Sunday, May 31, 2015


My encounters with Arkansas have been brief.

I drove through Arkansas with my comedy group Dirty Water when we were on our way to Texas for the Austin Improv Festival. As we cruised through, we sang the "Arkansas ARKANSAS Arkansas ARKANSAS" call-and-response part of the song Arkansas by Souf Land over and over again.

A couple of years later, Mrs. Tires and I drove through Arkansas on a trip that brought us to Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and Tennessee. Our journey was as quick and uneventful as the first time around, but at least this time we got a photograph, the one featured at the beginning of this post.

And that's my story about Arkansas.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

North Carolina and South Carolina

At the ripe young age of seventy, my Grandmother moved from Massachusetts, where she lived her entire life, to Greenville, North Carolina. I always thought of this as a rather courageous act, moving to a whole new part of the country after living in the same state for so long. My family flew out to visit her for Thanksgiving in 2003. On the flight, I spoke with a friendly couple who happened to be headed to Greenville, and they offered me a ride there from the airport. I gladly accepted. As we got off the plane, I told them the story of Grandma moving to North Carolina. It's a good thing I did. Turns out they were headed to Greenville, SOUTH Carolina, not Greenville, NORTH Carolina. I declined the ride. 

I mention this because the line between North Carolina and South Carolina is continually blurred in my mind. Every time I visit, I come closer to thinking they’re actually the same state. 

My first visit to these two states was in the spring of 2001, when my friends Jon, Beth, Sean and I hit the road to Florida for spring break. Along the way, we stopped at South of the Border, one of the country's most famous roadside attractions. It’s a bizarre and hilarious place. The name is a reference to the border between North Carolina and South Carolina, as it sits on the line between the two states. You can't miss it. A multitude of amusing billboards attempt to lure you in while you’re driving down the hundred mile stretch of I-95 leading up to the attraction. 

When we arrived, we were greeted by Pedro, the huge and somewhat racist mascot pictured at the beginning of this post. We explored the grounds for a bit and found a few restaurants, some rides, a reptile zoo and about six hundred gift shops. These shops sold some of the most bizarre souvenirs I have ever seen. I made a great purchase, an Elvis ashtray for two dollars. I'm still kicking myself for not buying the hilarious plastic figurine of a gold prospector with a huge, exposed boner.

There were also many large, climbable statues, which we found to be quite amusing.

It looks like I am having the time of my life in this shot, but in reality, I had just landed on my man parts.

South of the Border is delightfully and unabashedly cheesy, and it's a lot of fun. I definitely recommend a visit if you're passing through. If you’re not convinced, perhaps these gems from the postcard collection will entice you:

From the postcard collection
Another from the postcard collection
I made another visit to the Carolinas in 2009 when my family flew out to celebrate Grandma's seventy-fifth birthday. Again the line between the two states was blurred in my mind. I was told we had rented a beach house on Myrtle Beach, which is in South Carolina. Turns out the house was a ways away from this famous beach, and our "Myrtle Beach vacation" was actually happening in North Carolina. 

The beach house was actually quite nice, and it afforded us many visits to the pleasant shoreline nearby. The ocean water was pretty warm, so lots of swimming and boogie boarding happened in between long sessions of lounging in the sun. 

We also made a trek into the town of Myrtle Beach, which is filled with many entertainment options, novelty excursions, and, of course, gift shops. The elder members of the family opted to check out a Cirque du Soleil knock-off that night, while Mrs. Tires, my brother and I opted for some mini-golf and a stop at the Hard Rock Cafe. 

That night, we purchased some cigars at one of the many tobacco shops in the area and smoked them on the roof of our beach house with my uncles, which was a really fun family bonding experience.

Our final adventure before heading back home involved a family kayaking trip. We had a blast paddling around the many interlocking docks and eventually made it out to the open ocean, where we encountered some dolphins. Dolphins in the Carolinas...who knew? Unfortunately my photos of them came out too blurry to see the fins that were sticking out of the water, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Between the kitsch of South of the Border and the family fun at Myrtle Beach, I've had a blast in my brief stops in North Carolina and South Carolina. Maybe someday I'll learn how to tell them apart.

