Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Our Latest Spontaneous Adventure // The Michigan Shore

On Friday, I told you guys how Robbie and I had decided that we needed to go on another spontaneous adventure.  It was the last weekend he'd be home over the next month, and it had been a really stressful week.  We'd had so much fun on our spontaneous adventure in March, and another unplanned mini road trip/overnight getaway sounded like the best idea ever.  The plan (other than not to have one, of course) was to get in the car that afternoon and drive to either Michigan or Wisconsin so we could hang out on a beach that didn't have skyscrapers behind it. 

Well...  here's the thing.  Pretty much everyone who lives in the greater Chicago area escapes to the beaches of Michigan and Wisconsin in the summertime.  As a result, the hotels in those places book up many months in advance. But we figured that there had to be a few options available, so Robbie did some quick searching while I finished up work.  And you know what we discovered?  That I am clearly in the wrong business.  I mean, why am I working such long hours to try to pay the bills when I could just operate a low-budget motel close to Lake Michigan?  I wouldn't give a second thought to the fact that a comparable hotel would cost $30-$50 a night, because I could charge $200+ a night alllll summer long when all of the more desirable hotels were booked solid!   Seriously though, I don't think either of us really realized how difficult it would be to find a place to stay, and neither of us could justify spending that kind of money to stay in a cheap motel.  Robbie even reached out to a friend who's family has lake cottage in southwestern Michigan to see if we could possibly crash there, but his parents were already using it for the weekend. And although the whole point was to be spontaneous, heading off to a general area where there won't be any lodging within a 50 mile radius (other than the quadruply marked up motels) on a 95 degree midwestern day (camping outside = extremely uncomfortable) just didn't sound all that fun anymore.  We ended up having some local fun Friday, and decided that Saturday, we'd just drive to Lake Geneva in Wisconsin for the day, and head back home that night if we weren't able to find a place to stay. 

But then, on Saturday, a miracle occurred. (Yes, I'm being dramatic, but it makes for a better story.)  The friend we'd contacted on Friday called to say that his parents were leaving early and we could stay there for the night.  Score!  This was especially awesome, because Saturday morning had brought some unexpected tasks for me, and by the time we would have gotten to Wisconsin for our day trip, we'd have only had a couple of hours there before we'd have to head home.  So we quickly threw some overnight stuff in the car and hit the road.

On our way, we stopped at the Indiana Dunes.  When I was growing up, going to "the dunes" was kind of a regular thing for everyone I knew, yet somehow, I'd never been there.  And although I left this area for 14 years after graduating from high school, it was one of those silly things that had always bothered me.  How could I have traveled so much of the world and never even seen the freaking Indiana dunes?  I'm glad that I can now say that I've been there, even though we only stuck around for a few minutes.  The dunes themselves were cool, but it was crazy crowded and we wanted to get to Michigan and relax.

We ended up pulling in the driveway of the lake cottage about an hour before the sun was setting, after grabbing some ridiculously good Mexican food from a tiny taco stand on the way into town.  (If you're ever in New Buffalo, stop by Rios.  It's a little shack on the side of the road that you'd probably overlook, but trust me - it is AMAZING.)  Having a quiet, private beach right on Lake Michigan was almost too good to be true.  We adored every minute of just sitting there in the silence, snapping photos as we slowly watched the sun disappear behind the lake. 

We sat outside for a while after the sun set, and even got treated to a rad fireworks display by one of the houses down the street.  Once the bugs started biting, we went inside and read (okay, I worked a little too - but only a little), and then ventured back out when the sky got really dark.  It was so incredible to be able to see bright stars that weren't faded by light pollution, and Robbie had all sorts of fun setting up the tripod and playing with long exposures on the camera.  It was a perfectly relaxing evening.  Our phones had little to no service, which made me realize how much life is sucked away by smart phones.  I love my iPhone dearly, but I wouldn't mind it losing service a little more often.

The next morning, we decided that we'd get some food and then drive around and explore for a couple of hours.  We got some breakfast from a local diner called Rosie's, then stopped in a little chocolate and coffee shop next door called South Bend Chocolate Co.  Thankfully, they have several locations, because you guys have to try this place.  I ordered a white chocolate mocha, and watched the barista literally scoop melted white chocolate into my espresso drink.  It was ridiculously decadent without being too sweet or covering up the flavor of the espresso.  (My mouth is watering thinking about it.)

