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Day 6 of our road trip began with gray, dreary skies and a chilly breeze.  

We decided to spend our time in Madison, Wisconsin by seeing the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which were rated as the #1 attraction by Trip Advisor.

As we left our hotel, we were faced by roads under construction.  

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Summer is the time for all road construction throughout the midwest because cold, wintery conditions are not conducive to construction.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Once we arrived at the gardens, we were greeted by the sight of containers filled with a combination of edible and ornamental plants.

Red Sail

I love how the blue of the lobelia contrasts with the bright green of the parsley and ‘Red Sail’ lettuce.

Cabbage

Cabbage is one of my favorite edible plants to add to containers.

All of these edible plants can be grown in pots in my southwestern garden, but are planted in fall, not spring like in Wisconsin.

During this trip, we have visited three botanical gardens and have not spent one dime on admission fees.

Why?

Most major botanical gardens have a reciprocal admissions if you belong as long as you are a member of your local botanical garden and they are part of the reciprocal program.

At first glance, the gardens were beautiful and I couldn’t wait to start exploring.

Road Trip Day 6

The gardens have bee hives located in out of the way areas, which are filled with Italian bees that are said to be rather docile.

The bees play an important part in pollinating the flowering plants throughout the gardens.  The honey that is sometimes sold in the garden gift store.

Meadow Garden

The individual gardens are spaced around ‘The Great Lawn’ which is a large circular grass area where concerts are held.

The first garden I explored was the ‘Meadow Garden’.  This garden is sustainable and very low-maintenance.

It is filled with drought-tolerant grasses along with wildflowers and flowering bulbs.  What I really liked about the garden is that it does not need supplemental water or fertilizer.

Maintenance is limited to mowing twice a year.

What I didn’t like about the garden, was the mosquitos.  But, I came prepared and they mostly left me alone.

Road Trip Day 6

Walking on, I wanted to explore the herb garden because they play a huge part in my own garden.  

Road Trip Day 6

The entry to the herb garden is quite formal.  Boxwood hedges border the center garden area.

beautiful container

Edible plants combine with ornamentals for beautiful container plantings.

Road Trip Day 6

 I love flowering chives and how they used them as a border.

Varieties of mint and thyme were nicely displayed and the herb garden also had herbs used for dyes.

*The brown plants in the background are recovering from the severe winter with new green growth slowly coming back.

Road Trip Day 6

This bed of flowering annuals was completed edged in flowering chives.

Thai pavilion

A Thai pavilion dominated the center of the Thai garden, which brought back memories for my mother who spent a few months in Thailand as a young woman.

While tropical plants cannot survive a midwest winter – the plants used in this area had a tropical appearance with large leaves while also being cold-hardy.

Thai Garden

The bridge that connects the Thai Garden to the rest of the garden, crosses over Starkweather Creek, which bisects the garden.

People can canoe or kayak up 5 miles from this side of the bridge.

Lake Monona

Boats can dock on the other side of the bridge and the creek leads out to Lake Monona.

Sunken Garden

This area is called the Sunken Garden, which is gently sloped so that rainwater flows toward the lake.

Road Trip Day 6

The formal water feature was flanked by two container plantings, which were quite contemporary in style.

Japanese iris

The pond had beautiful yellow and purple flowering Japanese iris.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Vines were used in different ways throughout the garden.

A tree provided needed support for a clematis vine with its maroon flowers.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

 Years ago, I tried growing clematis in our first home.  It did grow, but never flowered.  I learned later that it gets too hot in the desert for clematis.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Another clematis was flowering next to a beautiful host underneath a tree.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

I love pink flowers, don’t you?

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Wisteria was growing up on arbors and I never tire of viewing their lovely flowers and inhaling their heavenly fragrance.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

The vision of a rose climbing upward always makes me want to go home and grow one up the side of my house.

Paper Birch

Have you ever heard of ‘Paper Birch’ trees?

Their bark peels off in perfect sheets that is sometimes used to wrap around decorative candles.

I have always had a special place in my heart for birch trees.  Growing up in a Los Angeles suburb, we had three growing in our front yard.  I have always loved their white bark and bright-green leaves.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Underneath these birch trees was an interesting ornamental grass called dormitor quaking sedge (Carex brizoides).  I like how it lays down making it look like green waves underneath the trees.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Walking near the Perennial Garden, I spotted a blue-flowering plant that looked rather familiar.