Monday, May 25, 2015

New York

No world traveler's list is complete without a visit to New York City. During my various trips there, I've taken in many of the city's greatest assets. I've also made note of its many weaknesses. Fortunately, I've also made trips to upstate New York, and I found those destinations to be equally fascinating without being hazardous to my health.

New York City

I've never been a fan of New York City. It is crowded and chaotic. My blood pressure shoots up just by entering the city limits. A friend of mine that's all of 5'2" moved there and said the only way she gets off the subway train is to drop her shoulder and shove her way through. The traffic. The crowds. The noise. And that's not to mention that the streets are lined with trash. Still, there are many wonderful places to visit in the city, and once you survive the living hell that is leaving one place in the city and getting to another, it's usually worth it.

My first visit there was during a class trip in high school. I have vowed to make this blog more exciting than a high school field trip, so I'll skip the details and just share a few highlights:

Major stops included the Empire State Building (a classic top-of-the-world city vantage point), The Statue of Liberty (closed the day we visited), Times Square (a bright, colorful and vibrant clusterfuck of touristy chaos), the United Nations General Assembly Hall (loved the mural in the plenary hall, which reminded me of breakfast) and FAO Schwartz (which was as fun as you'd imagine).

The biggest impression NYC left on me during that trip came from our visit to Broadway, where we caught a performance of Miss Saigon. I have never been one for musicals, but this show was such a spectacle, it won me over instantly. I had never seen such a gigantic, elaborate set in my life. It was complete with an enormous bust of Ho Chi Minh and a full-size helicopter.

Our trip to Broadway was preceded by dinner at Ellen's Stardust Diner, a brightly colored and heavily decorated 1950s themed restaurant. The eatery's style was great, but it was trumped by the waitstaff. Most of the servers were aspiring Broadway actors, and they regularly performed musical numbers in the middle of the restaurant to the delight of all. It was really fun restaurant and I highly recommend a visit.

There is much more to the NYC theater scene than just the shows on Broadway. The Off-Broadway productions have been some of the most influential in the theater world. A generous graduation present in 2003 included tickets to an amazing show called De La Guarda, which wasn't a show so much as it was an experience. Instead of sitting in a seat, the audience stood in the middle of a warehouse-like building. In the space above the audience, the actors flew through the air on trapeze. Add intense music, confetti and a few surprises, and you got a unique theater experience that was unlike any other. While De La Guarda is no longer running, Fuerza Bruta, the Argentinian theater group that produced the show, still performs in NYC regularly. 

And how could I visit a major city like New York without doing some stadium chasing? I visited Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, during my most recent visit in the summer of 2013. I've yet to visit a stadium I didn't like, but when comparing one stadium to the next, I have to say that Citi Field ranks low on the scale.

The stadium's location leaves a lot to be desired. It's far from any recognizable neighborhood, and while it is technically within the limits of New York City, the surroundings feel more like Gary, Indiana than the Big Apple. Finding our way to the stadium was an adventure, as we had to take three trains to get there from Manhattan. When we finally arrived, we had to weave and bob through a swarth of tennis fans who were there for the US Open in the adjacent Billie Jean King Tennis Center. 

G. Scott Olson and a snazzy dog
The main stadium entrance brings fans through the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, which is a great tribute to one of baseball's pioneers, but seems out of place considering Jackie Robinson never played for the Mets.

For a newly-built ballpark, Citi Field offers remarkably few distinguishing features. While it's fun to see the giant red apple emerge from its hole when Mets players hit home runs, this hardly compares to, say, the pyrotechnics at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

We will be seeing more and more of this apple, as Citi Field moves their fences in on a seemingly yearly basis to accommodate their lackluster hitters.

The other marquee feature of the stadium is the Shea Stadium Bridge. Basically it's scaffolding meant to replicate a bridge. Yawn.

While there are plenty of food options at Citi Field, most are spin-offs of popular New York eateries. I was pretty excited to experience Shake Shack while in NYC, but I wasn't about to get the ballpark version of it when I could get the real thing elsewhere in the city. I went for the Italian sausage, and it was one of the worst I had ever tasted. 

Citi Field also features the Mets Hall of Fame. While I'm usually a fan of in-stadium HOFs, this one was small and left quite a bit to be desired.