After that, we drove north a few minute to St. Joseph, a really cute lake town that my friend Tieka had recommended to me.  We walked around for a little while, but it was excruciatingly hot so we didn't stay long.  I'd love to spend an entire weekend there sometime.  After that, it was time to head back toward Chicago.

The thing about spontaneous adventures is that there are always going to be a few challenges that pop up, because you're not making concrete plans like you would be for a more thought-out trip.  There are also going to inevitably be some small things that you will have to plan (like making sure there will be at least a couple of lodging options once you arrive if camping isn't an option).  But because you're keeping an open mind and allowing for some adventure, it's much easier to just "go with it" and roll with whatever happens.  In our case, just when we'd thought we'd be doing something else entirely, an unexpected opportunity popped up, and we got to really get away instead of just settling for something more close-by.  We were only gone for 24 hours, but it felt like a real mini vacation.  Best of all, it allowed for our minds and spirits to feel relaxed and recharged upon our return.  I'm thinking we'll have to cram in one more of these spontaneous adventure trips before the summer officially comes to an end.

Have you gone an any spontaneous adventures this summer?

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  1. No adventures for me lately...too much going on. I've enjoyed reading about yours. The photos are lovely.

  2. Ah! You are describing my childhood in a nutshell! I grew up 10 minutes from the Dunes so I spent all my summer days there. And when we wanted a special treat we would always go up to New Buffalo for the day. So beautiful!

  3. Oooo such beautiful pictures!!! I want to go there!! It's great you got to get away even for a night. :-)

  4. Those fireworks and sunset pictures are stunning! Ya'll are so resourceful in your get-aways, you should plan mini get-aways for people. =)

    1. Ha! That sounds like it would be equal parts fun and stress ;)

  5. Yeah the problem with last-minute trips is often that they're more expensive, like hotels and trains, etc. We were going to take the train up to nyc a couple of weeks ago, but only the more expensive tickets were left and also a lot of hotels were booked or charging higher rates for the rooms they had left. It kind of took the fun out of it for us and we decided to postpone the trip for when we have a little more time to plan. It's hard for us to do spontaneous trips because we don't have a car, so some basic planning is always required.

    Your weekend sounds fantastic and the photos are gorgeous! How lucky that you got to stay at your friend's house. :)

  6. That's definitely true - especially when you decide to go to a city. We initially wanted to camp (which is basically free) but it was too hot. When I lived right in the city and didn't need a car we took the train a lot... But it definitely limits things. I hope you guys get to go on your spontaneous adventure soon!

  7. You just got me pumped for my trip to Traverse City this weekend! We'll be loving on the Sleeping Bear Dunes and amazing food!

  8. Your pictures are so gorgeous! It makes me want to take off and go on vacation.

  9. Beautiful photos! So glad you got away.

  10. This sounds just as perfect as my weekend was! How funny! We took a spontaneous trip to Bath for the day, which is just a few hours from London. They're the best aren't they? It's just so good to have a change of scenery once in a while and discover something new without having to get on a plane! Ahh I can't wait for my next one now... :)

    From Cupcakes, With Love x

  11. What stunning pictures! I've never been there before, but I'd love to go someday.

  12. I haven't been to Michigan in forever, and I can hardly count the one time I did! Looks like you enjoyed yourself :]

  13. ~A beach with skyscrapers behind it? How interesting! I have never seen such a place, but it seems like a good place for pictures : ]
    ~Hotels! When my friend and I went to Disneyland last year we were trying to save as much money as humanly possible and the first cut was the hotel. So expensive! I ended up finding another Motel 6 that was like 5 miles down the road from the park and was almost half of what the Motel 6 by the park wanted. True, it was a little shady, but we weren't there very much anyway and we survived haha! It's nuts the amount of money that can be made of tourism.
    ~It's crazy awesome that you can visit other states so easily!
    ~I love the stars pictures and the fireworks! There really are a lot more stars than the city/suburb lights allow you to see.
    ~This has encouraged me to try new small places/restaurants when I travel. Totally.
    ~ I love the pictures you shared and this entire post! (This is really cheesy): Two thumbs up! ; ]

  14. My parents live in the Kalamazoo area and I love visiting and getting to road trip to Lake Michigan!
    Your sunset and night sky photos are amazing!

  15. beautiful pictures. looks like a really fun trip.

  16. how lovely. I've always wanted to take a trip out there


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