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November 17, 2014 Published in Letters/Opinions

Tales From The North: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

By Carla Branch

Claire, Melvin, Carla and Greg at Interlochen

Claire, Melvin, Carla and Greg at Interlochen

On Friday, Nov. 14, my friend Melvin Miller celebrated his 83rd birthday. Last summer, Melvin and I spent a week in northern Michigan with our friend Claire Eberwein. We had a wonderful time and want to share a bit of our trip with readers.

Happy birthday Melvin. May you have many more.

A Vacation To Remember

About a year ago, Claire Eberwein invited me to spend a summer week with her at her home in northern Michigan. At some point, over lemondrop martinis, she asked what I thought about inviting Melvin Miller to join us. I thought it was a great idea and we had lunch and invited him. Melvin didn’t really give us an answer immediately but said he would think about it and check his schedule. Finally, before Claire left for Michigan in May, Melvin said he would come with me.

We selected the first week in August for our trip but Melvin and I didn’t make arrangements until July. Since getting from Alexandria to Traverse City isn’t the easiest thing, I decided I needed to make arrangements. I sent Melvin a copy of my itinerary and suggested that he make similar reservations. He returned home from a trip, saw my email and reluctantly made reservations.

We left BWI on Aug. 2, flew to Detroit and then on to Traverse City. Melvin said that, for the most part, the last people of color he saw for a week were in the airport in Detroit.

Claire and her husband Greg Vogt own a home in Cedar, Michigan. In case you don’t know, Cedar is on the 45th latitude, which is equidistant between the North Pole and the equator. Their home is on Lake Leelanau, which is great for boating, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing and bird watching.

We spent our days sitting by the lake, swimming and enjoying other water sports. Claire, Greg and I went canoeing while Melvin sat on the shore and took pictures. The lake is calm and clear with water lilies, terns, ducks, geese and even a bald eagle.

Claire and Greg have a pontoon boat and Melvin did agree to take some excursions on it. He also enjoyed sitting on the boat at the dock while the rest of us swam.

One of the highlights of the week was a trip to Interlochen Center for the Arts to see Buddy Guy in concert. The concert was great and I enjoyed seeing how the campus has changed over the years since I was last there.

The food and beverages that our hosts provided were varied, many of local origin and terrific. We visited some local wineries and found many of the vintages delightful. We also went to a local micro distillery and sampled their wares. Melvin and I both came home with Jack Pine gin and Horseradish vodka. I was informed that Michigan is the only place where jack pine grows and that the vodka is distilled with locally grown horseradish. We liked them both.

We took a trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore where I was fully prepared to climb the dunes with Claire. Melvin photographed the beginning of our journey, which was also the end of it. The sand was too hot for my delicate tootsies so we came down after a few steps and went to lunch.

Most evenings, we sat on the porch overlooking the lake, listened to music and had great conversations. One night Greg built a bonfire by the lake and we enjoyed the night sounds of owls, foxes and other wildlife.

Claire and Greg were wonderful hosts and Melvin and I agree that it was one of the best vacations we have ever had. We didn’t watch television once and only responded to phone calls and emails when we had no choice. It was truly a country vacation that we will remember for a long time.

Carla's Trip to Michigan

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