There's one thing that makes Citi Field truly unique. It's the testing ground for Baseball Advanced Media's in-stadium digital offerings. All of the cool in-stadium smartphone technology is available there first. Apparently the MLB At the Ballpark app gives real-time, location-specific information to iPhone users, so when you walk by a point of interest in the stadium, you can get info on the attraction via your phone. Additionally, you can order concessions through the app and have them delivered directly to your seat. Too bad I visited one year too early to catch the first version of the tech.

I also loved the baseball card-style ads they displayed throughout the stadium. However, when a marketing motif is a major highlight, you know you're in a mediocre park.

More Stadium Chasing: 

By the way, I did indeed visit Shake Shack during that visit in 2013. It was delicious, and as good as advertised. It reminded me of Five Guys, but cleaner, more modern and with better burgers. More Shake Shack, please!

Upstate New York

While New York City gets all the attention, there's lots of interesting stuff in upstate New York that's a blast to explore.

Growing up, we would drive to Oneonta, New York to visit family friends. This involved a drive down Route 88, a narrow, winding, gut-check mountainside highway we used to call "the scary road." I was pretty intimidated when I was tasked with traversing it while in possession of my learner's permit. However, once I was behind the wheel, I found driving this route to be exhilarating and energizing. It was certainly an early influence that fostered my love for the road. 

During one visit to Oneonta, we made a jaunt to Herkimer, home of the Herkimer Diamond Mine. What do you do at a diamond mine? Dig for diamonds, of course! While the diamonds found in this mine are far more common than real diamonds and therefore have little monetary value, it was a blast to show up with a small shovel and a pail and start sifting through the dirt to find these exciting gems.

Oneonta is not too far from Cooperstown, so I was fortunate enough to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame several times growing up. This baseball mecca is always a fun and enchanting excursion, as it truly brings the game's past to life. 

The museum starts with a video that is rooted in a sandlot baseball game, and moves on to several halls displaying baseball artifacts. My favorite section as a kid was the locker room. This area features lockers dedicated to each major league team, and they're filled with memorabilia from the team's biggest stars.

From there, the tour moves on to a room featuring famous items from the World Series. I was fortunate enough to make a return visit in December of 2007, which was great timing because the Red Sox had just won the World Series, so there was an entire display case dedicated to the team and their championship run. 

While my Red Sox fan friends and I were staring at this treasure trove, Mrs. Tires came up to us and proclaimed, "You guys, it's so sick. They have some dude's sock, and it has blood stains all over it!" We responded to her disgust by yelling "The bloody sock!" and sprinting to the display she was pointing towards. 

The soiled tube sock belonged to Curt Schilling, and the blood was from one of the games he pitched with a torn tendon that had been stitched together just hours before his start. He played despite the bleeding and pitched an amazing game that lead to a crucial win against the Yankees. He'd later pitch on that ankle one more time, throwing spectacularly and helping the Red Sox lift the Curse of the Bambino and win the World Series in 2004. 

We became slack-jawed fan boys as we stared at the bloody sock. Mrs. Tires turned away in disgust.

The museum ends in a huge hall that serves as the actual Hall of Fame. It displays plaques for each member inducted into this prestigious institution. Wade Boggs and Ryne Sandberg were my two favorite players growing up, and they were both inducted into the Hall of Fame the year before, which explains my giddiness as I posed next to their plaques.

The town of Cooperstown is small but infinitely charming, and it is as representative of the dignity and purity of true Americana as the game of baseball itself.

Niagara Falls is another upstate New York highlight. My friend Chris and I visited this famous waterfall as part of a trip to Cleveland and Toronto. The falls were massive, loud and impressive. We were pressed for time, so we only had about thirty minutes or so to gaze at the falls before it was time to get back on the road. I'd love to visit this natural wonder again and experience it by boat, plane or some other fun mode of transportation. I'd also like to visit the Canada side of the Falls, as it's accompanied by a strip of kitsch akin to Pigeon Forge or Wisconsin Dells. This is based off of a recommendation from Barry and Stef's blog.

From the glitzy, gritty destinations in New York City to the delightful attractions upstate, there will never be a lack of things to do in New York.

