Our Michigan Travels - Who we are and why we do it

Greetings everyone and welcome to our blog!

Hello, we are Jerrod and Shana. I’m 46 years old and she’s…um…a few years younger. HA!! We currently live in Grand Blanc Michigan. Both of us are born and raised in Michigan. We love craft beers and ciders, wine, a good bourbon or whiskey, a good cigar and pipe, great coffee and coffee shops, cider mills, the beach, the fall season and of course, traveling…especially throughout the great and wonderful state of Michigan. These are our stories and adventures about our trips.

Everyone has their own opinions of course, so please feel free to express yours at the end of each blog section under ‘comments’. We look forward to them. Feel free to email us at jsmelker@hotmail.com. That being said, lets go…

Website: OurMichiganTravels.com
Check out the Facebook page: Our Michigan Travels

"Enjoying Every Mile of It!"

Oh...one more little thing...the disclaimer:


The author accepts no liability for any injuries, damage or incidents resulting from the materials, attitudes, advice, and information presented or implied in this blog. Readers and participants accept all responsibility for his or her actions. Products or people mentioned in this book are not under any contract, are not paying any advertisement fees and are only mentioned as information unless specifically reported. Any product, company names or photographs mentioned or shown are protected by copyright or trademark. Information in this blog should not take the place of any valid legal advice.

This blog and its contents may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the express written consent of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2016 Jerrod S. Smelker

Friday, September 8, 2017

Fall is HERE!

With September the start of fall (for me at least) I am getting super excited about all things that encompass the best season; changing leaves, cool breezes, crock pot chilly, sweatshirts and flannel shirts, hot cocoa and flavored coffee on the porch, Halloween (my favorite holiday), our annual fall trip up to the Petoskey/Harbor Springs area and yes…pumpkin spice everything! HA!!

I really do plan to finish the Part 3 of the Honeymoon story
ASAP, but I keep getting pulled in so many other ‘Writing’ directions. I’ve been writing a lot of short stories and books along with trying to snag a few freelance writing gigs with various Michigan magazines and websites. Fall really does seem to give my writing a Turbo Boost for some reason. I don’t fight it…I take inspiration when and where I can get it, because sometimes there are dry spells or ‘Writers Block’ that truly does happen.

Well, we are taking a trip in mid-October to Charlevoix for their Apple Fest, then to Petoskey for the Friday the 13th Ghost Walk, and then to Harbor Springs for the drive up M119 Tunnel of Trees. We will of course be making stops at some of our favorite places such as Tom’s Mom’s Cookies for the best cookies on the planet, Roast & Toast for coffee, Duffy’s Garage for delish pizza, and Legs Inn for some Polish food. We’ll take lots of photos along the shore lines, the beaches, the parks and scenic views. 
...And according to the fall color map (MLive) it looks like we’ll be there at just the right time.

I’ll certainly post about our trip and we’ll share lots of photos on our Facebook page. As always, be sure to share with friends and family. We thank you and appreciate it!

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Michigan Honeymoon – Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Part 2 of 3 (it’s a tad long…happy reading). Hopefully you’ve read Part 1, otherwise you may be lost. Lucky for you, you can look through the past posts and find Part 1 if need be. We ended Part 1 driving towards our main goal of the honeymoon; Munising. I had never been to Munising before and Shana had, but it had been quite some time ago. We were excited to experience it together and we were certainly looking forward to seeing Pictured Rocks and going on the boat tour…Mother Nature in October however would have other plans for us.

Munising – “A regular normal town”

We arrived in Munising around lunch time. I commented to Shana as we drove into town that it reminded me of the small Washington town in the movie Dante’s Peak….ah, but without the giant erupting volcano in the background...thankfully. Munising was a quaint town set in somewhat of a valley with the great Lake Superior on one side and steep hills on the other. It had some of your typical small town Michigan retail shops and businesses, although it didn’t seem to have the major souvenir type stores like you find in many shoreline areas. That was actually kind of refreshing. In fact, the town really didn’t look like any type of typical travel destination. It looked like a regular normal town.