It turned out to be a blue-flowering variety of autumn sage (Salvia greggii), ‘Blue Note’.

Can you imagine how patriotic a planting of red, white and blue autumn sage plants would look?

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Here is another lovely edible, ornamental container that caught my eye, using kale.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Don’t you just want to sit down and relax in this area?

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Pale-pink bee balm (Monarda species)was the only flower in this area of the garden, but it was more then enough alongside the ornamental grasses.

Sometimes less is more.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Walking on a paved area, I saw a planting of perennials right in the middle.  

Interestingly, there was no border or any clearly delineated space.  Just an opening without pavers where plants seemingly come up in the middle of a sea of pavers.

I kind of like this idea.  How about you?

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

If you have been reading my road trip posts, then you have probably noticed my obsession with peonies, which don’t grow in the desert.

Wherever we go, I see shrubs covered with gorgeous blooms.  

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Well, Olbrich Gardens were no exception.

I must have taken over 100 photos of all the different blooming peony varieties that they had.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

From a distance, peonies resemble bushes filled with roses.

However, once you get closer, you notice the the leaves have a different shape and so do the unopened blossoms, which are shaped into balls.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Their petals tend to be more ruffled then roses.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

And, their blossoms are huge!

We spent a lovely morning in the gardens, but it was time to hit the road for our next destination.

On my way out, I noticed an outdoor eating area with centerpieces made from plants that I was quite familiar with…

succulent containers

(Agave americana var. medio picta) was the center point of numerous succulent containers.

It wasn’t unusual to see succulent plants in many of the gardens we visited.  While they do fine in the summer months, they need to be brought indoors and protected during the cold months of the year.

Road Trip Day 6

 After taking 334 pictures of the gardens (seriously), it was time to hit the road.

Whenever possible, we try to stay off of main highways and focus on using smaller highways that run through small towns and countryside.

Road Trip Day 6

The Wisconsin countryside is green.  I mean really green!

Dairy farms dotted the landscape along with beautiful scenery.  We thoroughly enjoyed our journey.

Tomorrow, we spend time along the towns by the Mississippi River before heading toward Minnesota Amish country.

**I wanted to thank those of you who have left such wonderful comments.  I appreciate them so much!

Yesterday, I mentioned the different ways that the residents of Green Bay honor their football team.   Today, as we got ready to leave, we saw a couple more signs of fervent fans.

The breakfast room at the hotel was filled with people wearing Packer football shirts.  There was a young boy, about 10 years old, who had prosthetic legs decorated with Green Bay Packer stickers.

Driving through Green Bay, we also noticed that the trash cans in front of people’s homes were green and yellow.  Green Bay, Wisconsin is the smallest city that has an NFL team and the residents are very proud of their football team.

We left Green Bay and made our way north to Door County, which is a narrow peninsula that rises above Green Bay.  It is dotted with small towns, orchards, dairies and fishing villages.


We spent the morning in Sturgeon Bay visiting the local farmers/craft market and the local museum’s rummage sale.


Have you ever heard of cheese curds? Friends of mine who have visited Wisconsin before, have told me to try cheese curds, which are chunks of solid cheese, which forms from the whey during the cheese-making process.  Once the curds form, they are pressed into molds to form cheese.

In the midwest, cheese curds are a popular snack.  It is said that they ‘squeak’ when you eat them.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat something that squeaks.  But, this has been a road trip of ‘firsts’ so I bought some curds at the farmers market.

We spent the afternoon driving south toward Madison, Wisconsin just in time to watch the horse race on television.  Sadly, our favorite, California Chrome, did not win, but we did enjoy a simple dinner of food bought at the farmers market earlier today.

cheese curds and carrots

A fresh baguette, cheese curds and carrots make a great dinner while watching the Belmont Stakes horse race.

And yes, the cheese curds do ‘squeak’, but they are delicious!

Tomorrow, we are off to explore and I promise to take lots of pictures!  

When friends heard that I was going to Michigan, every single one of them told me that I must go to Mackinac Island.

To be honest, I was somewhat skeptical of whether or not I would like Mackinac Island.  I tend to not enjoy what some people would call ‘tourist traps’.

I was hopeful that Mackinac Island would be someplace that I would enjoy.  So far, our trip has been filled with fun adventures including a wine tasting and climbing a lighthouse yesterday.