Must See in New York: 
  • Ellen's Stardust Diner (New York City)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame (Cooperstown)
  • Broadway (New York City)

Check it Out:
  • Empire State Building (New York City)
  • Statue of Liberty (New York City)
  • Herkimer Diamond Mine (Herkimer)
  • FAO Schwartz (New York City)

Skip It: 
  • Times Square (New York City)
  • Citi Field (New York City)

The "Next Time" List: 
  • Yankee Stadium (New York City)

Sunday, May 24, 2015


I spent a solid month in Oregon in January of 2002. My Uncle Gary was living in Portland, OR at the time, and when winter break afforded me a month off from school, I took him up on his offer to stay at his place and check out the city.

To keep myself busy, I landed a job working the graveyard shift at a Plaid Pantry, a chain of convenience stores that are common in Portland. This gig provided some interesting moments.

One of the store's regulars claimed to be a CIA agent on a secret assignment. He kept his association under wraps by wearing a black cap with "CIA" blatantly embroidered on the front. Occasionally I would inquire, and he would respond by quoting scripture for the rest of our interaction.

A fellow employee at the store cast me as a supervillain in the indie film he was producing. He talked about his plans for the project incessantly, but it resulted in exactly zero minutes of filming between the time I was cast and my departure at the end of the month.

On another occasion, I hit my head on a sprinkler while stocking a freezer, passed out, and woke up on the frozen floor after an unknown amount of time. 

Odd late-night convenience store encounters aside, my biggest take-away from Portland was that everyone there is incredibly friendly. On my way home after an overnight shift, I stood leaning against the bus stop with my headphones on and an exhausted expression on my face. A twenty-something hispanic thug approached me and asked me if I had a lighter. I pulled one out of my pocket and held it out for him.  That was met with a confused look. I took off my headphones.

"What's that for?" he asked. 

"Didn't you ask me for a light?" I replied, keeping the lighter outstretched to him. 

"Nah, man. I was asking if you were all right."

This threw me for a loop. The people in Portland were so nice, even a street thug was concerned for my emotional well-being. What a city. 

I didn't get to explore Portland as much as I had hoped, as I mostly slept during the day to accommodate the overnight schedule. I did get to a show at Portland's arm of ComedySportz, a nation-wide short form improv company. The improv was solid, but the stage that was literally held together with duct tape. 

Overall I really liked Portland. Beyond the friendly strangers, it also featured great weather (forty degrees was the low when I was there - not bad for January) and the city is dotted with rose bushes and charm. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

New Mexico

From the postcard collection
The truth about writing this blog is that not all states come with a story attached. New Mexico is one such state.

I cruised through New Mexico while attempting to move to Los Angeles in the summer of 2003. The state's terrain was a mix of red and brown earth, which made for some interesting driving. For long stretches, signs aiming to lure drivers into gift shops to buy blankets and other southwestern-themed memorabilia were the only things that broke up the scenery. I don't have many regrets in life, but one of them is not taking the time to photograph the gift shop billboard that simply read "We are Nice Indians." However, I did get some fun shots from one of the cheesy gift shops.

I hope to give New Mexico a thorough exploration someday. Roswell and White Sands National Monument top my list. For now, the blanket I bought from those nice Indians serves as my only takeaway form the state. 

For more on this journey:

Another from the postcard collection

Monday, May 11, 2015


Living in Chicago for the last twelve years has afforded me several trips to Michigan. Michigan is just a quick jaunt from home and it offers many great escapes from city life. I've always loved this state's woodsy feel and relaxed attitude. 

Camping in Muskegon

My first visit to Michigan was a Labor Day weekend trip to Muskegon with Mrs. Tires when we first started dating in 2005. Muskegon is not a traditional vacation destination, but it is quite charming, it's close to Chicago and it actually has quite a lot to offer. 

We stayed at the Lake Sch-Neep-A-Ho Campground, a chill area with a man-made lake and lots of room for tents. On our first night there, we sat around the campfire, made s'mores and talked late into the evening. 

A young Mr. and Mrs. Tires
The next day, we made our way to Muskegon State Park, which sits on the shores of Lake Michigan. We chose a trail that would take us through the forest and to the shore of the lake. It was a lovely hike down a mostly flat trail that reminded me a lot of the woods in Maine I used to explore as a kid. 

After a short hike, the trail spit us out at the top of a sand dune overlooking the water. We found a quiet spot on the dune and enjoyed the view while lounging in the sand and then took a delightful sun-soaked nap. 

The view from the dune

A very strange bug

Our perch from down below
Afterwards we hit the town, where we found a home at a local dive bar with $2 beers and a pool table.  