As we were looking at Trip Advisor for a place to have lunch, Shana received a phone call from the booking agent at the boat tours. Remember when I said Mother Nature had other plans for us? Well, due to the weather; windy and cold, the tour was canceled. The water was too choppy for a boat ride. Hmmm…crap! We were a bit bummed because we were really looking forward to the tour. Well, there was always tomorrow. Right?

The reviews on Falling Rock Café and Bookstore looked pretty good for lunch, so we decided to stop in. The place is unique and quaint. It’s like an old fashion sandwich shop meets small town library/book store. It was clean with very friendly staff. The menu looked like they had a lot of soups and sandwiches along ice creams and different hot cocoas and coffees. We just got a few deli sandwiches and coffee and it was all very good.

Miners Waterfall and Miners Castle – “Pretty sure it’s only a half mile”

Pictured Rocks - prob looks familiar
With bellies full, no boat tour in our afternoon plans, and unable to check into the hotel until after 4:00pm, we decided to check out one of the many waterfalls and overlooks Munising has to offer. We headed out of town in search of Miners Waterfall and Miners Castle overlook.

Let me just say that finding this waterfall and overlook, was a bit harder than expected. We tried to get its exact location on our phone maps, but I’m here to say…cell phone service in the U.P. is sketchy at best. So we drove in the direction where the signs pointed…and we drove, and we drove. We back-tracked a few times because we thought perhaps we missed a road or two. We went down dirt roads deeper and deeper into the woods and we thought either we would eventually find the waterfall, or we would drive right into Lake Superior. Luckily, we finally found it. Vehicle in the water averted.

We exited our vehicle, stretched and smelled the crisp cool air. The parking area was nice, clean, quiet and well maintained. There were only a few vehicles there and no people to be seen. “How far to this waterfall” I asked my wife. “Pretty sure it’s only a half mile” she stated. Well, that’s not too bad I thought. Surely I can handle a half mile walk in the wilderness. I mean, it’s probably a well maintained trail with lots of people and stops along the way. Right?

The trail was indeed well maintained except for the few tree roots that I swear reached out and grabbed my foot a few times. There were benches along the way in case we needed to stop…which we did a few times. The trees and leaves were absolutely beautiful.  Multiple colors surrounded us and it was like being in another world. We snapped a few photos as we made our way to the waterfall.

I’m not sure how far we walked, but it seemed way more than a half mile. The further we walked the tad creepier it felt. I realized that we were deep in the woods and I had no type of weapon on me except for a folding knife. I kept thinking about and looking around for bears, mountain lions, and even Bigfoot. Hey, it could happen! Luckily for us, all we found was the amazing waterfall. The Miner waterfall was indeed worth the trek through the wilderness. Extremely beautiful and picturesque. We took lots of photos and soaked in the peaceful feelings.

Welcome to Christmas…wait…what?

Munising is a great town, but one thing it does seem to lack, is various options for dinner. We clicked on our trusty Trip Advisor phone app and searched for a good place for dinner. One that came up was Foggy’s a few miles down the road in…Christmas. We both looked at each other with a bewildered look on our faces and at the same time said, “Christmas?”
Yes, there is a very small town in the U.P. called Christmas (population about 400 people) and yes there are houses and businesses that have Christmas decoration up all year long. The town, if you will, is basically just homes and business along Route 28, about 4 miles West of Munising. One of those businesses, Foggy’s, was a good place to eat and get a drink according to Trip Advisor. So, we decided to see what it had to offer.

At first, when we pulled up to Foggy’s, we thought it was closed, which we thought was odd being that we were there right around dinner time. We then thought that because it was the third week of October, perhaps it was closed for the season. However the neon “Open” sign was indeed flashing. We sat in the parking lot for about 10 minutes wondering if we should go inside. It’s like, yeah you want to experience new things, but at the same time you have a slight fear for you own well-being. Well, we were being ridiculous, so we went inside…and we’re glad we did.