So, we got up this morning, drove to the ferry and took it out to the island – about 20 minutes.

Mackinac Bridge

Along the way, our ferry passed underneath the Mackinac Bridge, which is the 3rd largest suspension bridge in the world and spans 5 miles.   It is designed to move up to 35 feet in windy conditions – kind of scary sounding to me.

Later in the day, we would cross this bridge by bar, as it connects lower Michigan with the Upper Peninsula and our next destination.

Mackinac Island

On our way to the Mackinac Island, we passed a smaller island where the Round Island Lighthouse stood sentinel.

I am rapidly becoming a fan of lighthouses!

Mackinac Island

We started nearing the island and could see the buildings, including a picturesque church and its steeple.

*Pardon the photo quality – I had to take them through the window of the boat.

Our boat landed and we disembarked, anxious to explore the island.

Victorian-style buildings

The main street is flanked by Victorian-style buildings filled with shops, restaurants AND stores offering all types of fudge.

fudgies

Fudge is a really big deal in Mackinac Island.  In fact, the people who live on this island refer to the tourists as “fudgies”.

Road Trip Day 3

There are over 17 different stores that sell fudge on the island.

*We stopped at one and I picked up 1 1/2 pounds of fudge.  I know that is an obscene amount of fudge, but it is easy to get carried away when you read all of the different varieties while the fragrance of fudge is wafting through the air.  To justify my large purchase, I bought a 1/2 pound of peanut butter fudge for my husband and a 1/2 pound of regular chocolate for my kids.  I’m reserving the toffee fudge for myself.

Mackinac Island

For those of you not familiar with Mackinac Island, there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island.  So, everything is brought in by horse or bicycle, whether it is wine or…

Road Trip Day 3

Plants!

Just 3 weeks, there was still snow in parts of the island, so the planting season is just getting underway.

Road Trip Day 3

It was so interesting seeing plants being hauled in by horse and by…

Bicycle

Bicycle!

Mackinac Island

Other items we saw being brought in by horses included boxed groceries from the mainland, furniture, merchandise for the stores – basically anything that motorized vehicles deliver to us regular folks.

Mackinac Island

Even the police rely on getting around on bikes, but they do have a police car they can use in case of emergency.

Mackinac Island

Firetrucks and ambulances are also allowed to drive the streets of the island.

Having so many horses around, delivering goods and moving people about makes a certain dirty job a necessity…

Mackinac Island

The next time my son complains about having to scoop up the dog poop in our backyard, I will point that he has it easy compared to this guy.

Mackinac Island

We enjoyed browsing through the shops along the main street and I found some gifts for my kids.  

Mackinac Island

I didn’t see any store or restaurant chains except for Starbucks, much to my mother’s delight.

Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island

Summer has definitely arrived and I loved seeing all of the colorful plantings, including this one using a bicycle.  Geraniums (Pelargoniums) and ivy were planted in the front and back baskets.

hanging baskets

I am a huge fan of hanging baskets lining a porch or street, but I don’t have any at home, because it can be a struggle because our dry climate makes it hard to keep the roots moist without constant watering more then once a day.

I did love this particular hanging basket,  which was made up of pink ‘Wave’ petunias, white bacopa and purple verbena.

Mackinac Island

Have you ever seen a prettier post office?

I sat down on a little bench in front and wrote post cards to my kids and sent them off.

courthouse and police station

Even the courthouse and police station put on a floral show with bright-red tulips.

Mackinac Island

There are many old buildings on Mackinac Island and plaques in front of each describe their historical importance.

Mackinac Island

I love this old fence – it has so much character, don’t you think?

Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac was founded in 1780 and still stands today.  It is up on the hill that overlooks the main street of the island.

Mackinac Island

Here is the back view of the fort.

Michigan's governor's summer residence

This beautiful building is the Michigan’s governor’s summer residence.

Michigan's governor's summer residence

 Like the fort, it too sits up on the hillside.  The governor spends a few weeks during the summer there – not a bad deal, I must say.

The Grand Hotel

Probably the most famous place on the island is The Grand Hotel, a 5-star hotel, built in 1887.

It is very fancy, beautiful and expensive.  

The Grand Hotel

We didn’t tour the hotel, because of time constraints.  But if you want to learn more about this iconic hotel, click here.

To get a real feel for the island, its people and its history – we decided to take a carriage tour.  The tour begins downtown, but soon goes up into the more uninhabited areas of the island.  