I knew Mrs. Tires was a big roller coaster fan, so on our final day in Muskegon I surprised her with tickets to Michigan Adventures, a marvelous place that is half amusement park and half water park. 

The coasters were classic wooden ones, which were rickety as all get out. While riding them, it seemed we were moving side to side as much as we were moving forward. They were exciting rides, but after a while we tired of being turned into human milk shakes. We changed into our bathing suits and hit the water park, where we spent a long time circling the lazy river. 

Not only did this road trip serve as a wonderful introduction to Michigan, it was also the first time Mrs. Tires and I had traveled together. The amount of joy and laughs that came out of this journey cemented the notion that we'd be doing a lot more traveling together in the future.

Swimming in Paw Paw 

My friend John's family owns a gorgeous lake house on Finch Lake in Paw Paw, Michigan. They have been kind enough to invite us up there several times over the last few years, and each visit has been an absolute blast. We'd spend our days cruising the lake on their party boat, pushing each other off the docks, and floating in the lake on noodles and other floatation devices. At night, we would sit around the campfire on the shoreline, drink, laugh, and occasionally shoot off fireworks. There were also a lot of cribbage tournaments and margaritas.  

During one stay, we took the party boat out late at night and anchored in the middle of the lake. We weren't there two minutes before one of us yelled "skap dank," stripped off his bathing suit and jumped into the water. Others followed almost immediately. Clothes were flying off, and people were diving into the water from all angles. For a moment, we were living our own teen movie. 

Dan was the last to jump in, and when he did, he came up yelling "Oh, shit! My glasses!" He then explained that he forgot to take his glasses off when he jumped in. The teen movie was over. 

We took a few turns trying to swim to the bottom to retrieve them, but it was too dark and the lake was too deep for us to have any chance at getting them back. Dan spent the rest of the weekend blind as a bat.

Performing in Ann Arbor

My first visit to Ann Arbor came in 2006 when my comedy group Dirty Water ventured up there for a gig. We were performing as part of the Michigan Improv and Laugh Festival, also known as MILF. The festival brought in big crowds and was backed by a strong improv community. The venue was a fantastic improv theater that is unfortunately no longer standing.

Dirty Water made a second trip to Ann Arbor for a performance in 2007. That time, we stayed at a friend's place in town. One of the members of the group got separated from us after the show, and this became a problem when it was revealed that he left his phone and wallet with one of us before he disappeared. 

Someone from the theater offered him a ride to his accommodations, but he had no idea where in Ann Arbor we were staying. I'm not sure he ever would have found us if it weren't for our host's odd address.

He remembered us snickering about the name, and that was the only clue he had to use to get back. His generous driver took him down Hiscock (still funny) and eventually he found us.

Ann Arbor is a great town. There is a central area with a lot of restaurants and nightlife, and the surrounding area is filled with small shops, bookstores and cafes. The whole place has a classic, inviting vibe. Essentially, it's the model college town.

Stadium Chasing in Detroit

Mrs. Tires and I made a trip up to Detroit in 2012 to visit our friends Sara and Luis. 

What drew us to Detroit that particular weekend was a game between the Detroit Tigers and my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. Our journey to the park on the first day of our stay started at Nemo's Bar, a cozy sports bar decked out in memorabilia and newspaper clippings relating to Detroit's sports teams. Being immersed in the city's sports history helped prepare us for the game ahead.

From there, we walked to a nearby baseball diamond which happened to be the playing field of the old Tiger Stadium, a historic park in its day before it was demolished in the early 2000s. The field has been preserved and will soon be repurposed for youth baseball. 

Next we made our way to the Tigers' new stadium, Comerica Park. The journey was a bit harsh because I was sporting my team's gear, and this was an unpopular stance in Detroit that day. I always get taunts when I am rooting for the Sox on the road, but Detroit brought the hate the hardest. It was intense, but all in good fun.

At the first entrance to the stadium, we were greeted by some menacing tigers who were eyeballing visitors from their perch atop the gate.

As we circled the stadium, we encountered more tigers. Some were quite menacing looking and intimidating to opposing teams' fans.

Other instances of these tiger sculptures were a bit absurd. Apparently tigers eat baseballs? 

Once inside the park, we were acquainted with the most intense and gigantic of all of the tigers. 

