Category Archives: Michigan

Lake Michigan print, 16” x 12” £20 inc UK P&P

Hey, scoobies. I thought you might like to know that the Lake Michigan photo so many of you liked is now available as a lustre quality print. It’s a generous 16″ x 12″, and costs £20 which includes P&P within the UK. Message me here (in the comments), or over on Twitter or Facebook if you’d like one (which won’t include that white text up top, clearly).

Lake Michigan from Pierport Shore


Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

19th November – from Michigan to California

Beans on toast US styleOur last Michigan morning. We introduced our hosts to the revolutionary concept of beans on toast, accompanied by some of friend Karen’s excellent bacon. Amazing that America doesn’t ‘do’ beans on toast, but then their baked beans are not as ours, featuring as they do the aforementioned bonus lump of pork fat. Not this morning though, for we had bought “Vegetarian Baked Beans”, with the fat loeft out.

Last drink in MichiganTo Traverse City we drove, there to browse shops and escape from the BITTER cold to eat gorgeous chicken chilli in the warm, cheery Mackinaw Brewing Company bar. Outside the clouds shivered, and occasional snow flakes drifted lazily in the chill air.

My arseAirport security had a little trouble with my backpack. I was puzzled, until the smiley, rather sexy, security woman rootled inside (the backpack, not me) and pulled out… MY GRITS. The huge sack of grits that Karen had sent us, along with that incredible bacon. After a merry chit-chat about the best way to eat grits (she mixed an egg in eww) I was allowed to board the plane to the West Coast, which lacked entertainment which, pardon me, was a bit thick considering the five hour flight. Hark at me, seasoned traveller* now.

It began to snow properly as we peered out at the tarmac, and take-off was delayed by twenty minutes or so while the plane was de-iced by a chap with a spurty-gun in a crane-lorry thing that I’d love to have a go in. This left connection times in Detroit a little tight, but we coming into San Diegoknow that airport well now and we walked briskly through the psychedelic tunnel to make our flight across America. We chased sunset, which therefore lasted hours, but due to sitting above a wing could not take full photographic advantage. We landed after dark, with San Diego beautiful below us. I saw a gorgeous arcing bridge, which would later cross to Coronado.

Single malt ahoy!Rob met us at baggage claim in San Diego, and the drive through the San Diego night was very pretty. Lights everywhere, interesting buildings, and – bloody hell – palm trees! And then there was single malt to welcome us to Rob and Valerie’s home. I went to sleep looking forward to seeing California in daylight.




Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

18th November – Grand Pianos

PianosYes, grand pianos. The American measure of windspeed according to Jamie’s TV. We woke to a seven grand piano day with intense rain. The rain eased as lunchtime approached, so we went to Frankfort for food at a fusion restaurant called, erm, Fusion. I had a curry – it was bloody good, an’all. It came, somewhat oddly, with a fortune cookie, which predicted the next day’s flight across America Fortunewith remarkable coincidentiality. No, that’s a word. Trust me, I’m a writer.

We walked off our post-prandial torpor, sauntering through a dreich day along the edge of Arcadia Marsh, which would be a dismal place to spend a whole day. A plop in the water was the most noteworthy event. No, not that sort of plop, you mucky pups. The sound, I mean, behind us, made by something unseen.

SunsetThe evening brought a glorious sunset, biscuits (US style) and gravy, Quantum Leap, packing for the next day’s flight, and experiencing that odd mix of sadness at leaving Michigan and eager anticipation for San Diego. Add a soupcon of airport-worry, and it’s surprising we slept as well as we did.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

16th November – Point Betsie & Beulah, MI

Point Betsie lighthouseHello, you’re still reading these? Blimey, you’ve got staying power. This was a gentle day, starting with a short trip to Point Betsie to see the lighthouse, and to search the beach for Petoskey stones. Glorious weather, glorious sky, and a daft lollopy dog. Perfection. I didn’t find any Petoskeys, but I did find a kind of fossil thing. #PROUD

To the small town of Beulah, unremarkable except that it stands on the eastern shore of Crystal Lake – well, one of the Crystal Lakes. There are fifteen in Michigan. Those early explorers were obv. a bit short of inspiration. This one, however, is the largest, being about eight miles long, end the water is exceptionally clear. This late afternoon there was nary a wisp of breeze, and the surface of the lake as still as looking glass.