Clydesdale horses

Horses pull carriages full of tourists.  The horses resemble Clydesdale horses and are raised by the Amish.

Approximately 80% of Mackinac Island is a state park.

Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island

The carriage took us through the beautiful woods of the island and our tour guide was full of interesting information.

Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island

Dead trees aren’t removed, despite the fire danger they pose because the island does not have a lot of topsoil.  So the fallen trees are allowed to decay, adding organic matter to the soil.

Mackinac Island

Arch Rock was an interesting limestone formation that we saw along the tour.

I highly recommend going on a carriage tour after spending time on the main street or else you miss a large part of the island’s identity and beauty.

Mackinac Island

My mother and I had a fabulous time on the island and spent longer there then we had planned.

After returning on the ferry back to the mainland, we picked up our car, headed over the Mackinac Bridge toward the Upper Peninsula, which is not known for the large amount of people who live here.  In fact, in the 2 hours we drove from the bridge, we saw few buildings, homes and people.

Road Trip Day 3

This is where we are – in a small town in the middle of the Upper Peninsula.

Tomorrow, we will drive through the remainder of the Upper Peninsula to Green Bay, Wisconsin and more adventures!

Day 2 of our road trip was filled with quite a few firsts for me.

My mother and I are on our fourth annual road trip and this time we are exploring the upper midwest. You can read about day 1 here if you like.

Today, we woke up in beautiful Traverse City, with is located along the western side of Michigan.  It is a very popular location for visitors and it was easy to see why.

Our first stop was to visit the local farmers market in the historic downtown areas.

Road Trip Day 2

Whenever I travel, I like to to take time to talk to the local farmers about their produce and talk about the similarities and differences of growing the same types of vegetables.

Road Trip Day 2

Asparagus is really big in this part of Michigan.  There are signs for it everywhere along the roadways.  In the farmers market, just about everyone had some for sale.

Too bad, I don’t like asparagus 😉

Road Trip Day 2

A variety of herbs and vegetable transplants were available for sale.  I just love the color of purple basil – I have some growing in my herb container at home.

beautiful Traverse City

I love baked goods a lot!

Road Trip Day 2

Cherries are grown in the area and you can find cherries in just about everything including salsa.

Road Trip Day 2

There were quite a few planted containers filled with flowers ready for eager homeowners.

beautiful Traverse City

I really like herb planters like this one.

After the farmers market, we headed up toward the Old Mission Peninsula, which is a small finger of land that extends up from Traverse City.  Our destination was to see the Mission Point Lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula.

What we hadn’t prepared for was the beautiful scenery along the drive.  Orchards were filled with cherry trees, one type of fruit tree that does not grow in my desert climate.

Along the way, we spotted numerous vineyards.

vineyard

The lilacs are in bloom everywhere and this vineyard was flanked by a huge lilac bush.

vineyard

It’s hard to believe that this barren vine will soon be covered with leaves and sweet grapes.

vineyard

Then we saw this sign, which led to one of my ‘firsts’.

Peninsula Cellars Winery

The sign led us to Peninsula Cellars Winery, whose store is housed in an old, historic schoolhouse.

Road Trip Day 2

The inside of the old school was very charming.

I have never been much of a wine drinker.  The few times I have tried it, I didn’t really enjoy the taste.

But, I figured if I could do a bourbon taste test on our last trip, I would participate in a wine tasting for the first time.

Road Trip Day 2

I tasted four different wines and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I liked two of them very much.

Road Trip Day 2

Many of their wines had a school-themed name due to the old school building.  Their ‘Detention’ wine was a popular choice.

*Note: I have never gotten a detention at school.

I came away from my first wine tasting with a new appreciation for wine and a bottle of my favorite to share with my husband when I get home 🙂

As we got back on the road toward the Mission Point Lighthouse, we were told to stop by the old general store.

General Store

The Old Mission General Store is one of those places found out in the middle of the country.  You can see the lake behind it.

Road Trip Day 2

The store had a collection of the old and the new – but mostly old.

Road Trip Day 2

Barrels filled with salted peanuts and a variety of old-fashioned candies would make excite any child.

Road Trip Day 2

Old-fashioned sodas were offered alongside more current soda choices.  

Road Trip Day 2

A unique collection of foods were offered in the deli case.  I’m not sure what the reddish item was on the left and I’m still not sure what ‘blind robin’ is.  But, fishing is big here, so I’m assuming it is a type of fish?