One might say they kinda overdid it with the tigers. 

As we entered the stadium, we encountered one of the extracurricular activities afforded to Tigers fans at Comerica, a food court that centered around a tiger-themed merry-go-round. 

This is one of two rides within the ballpark. The other is a ferris wheel with baseball-shaped pods. 

While there's a lot of fanfare on the perimeter of the stadium, once you reach the field, the park takes on a more industrial, business-like feel. The field features strong angles, and the Detroit skyline acts as the stadium's backdrop. 

We had exceptional weather, especially for Detroit in April. There was a lot of sunshine warming our section, which felt great after a long winter. It was only the second game of the season, and Tigers fans were clearly abuzz over their team's chances that year. Their optimism was fueled by the recent acquisition of Prince Fielder (son of Tigers legend Cecil Fielder) and his pairing with superstar Miguel Cabrera.

We discussed this with the fans behind us as the game began. The group of three Tigers fans we chatted with were actually from Canada and had come down to Detroit specifically for the game. Detroit is close to the Canadian border, so it is not uncommon for Canadians to come down to Detroit for a getaway.

As we chatted, the Tigers started showing their muscle on the field. Fielder and Cabrera each hit home runs.

The Canadians drank heavily as we continued to converse. Eventually they would become obscenely drunk and end up pissing off everyone in the section by saying awful racist and age-ist things. As the section started expressing their displeasure towards the Canadians, the drunk canucks would turn to us for back up. This put us in an awkward position and we eventually had to disassociate with them. They became the only Canadians I have ever met that I didn't like. Eventually security came over and kicked the hosed hosers out of the stadium.

While this was transpiring, the Tigers were continuing their onslaught. Cabrera and Fielder would each hit another home run, and before long it was 10 - 0 Tigers. The score would stand, and the game would serve as an early indication of what was to come for both teams. The Tigers would go on to play in the World Series, and Miguel Cabrera would win the Triple Crown. Meanwhile, the punchless Red Sox would endure one of the most miserable seasons in recent memory and end up in last place.

Despite the obnoxious drunks and the savage beating the Tigers handed the Red Sox, I really enjoyed my visit to Comerica Park. It's certainly feature-rich, and I understand why some might call it overdone. However, there's a lot of fun to be had there, and our visit was certainly an interesting and engaging experience.

We spent the rest of the weekend cruising through Detroit with Sara and Luis. This gave us an intimate look at recession-era Detroit. It wasn't pretty. One minute we would be driving through a wealthy neighborhood, marveling at the huge houses and trying to imagine ourselves with such wealth. Just two blocks away, we'd drive through an impoverished neighborhood that was one of the many victims of the city's economic collapse and try to imagine ourselves in such ruin. The phenomenon of wealthy neighborhoods abutting poor ones exists in many cities, but the extremes were more pronounced in Detroit, mostly because of the state of complete devastation in the poorer neighborhoods. 

The Heidelberg Project tackles the subject of Detroit's economic state head on. Located on Heidelberg Street, this outdoor living art piece is a series of abandoned houses that are now canvases, sporting art and decoration made up of found pieces. It's bold, intriguing, clever and sad, all at the same time.

Here are some of the more striking pieces we saw:

Woven among the many abandoned areas of Detroit were signs of hope. The arts community is thriving there, and some new construction offers a physical sign of rebirth. Hopefully these signs will continue to sprout, and I bet I see a much different Detroit next time I visit.

Skiing in Northern Michigan

My most recent journey to Michigan came in January of 2014, when Mrs. Tires and I made the five and a half hour trek from Chicago to the Crystal Mountain Ski Resort in Northern Michigan, just south of Traverse City. We were itching to get out of town and thought a trip over to Michigan for some ski lodge lounging would provide the break from city life we needed.

A pleasant Friday night drive got us to Crystal Mountain just in time to check in, explore our cozy room and call it a night. 

My theory on skiing is that everyone that tries it winds up in one of two camps. Either they fall in love with it, or they fall on their ass a million times and give it up forever. Mrs. Tires and I are firmly in the latter camp. However, we both had pleasant experiences with cross-country skiing in the past, and thought we'd give it another whirl. That was the plan for Saturday, our only full day at the resort. 

After a quick breakfast, we were outfitted with cross-country skis, boots and poles and were sent on our way. 