Crystal Lake from Beulah Beach

The reflection of the sky was breathtaking, and I don’t use that word lightly. I daren’t breathe for fear of disturbing the amazing picture laid out before me. Then Jamie threw a rock in the water, which was also kind of cool. This was one of those sights that will stay in me till I cock my clogs.

Bacon doughnutsThen a quick shop, where there were BACON DOUGHNUTS OMFG and American sausage and mash for tea. Bloody lovely it was, an’all. The evning was finished off by downing a bottle of Glenfiddich with Jamie, after which I was extremely witty although no-one seemed to understand what I was saying and I ate many, many crackers.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

15th November – up to the UP

Mackinac BridgeThe UP, for those, like pre-Michigan me, who have no idea, is the Upper Peninsula of the State. It’s an extra bit sticking out of the top right of Wisconsin and separated from Lower Michigan by Lakes Michigan and Huron. The big and quite nifty Mackinac Bridge joins the two. Quite why the top bit doesn’t just belong to Wisconsin is beyond me. Those wacky Americans.

Parallel WombatWe drove up through the length of the Lower Peninsula, stopping for a quick cider near the 45th parallel. Across the impressive Mackinac (pronounced ‘Mackinaw’, language fans) Bridge between Lakes Michigan and Huron. A short while later we were dining at the White Tails ‘eatery’, where the waiter had a very odd accent and a man watched TV wearing a huge cheese on his head. I had a wet burrito and chilli cheese fries.

BridgePasties were for sale everywhere, tribute to the many Cornish immigrants who settled here (I imagine). We scoured the shoreline a little, looking for Petoskey stones, then followed a long drive home after a good day seeing real America.

Before bed I ventured outside to look at the sky, and OMG THE STARS! A complete absence of light pollution meant I saw the Milky Way, properly. I’ve never done that before. Speechless, really.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

14th November – Bear Lake, Michigan

Up The Shakers!Ace came over to visit us early, in search of a biscuit. Erm, Ace is the dog, remember, not some passing randomer. We listened – or rather followed on Twitter – as Bury lost to Gillingham on the other side of the planet. We baked particularly British things for our hosts – quite tasty cheese scones and a batch of went-slightly-wrong sausage rolls. Can you believe that America doesn’t have sausage rolls? Or beans on toast? IKR!

BaconWe hewed slices of bacon from the slab that our very good friend Karen had sent, and by Grabthar’s Hammer it was good.

Now, I’m not a fan of guns, but we were in the middle if hunting country, so when Barb’s nephews offered to show us some target-shooting it seemed sensible to accept. Also the whole “don’t criticise something you’ve not tried yada yada yada” thing. I almost went out in my pinny which, you know, hardly cool.

CrossbowMary was a bit good with the rifle, taking the best shot of the afternoon. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it – the shoulder kick, the smell of cordite, the stupid earphones. I performed better with the handgun, though it was difficult to stop my leg shaking, No, I have no idea why my leg was shaking. Mary got to shoot a crossbow, too – again doing well. You know what? Shooting is fun, although I would never be able to fire at anything but an inanimate target.

SunsetAt sunset, Barb and I took Ace for a walk on the lakeshore. The sky across the water burned. I took exactly a gazillion photos.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

13th November – Michigan

Lake MichiganSuch a stormy morning that… wait, no. Not stormy. WINDY. High white waves stroked Lake Michigan. Barb drove Mary and me to her church, whish was, well, churchy. Clearly there was a strong sense of community here, from our chat with a feller there doing some maintenance work top the table of Christmassy craftworks.

From there we pootled over to Manistee again to check out the effects if the winds on the Manistee lightsshore and OMFG, pardon my French! The waves were incredible, smashing the piers and the shore. Spray flew everywhere, but most disconcertingly the air was filled with horizontal, wind-driven sand. Mary, sensibly, returned quickly to the haven of the car while I got sandblasted taking a few photographs, despite the protection of my beard power.

Foody tree decorationsThence, skin “refreshed”, to a few shops, where I bought a Frankfort T-shirt and baseball cap and therefore looked exactly like an American guy, which is what they call us blokes over there. We saw tree decorations which perfectly embodies the US spirit of Christmas (see right). The shopkeepers, without fail, were friendly and attentive and asked me what the hell kind of accent I had.