The back was filled with an assortment of things including rabbit skins, wooden hand toys and coon hats.

Road Trip Day 2

After we left the general store, we continue our journey to the lighthouse.

 

 

The Mission Point Lighthouse is located at the very tip of the Old Mission Peninsula.

Road Trip Day 2

The area has many trees and it is so green and beautiful.  We parked and started to walk toward the lighthouse and the shore, which we could barely see through the trees.

lighthouse

This lighthouse guided ships from 1870 to 1933.  We entered the lighthouse to see the exhibits and to embark on another ‘first’ for me.

lighthouse

I decided to climb up to the top of the lighthouse – something I have never done before.

There weren’t too many steps to the top, only 35 of them, but they were steep and the last part were ladder steps.

beautiful Traverse City

The 360 view was just beautiful!

beautiful Traverse City

Climbing back down, I decided to checkout the outside.

beautiful Traverse City

A cherry tree was in full bloom in the backyard with the lake in the background.

Lighthouse

To be honest, there are a lot of lighthouses along the Michigan coast.  We don’t have time to see all of those along our route, so we had to choose a few to see.  It was the picture of the side of the Mission Point Lighthouse, which made me want to visit this one.  I am so glad we did.

Michigan

We headed back down the peninsula and on the way, drove by this small painted shack where Michigan maple syrup was for sale.

Road Trip Day 2

Payment was done through the honor system where you inserted your money into a modified PVC pipe.  My mother bought a bottle.

Along this small peninsula, we passed an interesting marker…

Road Trip Day 2

I thought that we were pretty far north, but it turns out that we were only halfway between the equator and the North Pole.

See, you never know what you will learn on a road trip.

Traverse City

After our journey to Old Mission Peninsula, the rest of our day was spent touring the historic downtown area of Traverse City and later we drove up to the quaint town of Petoskey where we did some shopping.

colorful flowers

All of the planters in the downtown areas were newly planted with colorful flowers.

While I saw some very creative containers filled with a variety of flowering plants, I was struck by the simplicity of this window box planted with a single row of orange marigolds.  The vibrant orange of this flower stands on its own.

American Spoon

One of my favorite shops we visited was called the “American Spoon”, which sells all types of preserves.

I love to make peach, plum and strawberry jam as well as applesauce from the fruit from both my garden and my mother’s – so I was anxious to go inside and taste the different types of jams and jellies they had.

Road Trip Day 2

While I did taste some delicious fruit preserves, there was also a large selection of salsas, including  pumpkin seed salsa and cherry salsa.

I must admit that I didn’t try any – I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to my salsa.  But, I realize that I am probably missing out some new flavors that I may love.

Road Trip Day 2

Don’t these tomato preserves look delicious?

I came away from the store with cherry preserves, which I will use on my daily English muffin.  I also bought some tart dried cherries which I will sprinkle on my salads.

Did I mention that cherries are very popular here?  They are growing everywhere you see.

Road Trip Day 2

In addition to cherries and asparagus, fudge is also offered everywhere.

I haven’t had any yet, because I am waiting until tomorrow when we travel to Mackinac Island.

I can’t wait!

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…

I love to travel.

A lot.

For the past few years, I leave my husband and kids behind and embark on a road trip along with my mother where we explore a different region of the United States.

We fly into one city, rent a car and several days (and states later) fly out of a different city.   I must admit that I love planning our trips and I have a binder filled with our itinerary and places of interest.

 Indiana Amish country

We named our first road trip “The Midwest”, which began along the west coast of Michigan.  We ended up in Springfield, Missouri with stops in Indiana Amish country and visits to historical Abraham Lincoln sites in Illinois along the way.

What I love about these trips are meeting the people and learning the regional differences in food and culture.  For example, who knew that a ‘regular’ ice-cream cone is 3 scoops?

My favorite memory from this trip was walking into our bed & breakfast in Amish country to find the owner entertaining three elderly Amish women who were watching the royal wedding on television.

You can read my blog posts from our first trip here.

 Indiana Amish country

Our second trip took us to the Northeast.  We began in Columbus, Ohio (where I visited an old friend) and ended in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Along the way we drove through West Virginia, eastern Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Vermont.

