we were driving down the highway, we saw signs for Frederik Meijer Gardens.  Well, needless to say, we took a U-turn and drove into the parking lot.    

upper midwest road trip

Walking up the gardens, you see the large greenhouse dominating the entry.

Gardens in cold climates often have impressive collections of plants that would not survive the cold winters and as a result, a large amount of their collections are grown in greenhouses.

We were able to enter the garden without having to pay an entry fee because this garden had reciprocal membership privileges with the Desert Botanical Garden, of which we are members.  

greenhouse

Near the main entry were entrances to different parts of the greenhouse including there arid garden.

I stepped inside to see what types of arid-adapted plants they had.

golden barrel cacti

These are the largest golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) I have ever seen.

Many of the plants I was quite familiar with and a few are growing in my Arizona garden.  You can see a fan in the photo, above, which I am sure they use to keep the humidity levels down.

I did not spend more then a couple of minutes in the arid garden because I wanted to see some plants that were different from home, so I decided to explore more of the garden.

Bachelor's Button

Bachelor’s Button 

During my previous travels to the midwest, I have become more familiar with the plants that are grown here.  However, many can be grown in my desert garden including bachelor’s button which I’ve grown as a companion plant in my vegetable garden.

Children's Garden

There was so much to see in the garden.  I headed to the Children’s Garden, the Michigan Farm Garden and passed by the Horse Garden.

vegetable garden

No matter where you live, vegetable gardening is much the same with the planting calendar being the main difference.  

upper midwest road trip

Lilacs were in full bloom and perfumed the air with their fragrance.

upper midwest road trip

As I was walking from the Children’s Garden to the Michigan Farm Garden, I was startled to see the trees part where a HUGE horse stood, which is part of the Horse Garden.

*To get an idea of how big it really is, to the left of the horse is a navy blue stroller that you can barely see.

upper midwest road trip

I loved the farm garden which depicted a typical Michigan farm of the 1920’s.

While the day was beautiful, it was windy.  As I was walking, I heard a young boy say to his dad, “It’s windy today?  Do you see a funnel cloud?”

Definitely not something you hear in Arizona.

upper midwest road trip

There was so much to see in the gardens and I took over 200 photos, which I will include in a separate post.

After we left the gardens, we stopped by Robinette’s Apple Haus, which is a family-owned orchard that grows 21 different varieties of apples along with other types of fruit.  

upper midwest road trip

They are really into apples 😉

After leaving Grand Rapids, we headed north up the west coast of Michigan toward Manistee.  

downtown of Manistee

Before exploring the historic downtown of Manistee, it was time for lunch.

Michigan salad

I decided to try a traditional Michigan salad with dried cherries, blue cheese, red onions and bacon with cherry vinaigrette.  It was good!

Road Trip Day 1
Road Trip Day 1

I love the character of old buildings, don’t you?

Road Trip Day 1

A small garden was located in the downtown area with various garden sayings.  This one was my favorite.

midwest road trip

Paralleling the main street was the Riverwalk, which was beautiful.  It was nice seeing the drawbridge opening for a large sailboat.

midwest road trip

I am always on the lookout for interesting container plantings.  But, I was really excited to see this zebrine plant for a different reason.  Back in college as a horticulture student, we had to dissect zebrine plants all the time because they showed up so well under a microscope.  I know that sounds weird, but I’m a plant lady 😉

midwest road trip

While I am not a big shopper normally, I do enjoy shopping when on our road trips.  I also love mittens – a lot.  These were so cute, but I have no need for them.  Fingerless mittens are warm enough for Arizona winters.

midwest road trip

After we left Manistee, we drove north toward Traverse City and stopped by the Point Betsie Lighthouse.

We parked right by the beach and heard the waves and wind.  

 Lake Michigan

As a Southern California native, I found myself frequently referring to Lake Michigan as the ocean.  It is hard to imagine that this is a lake and not an ocean.

Traverse City

The lighthouse is only open on the weekends, so this was as close as we could get, but it was worth it.

Our day ended with dinner in Traverse City where we had some local options for soda flavors…

midwest road trip

Have you ever tried ‘Local Northwoods Soda’ or ‘Wild Bill’s Root Beer’?

Tomorrow we are off to explore Traverse City, Petosky and more adventures…

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

3 replies
  1. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Hi Aaron,

    Yes, we are having a great time. The beaches haven't been crowded at all. They are truly stunning and I have been struck at the beautiful colors of the lakes themselves. Shades of deep blue to light aqua blue. Gorgeous!

    Noelle

  2. RobinL
    RobinL says:

    As a native Michigander, I always love when you visit my home state, especially areas that I am familiar with! Point Betsie is particularly photogenic lighthouse, and therefore quite popular for photgraphers. And the Meijer gardens are another favorite spot for me. But I haven't explored Manistee much other than the lighthouse. Now we'll have to try harder to visit the downtown area.

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