Finally home, steering around the largest piles of leaves known to mankind, which were rapidly being redistributed by the wind out of their assigned pileage. Quite why they feel the need to build mountains out of autumn is beyond me, unless the whole town comes out at noon for a massive leaf-kicking festival. Actually, now I’ve said that I want to go to one. Leaf-Fest.

FireballA relaxing afternoon followed watching odd American birds visiting Jamie’s nuts – bluejays, mourning doves, sparrows (yes I know shut up). Barb’s nephews arrived for a hunting visit. They (a) cooked venison over the fire and (b) were gobsmacked by the existence of jelly babies. We drank Fireball Cinnamon Whisky which sounds disgusting, but persuades you that it isn’t the more you drink.

“They make candy babies and people EAT them? Sheesh, your country’s crazy.”



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

12th November – Michigan

RadioRain and heavy windy winds lifted the lake into high choppy waves, but I was too much of a wuss to go out and photograph them. I stayed in the warm cottage listening to the beautiful old radio in the house. Eventually, though, arses were shifted and we visited Manistee with its cold, cold piers and got snotty noses.

Edison cylinder phonograph (rear)There was a warm, dusty, ramshackle museum with weird objects oozing out of the very cracks in the walls. I found some beautiful photographic portraits, and an Edison cylinder phonograph which an ancient curator played for us, voices vaguely discernible beneath the dry crackle of decades. There was a more conventional player which used a wooden needle. It needed sharpening. Oh, and a two-headed calf. No really.

SquashWe enjoyed our first visit to an American supermarket, and I began to photograph products unusual to my eyes. We also had two meals in bars – the second, evening meal due to a power-cut back at Jamie and Barb’s. There I ate a cowboy burger, which turned out no to be made of cowboy.

THERE ARE MORE PHOTOGRAPHS OF DAY 3 HERE (including the two-headed calf)


Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

10th & 11th November – Back in the USA

Ready for boardingI never actually thought we’d go back, really. Yet there we were, standing bleary-eyed at Manchester airport after a 4am wake-up, invitations to stay with amazing US friends warming our cockles. Well, my cockles at least. I can’t speak for Mary.

The first flight was a hop over to Amsterdam, and if we’d had a rear seat we could have boarded up proper steps, like people in the Fifties. Always fancied that, too. Take-off wiped out the disappointment, though. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed that sexy thrust on a small plane. Also sexy was the KLM lady’s voice: “Good morning, would you like a little shnack? We have shweet or shalty.” I had shalty, the tiniest wee crisps in the known universe. I felt like a giant.

Captain Smiling JackSecurity at Schiphol was much improved over last year, although the airport does like its gate changes BIG, as we were shifted from D2 to D51. And then – “Hi folks, Captain Smiling Jack here. We had an odd start up on the starboard engine so we have to return to the stand to have it checked.” – what is it with us and flight problems? We didn’t have one clean journey last year. I’ll have to list them all somewhere.

Smiling Jack told us jauntily that there was a faulty starter, which needed replacing. Two and a half hours later, and we were off. Luckily we had a five hour layover to play with in Detroit or I’d have been cacking myself, never a good idea on an aeroplane. I tried watching the new(ish) Fantastic Four, which was quite the opposite of fantastic. Got lost in the beauty of the clouds at thirty-three thousand feet for a while, as you do after a few free gins. I also took a lovely photo of Cod Island in Labrador – a bleak-looking place, identified for me by handsome man-about-town @scyrene.

Cod IslandWe eventually arrived at Traverse City, a pretty little airport with a kid’s reading corner and a garden. Hugs and cheers with Jamie and Barb while I tried desperately not to breathe gin on them. Home to their lovely house, seeing nothing outside in the dark but meeting the very waggy Ace the Wonder Dog. Seven hours sleep and I awoke lively and hot to trot. Struggled to make a decent cup of tea, though. A walk on the the shore of Lake Michigan blew the remaining cobwebs away. Strange to see waves but no tide.

Me and JamieIn the afternoon Jamie had a photo shoot at a local hospital, so we tagged along to help. We met the lovely Katie, who works there, whom I fell immediately in love with  at her first words – “How COULD you end that book like that?!” Katie works in the geriatric hospice section, and Jamie was taking photographs of some of the ‘elders’ with their families. He’s a very good photographer, and brilliant at putting his subjects at ease. There was much laughter. Katie told us that some of the photographs he had taken last year were highly valued by the families, being the last photographs they had of their departed loved ones.


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