Memories that stand out for this road trip are visits to my grandfather’s grave outside of Pittsburgh and seeing the graves of my third-great grandparents. Seeing Niagara Falls in person was breath-taking and I enjoyed walking through some small towns in upstate New York.  Vermont is a great place to visit and lots of good food – cheese, ice-cream and maple syrup.

You can read my blog posts from our second road trip here.

The Midwest

Last year, our annual road trip found us in the South.  Our journey began in Savannah, Georgia and ended in Louisville, Kentucky.  Stops along the way included Charleston – South Carolina, Asheville – North Carolina and Tennessee

The special memories that stand out were seeing the colorful window boxes along the historical streets of Charleston and the fabulous kitchen gardens of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Visiting plantations in Georgia and touring the thoroughbred horse farms in Kentucky was so interesting.

We visited a bourbon distillery Kentucky and had a tasting (I learned that I don’t like bourbon) and later visited the first KFC, which has a museum where it all started.

You can read my blog posts from our third road trip here.

I am so excited for our next journey!

Are you curious to know where we are going?

Upper Midwest

We have named this road trip “Upper Midwest”.

Our journey begins in Grand Rapids, Michigan and will end up in Minneapolis, Minnesota several days later.

For those of you who have followed me for awhile, you know that I like to blog from the road and this trip will be no different.

**Any suggestions of what to see and do along the way would be appreciated!

For more links to previous travel blog posts to places like the Caribbean, California, the East Coast, Florida as well as popular Arizona travel spots – click here.

Have you ever visited a place that took you a long time to get to?

I’m not talking about how long it takes to travel there but the length of time that you had wanted to visit a place before you finally got there.

On The Road to Bisbee

I have lived in Arizona for 28 years and during that time have visited the southwestern, western, northwestern, northern, northeastern, eastern and southern areas of our beautiful state.

However, I am embarrassed to say that I have never visited the southeastern part of Arizona.  I had wanted to visit Bisbee, AZ for years.  So, my husband and I decided to take a trip to Bisbee for our 28th wedding anniversary.

So, we packed our bags and headed out.  Our route took us through Tucson and then toward Tombstone, AZ where we had some fun adventures including viewing the “World’s Largest Rosebush”.

You can read about our Tombstone adventures, here.

After leaving Tombstone, we soon arrived in Bisbee.

old copper mining town

Bisbee is an old copper mining town.

old mining town

It has been often described as an old mining town with a European flair.

Mule Mountains

 Bisbee is situated within the Mule Mountains and built into the hillsides.

Road to Bisbee

100 year old buildings have been converted into art galleries, hotels, restaurants and shops.

copper mine

Bisbee’s existence is due to the now-closed, open-pit copper mine.

As you drive into the historic section of Bisbee, you can view the enormous open pit where they mined for years.

*To get an idea of the scale, look at the buildings to the left of the mine.  

Road to Bisbee

It is obvious, after spending a few minutes in Bisbee, that it is a community with many artists.

Concrete walls throughout the town displayed a variety of murals.

Road to Bisbee

This mural was just outside our 100-year old hotel, Canyon Rose Suites, which I highly recommend.

Road to Bisbee

I liked this garden mural of potted succulents along the Cochise County Cooperative Extension Office, which had gardening tips up in the window.

art galleries

As you walked past some of the art galleries, you could see examples of unique art, like the colorful doorway, across the street.

I walked across the street to see what was used to create this unique doorway…

plastic shopping bags and recycled bottles

It was a collection of colorful, plastic shopping bags and recycled bottles.

*Plastic bags are banned in Bisbee and stores charge you 5 cents for paper bags.  So, it’s easier to bring your own recyclable shopping bag with you.

zombie miner

We didn’t buy anything for our kids, although I was tempted to buy this ‘zombie miner’ shirt for my son.

old buildings

I enjoyed seeing the old buildings – some were a bit quirky like this storefront covered in bottle caps.

recycled materials

We passed by this interesting figure made from recycled materials.  His body is made from an old propane tank, his legs are made from rebar inserted into coils, the arms are made of rebar with plastic forks stuck to the ends and his head is an old bucket with washers for his eyes.

unique pieces of artwork

An empty lot along the main street had some unique pieces of artwork as well with an outdoor living room depicted.

As you can see, it is wise to expect the unexpected when walking through the historical sections of Bisbee.