From outside Foggy’s looks like any old bar, but inside, the place looks like any old bar. Wait, I should say when you first walk in it looks like any old bar, but then the building goes on forever. On the other side of the bar wall was the dining room and bowling alley. It was huge. The décor was typical bar type stuff like beer signs and beer mirrors, but they were also decorated for Halloween. The bar itself was quite large and superbly stocked with just about anything you could want.

Since there were only us, a few people sitting at the bar and the staff, we decided to grab a small table in the bar next to the pool tables. Our hopes for a great dinner at a remote bar were not high…but we were proven wrong. I ordered a Black and Blue burger with “Crack Bacon” on it and it was probably the best bacon I have ever tasted. It was very thick and had some kind of honey maple glaze on it. The burger was amazing. Shana ordered a steak sandwich that was very good. Our server (Nick) was extremely friendly and attentive (he actually reminded us of our older son Jake). When he found out we were on our honeymoon, he quickly ran to the bar, grabbed two shot glasses and poured us a shot of bourbon whiskey…on the house. Nice! It was a good time and great meal at Foggy’s. When we are in the area again, we will certainly stop again.

The Hotel – Amazing Views

A short drive back towards Munising, just outside of town, and we were at the hotel. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express Munising and it was beautiful (You may have noticed we stay at a lot of Holiday Inn Express hotels…it’s because they have Keurig coffee makers…simple. HA!!). It sat atop a large hill and honestly to me, it was like the Great Wolf Lodge meets the Bates Motel. That last part probably sounds bad. Okay, okay, let me explain. It’s not really as bad as it may sound. The hotel really was beautiful. You see, the building entrance was made of stunning wood logs, beams and rocks that gave it a nice log cabin feel or Great Wolf Lodge feel. The fact that it was atop a large hill reminded me of the Bates Motel…oh and the creepy abandoned building just to the left of it. Yeah, that building was super creepy. It gave the appearance that it was most likely filled with ghosts, demons, zombie gnomes and spiders…large, man-eating spiders. Hopefully it’s not there anymore. If it is…just don’t look, look away.

Once inside (and safe from…you know) we checked into our room, unpacked and relaxed. The view from our window and balcony was breath-taking. The balcony was extremely large. It could probably fit 6-8 people on it comfortably. Much bigger than any other balcony we’ve seen in a hotel. The view was overlooking the bay and Lake Superior. There were dozens of different colored leaves dotting the landscape and although it was a bit cloudy, the sky was striking. We stood there for quite some time, just taking it all in and appreciating the moment. The room was very nice and the entire hotel was clean and fairly quiet. We walked around the hotel lobby and checked out the pool, hot tub and the lounge area. Even the view from the lounge was superb. (There are over 200 photos of the hotel, rooms and scenery on Trip Advisor, I recommend checking them out).

Now the boat tour…right?

Day two we awoke to another glorious October day…and by that, I mean gray, gloomy, cold, windy…but still beautiful with all the fall colors. We showered, dressed and joined other guests in the hotel breakfast and lobby area. As I stated before, the view from the breakfast area was superb. We would have loved to have been able to sit out on the outside porch area, but the weather would not allow for that. We made the best of it, enjoyed our delish breakfast and multiple cups of coffee, and then planned our day. In our hearts we knew that a boat tour on day two was probably not in the card for us (and a call to the boat tour business later confirmed it…no boat ride today. Bummer), so instead we decided to make the best of what the Munising area had to offer…and went waterfall hunting!
Bagels! Yummy!
But first, more food. We made a pre-waterfall hunt stop to Bay Furnace Bagel Works

This is by far one of the best places to stop while in Munising. They have dozens of different flavored bagels to choose from; sweet and fruity to salty and spicy. The coffee was also great and fresh. The manager, Amie Nolan, was extremely friendly and helpful. In fact when we talked to her, we found out she grew up not far from us in the Lansing area. We talked to her at length about all of the great places and things to see in the area. She showed us a map where all of the waterfalls were located. Definitely a must stop place and we will certainly be back when we are in the U.P. again.