We were optimistic as we headed out onto the trail. Little did we know we were in for an epic misadventure. 

The trail started off on fairly flat ground, and we were able to get into a rhythm as we glided over the packed snow. Feeling confident in our abilities, we were undeterred as the terrain started to become hilly.

However, we were soon literally fighting an uphill battle. We had to dramatically change our skiing tactics to make headway as the elevation rose. This took its toll, and soon we were slipping, sliding, falling, and occasionally skiing backwards. This led to a lot of frustration. We swore and struggled as we made our way uphill. We would fall, fight to get ourselves back upright, ski for a moment, and then fall down again. 

Eventually we were able to get our cold, bruised asses to the peak of the hill. Our numb fingers, frost-bitten toes and runny noses made it too. We were able to compose ourselves and take in the scenery at the top of the hill for a while, and that rest gave us some new perspective. We were optimistic about our journey back down the hill. 

The optimism didn't last long. 

Being a hill, the descent involved some skiing that was akin to downhill skiing. Deep parallel tracks were embedded in the trail. Presumably they were there to help cross-country skiers handle the downhill aspect, and when we could keep our skis straight and our balance right, they helped. However, as soon as our balance shifted, the skis would pop out of the track and send us flying. This happened again and again. 

Each fall became more and more frustrating. Whenever we got the feeling we were getting the hang of it, we'd fly off again, sending skis, poles and bodies twisting and tumbling down the hill. Our frustration reduced us to angry, defeated messes. We were yelling obscenities left and right. Having no other choice, we persevered and eventually made it down the hill and back to the trail. We'd have bruises for weeks to remind us of the misadventure. 

Fortunately, there was plenty of lounging ahead to help heal our aching bodies. After gladly returning our skis, we made our way to the outdoor hot tub. It was twenty degrees out at that point, so the mad dash from the changing room to the hot tub was intense, but once we were submerged, it was wonderful. We relaxed, enjoyed the novelty of being warm despite the snowy surroundings, chatted with strangers, and lounged until we pruned. We were nice and relaxed by the time we got out, nearly forgetting the harrowing skiing incident earlier in the day. 

After showering up and changing, we went to the resort's fancy restaurant and bar. We had a reservation, but there was some confusion with it, which resulted in a long wait. While we were annoyed at first, they comped us some drinks and we snagged a spot on a comfy leather couch in front of a fireplace. This turned things around in a hurry. We chatted, laughed and stared at the roaring fire while I sipped a delicious porter and Mrs. Tires enjoyed a glass of wine. We waited almost an hour but didn't mind a bit. 

Dinner was solid (tuna on hot rocks? yes, please) but the wait for the table ended up being the highlight. 

After dinner, we went to the resort's bar, where an entertaining duo played cover tunes. Among their selections was a song by Rodriguez, who had recently been made famous but the documentary Searching for Sugarman. We had seen the film recently and loved it. We sang along and danced for a few hours. 

We made a couple of stops on the way back to our room, one to have a fake skate on their snowed over ice skating rink, and another to check out their their convenience store, where we challenged each other to find the strangest junk food they offered. We ended up with shredded beef jerky that's supposed to imitate smokeless tobacco. The flavor was as disgusting as the concept!

The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast at the resort's restaurant and then hit the road. It snowed the night before, so Michigan was covered in a fresh blanket. It made for a lovely cruise. 

On the way back, we made a stop at the New Holland Brewery's Pub in New Holland, Michigan. I am a big fan of their Edgar Allen Poe-inspired "The Poet" Oatmeal Stout, and was looking forward to trying their other offerings. To no surprise, they were wonderful. The beer flights came with generous pours and a lot of options, most of which were outstanding. Mrs. Tires delighted in her first "beer float," which was basically a root beer float incorporating a tasty New Holland stout instead of root beer. The brewpub was generic but still charming, and the food was pretty good too. Overall it was a worthy stop and a fine ending to another trip to Pure Michigan. 

Must See in Michigan:
  • Comerica Park 
  • Ann Arbor
  • The Heidelberg Project 

Check it Out:
  • Muskegon State Park 
  • New Holland Brewery 
  • Crystal Mountain Resort
  • Michigan Adventures Amusement Park

Skip It: 
  • Cross country skiing in Northern Michigan