One evening, we were walking along the main road after dinner, when I noticed something strange on the mountainside…

Road to Bisbee

Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting a skull and crossbones.  The hotel across the street, had a special light that shone onto the mountainside across the street.

*The next night the skull and crossbones had been replaced by the ‘bat signal’ from Batman fame.

Road to Bisbee

The residents of Bisbee are very friendly and the city proudly marches to beat of its own drummer.

Road to Bisbee

I saw this bumper sticker that I think described Bisbee pretty well.

The Bisbee Great Stair Climb

Because Bisbee is built up on a mountainside, there are a lot of stairways, which have led to an annual event known as “The Bisbee Great Stair Climb” where participants climb 1,000 stairs, distributed throughout different stairways.

The Bisbee Great Stair Climb

Each stairway is clearly designated throughout the city and the number of stairs in each stairway is indicated for tourists who want to try climbing the stairs for themselves.

The Bisbee Great Stair Climb

Here is another one.

The Bisbee Great Stair Climb

This one leads up to the city park and is 127 steps.

The Bisbee Great Stair Climb

This one was the most colorfully painted.

*My husband dared me to climb one of the longest stairways.  Click here to see which stairway he dared me to try and if I tried to scale the seemingly endless steps.

Screaming Banshee

Of course, a vital part of a vacation is enjoying good food.  We had lunch at the ‘Screaming Banshee’, which served delicious basil pesto breadsticks and great pizza.

We also enjoyed eating at Bisbee’s Table and Santiago’s Mexican restaurants.

Road to Bisbee

Walking through Bisbee is enjoyable, but bring comfortable shoes because you are either walking up or downhill.

Because Bisbee is 5,500 feet up in altitude, we got a good workout walking, which is a good thing because we ate a lot of great food!

Road to Bisbee

As you can see, we had a great time AND I haven’t even shown you the gardens yet!

Come back next time when I show some cute bungalow gardens, roses, cacti, hidden gardens and more 🙂

Earlier this month, my husband and I traveled to Bisbee, Arizona.

Bisbee, Arizona

For those of you who have never visited, Bisbee is a fun, quirky place that marches to the beat of its own drummer.  I had a great time!

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona is an old, mining town built on a side of a mountain.  As a result, there are different stairways scattered throughout the historical district.  An annual event is held each year called, “The Great Stair Climb” where participants climb the stairways for a total of 1,000 steps.

stairways

Tourist are welcome to climb one or all of the stairways at any time of the year.

The Great Stair

Each stairway is marked with the number of steps that it has.  Some are rather long while others are less so.

The Great Stair

This stairway that led up to the city park was 127 steps.

longest stairways

While walking through the historical district, my husband dared me to climb one of the longest stairways.

I don’t think that my husband expected me to climb those stairs – he knows that I am not the athletic type.  BUT after 28 years of marriage, I decided to prove to him that I am still full of surprises, so I started up the stairway.

The Great Stair

I’m not sure why I took my purse with me.

The Great Stair

For those of you who may be scoffing at my labors at this point, I’d like to point out that this photo shot is zoomed in and doesn’t accurately show how many steps I had already climbed.

Bisbee, Arizona

It was getting pretty difficult at this point and I realized that we were at a high altitude of 5,500 feet, so I was beginning to huff quite a bit.

But, I wouldn’t quit unless I fainted.

Bisbee, Arizona

I am happy to say that I made it climbing 188 steps!

Can you see my arms raised in victory at the top?

Bisbee, Arizona

Here is a close-up.

Now I just had to walk down 188 steps.

I must admit that my legs felt shaky when I had climbed down, but I was happy that I had done it and surprised my husband at the same time.

After the climb, we walked to a nearby restaurant for lunch.

Bisbee, Arizona

Along the way, we passed another stairway and my husband challenged me to climb that one.

Needless to say, I said “NO”.

cool-season annual flowers

Fall is here and nurseries are stocked with all sorts of cool-season annual flowers.

So, my question to you is, what will you plant your annual flowers in this fall? Will you use a ‘regular’ container?

cool-season annual flowers

Or, maybe you are the type who likes to do things a little differently?

Maybe one of these unusual planters is more your style?

An old bicycle basket finds new purpose as a planter in Noblesville, Indiana

An old bicycle basket finds new purpose as a planter in Noblesville, Indiana.

Marigolds planted in an old wheelbarrow along Route 66 in Williams, Arizona.

Marigolds planted in an old wheelbarrow along Route 66 in Williams, Arizona.

Old pots and bowls used to plant miniature gardens in an antique store in upstate New York

Old pots and bowls used to plant miniature gardens in an antique store in upstate New York.

Old chairs transformed into planters in the historic downtown of Noblesville, Indiana

Old chairs transformed into planters in the historic downtown of Noblesville, Indiana.

A 'bed' of flowering bulbs in Amish country in Shipshewana, Indiana

A ‘bed’ of flowering bulbs in Amish country in Shipshewana, Indiana.

An old bathtub serves as a large planter in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

An old bathtub serves as a large planter in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

unique planters

Galvanized metal bucket containers at an Amish swap meet.

I was fortunate enough to have seen all of these unique planters throughout my travels.  But, it was these galvanized bucket containers that inspired me to purchase an old antique watering can and create my own unique container for flowers…

unique planters

 I found this rusty watering can in an antique store in Prescott, Arizona and I knew just where I would put it in my garden.

unique planters

I added some holes on the bottom, and filled it with violas, lobelia and alyssum.   It sits right in the middle of my side vegetable garden where I can see it from my kitchen window.

I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of the unusual planters from my travels.

**I would love to hear about any unique items that you have seen transformed into planters 🙂  

A Beautiful Garden in the Middle of a Ghost Town

Well, after a delayed start yesterday – we finally began our newest road trip adventure.

Charleston, South Carolina was our first destination.

Charleston, South Carolina

For those of you who have been to Charleston, you know what a beautiful city it is, steeped in history with beautifully, preserved buildings.

My mother and I are fairly independent when traveling and took our own tour of the historic downtown district of Charleston – armed with a map and guide, which explained all of the historic sites.

road trip adventure

Many of the buildings dated from the 1700’s.  There were beautifully decorated gates that led to narrow walkways, which ended in secret gardens…

road trip adventure
road trip adventure

I love learning about history and particularly liked the story behind the cobble stone streets…

road trip adventure

These stones are from England.  They come over in the 1700’s on ships where they were used as ballast.  Then the stones were taken off of the ships and made into streets.

road trip adventure

There were beautiful window boxes filled with an assortment of ornamental plants.

road trip adventure
road trip adventure

Window boxes are a novelty to me because in our dry, desert climate – it is almost impossible to grow plants successfully in windows during the summer.

Window boxes

Charleston is also known for its many steepled churches.

St. Michael's Episcopal Church

My mother spent time going into the churches, exploring their history (she is a former pastor) – while I would take photos of plants outside 🙂

This church really struck a chord with her with its history of its bells.  This is St. Michael’s Episcopal Church and its bells were made in London in 1764.  After the Revolutionary War, the British stole the bells and took them back to London.

Later, the bells were returned and hung back up in the steeple.

clay tiles

The clay tiles of this old home were made by molding them around a man’s thigh.

Slave Mart Museum

Visiting the Slave Mart Museum was very interesting and informative, yet heartbreaking at the same time.

The museum is located on the site of where slaves were sold back in the 1800’s.

Gullah Sweet Grass baskets

I had heard of these beautiful, handmade baskets before I came to Charleston.  These are Gullah Sweet Grass baskets.  The art of making this type of basket originated in Africa, long ago.  The slaves brought over this basket-making ability with them to the states and have handed it down to their descendants, who continue to make them today.

Gullah Sweet Grass baskets

The baskets are made out of sweet grass, bull grass, palmetto palms and pine needles.  This kind woman took time to explain to me how she learned how to make these baskets from her mother and has taught her children how to make them.

One medium-sized basket takes 2 1/2 days to make.

road trip adventure

My mother and I saw this historic home for sale – but figured out that a home built in the 1700’s might be more of a ‘fixer-upper’ then we wanted to handle 😉

One of the best parts of traveling, is to taste the unique dishes of the region.

road trip adventure

Now, I am not what you would call an adventurous diner.  In fact, I can be rather picky.

But, I had to try this ‘Southern Sampler’, which had fried green tomatoes (I tried one bite), corn bread topped with bacon, pulled pork and cole slaw and fresh potato chips.  It was delicious, especially with sweet tea – another Southern staple.

We had a wonderful day in Charleston and then traveled onto Georgia.

Come back tomorrow and see what new adventures we encounter.

To tide you over, here are a couple more photos of window boxes…

road trip adventure
road trip adventure