Waterfalls, More Waterfalls and…food poisoning?

With bagels and coffee in hand, the quest began. We spent the entire day going from one waterfall to another. Some were right next to the road and some took a bit of walking through the woods. The nice thing though about seeing them in October…not crowded and no bugs! Bonus! We didn’t even see all of the waterfalls the Munising area had to offer, but that’s good, we’ll have those to look forward to next time we are in the area.

After a long day of gazing at all of the wonderful waterfalls, we decided it was time for dinner. Not a lot to choose from in Munising for dinner, which I found odd. Anyway, we settled on the 387 Restaurant. It was a family type place. Kind of reminded me of a remodeled Ryan’s or an old folk’s restaurant (Sorry, not picking on old folks here). It was pretty quiet in the place except for the staff in the back…not sure what was going on, but it sounded crazy. Maybe they were blowing off steam and having some fun. Who knows? I ordered the perch dinner and I’m not 100% sure, but I think I had a touch of food poisoning or something that night. Not blaming the restaurant…it could happen anywhere. Bad fish…bad, bad fish. Heck the reason I got the fish in the first place was because I figured a restaurant in a coastal town would have the best fish…and yet, there I was, not feeling good at all. Uhgggg…I don’t feel so good. No dessert for me. I just wanted to head to the hotel and get into bed.

Some awesome photos of our waterfall excursion (courtesy of Shana)

Beautiful walkway to the falls

Scenic overlook near the hotel

…and Finally

One thing about Munising is the care they take with their parks, natural wonders and town. There was no trash to be seen anywhere, not even along the roads…in fact; there were no dead animals along the roads either. You can tell those who live in Munising, love Munising and have great pride for what they have. The attractions are not just the Pictured Rocks everyone talks about, but the rich scenic views, the abundance of majestic waterfalls, the friendly people and quaint neighborhoods. We will certainly be back in Munising within the next few years and I encourage everyone to visit at some point.

Thanks for reading Part 2 of 3. Next will be the last few days in the Petoskey area.

Part 3 of 3 coming soon…

Perhaps I’ll try to get it done before our first weeding anniversary Oct 1st. HA!!

NOTE: The photos included in the blogs are from Shana and can soon be purchased at our site www.OurMichiganTravels.com

Enjoying every mile of it!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Cupcakes and Kisses – Holly Michigan

If you’re like me, you have a somewhat uncontrollable sweet tooth issue and a love for socializing while being out and about in this great state. I can assure you that every town we visit, whether it’s one mile away or 100 miles away, we learn very quickly where the coffee shops are and where to get sweet treats. I admit fully that I have a sweet tooth whereas Shana on the other hand…well, she loves her sweets as well, but I don’t think she ever admitted to a sweet tooth issue like mine.  Either way, we found a gem of a dessert business to quench our sweets issue in the wonderful town of Holly Michigan.

Shana and I live about 15-20 minutes from Holly and we are there about 3-5 times a month at another favorite of ours for dinner; Blackthorn Pub. The food there is excellent, service always good and friendly and they have lots of great Michigan beers on tap. Now, don’t get me wrong, they have a fantastic bread pudding dessert there, but on this trip, we decided to go across the street for dessert, to Cupcakes and Kisses.

August 4th, 2017 was a Friday night and the wife and I, along with another couple, stopped in to Cupcakes and Kisses for dessert. We had been there before, but wanted to introduce our friends to the place knowing they would enjoy it as well. The inside is uniquely rusticated with lots of barn wood on the walls, old window frames hanging as photo frames, wall sconces that look like old lanterns and tables made of old home radiators instead of normal legs. There’s a cozy seating area in the corner with leather chairs and an old fireplace mantle made of barn beams. The place is oozing with lots of charm and is quite welcoming (That’s the first time I’ve used the word “oozing” in my blogs…felt kind of good). Shana calls it vintage eclectic….I like it.  

We were greeted right away by Ashley Surre and Stephanie Fraser, whom were extremely friendly and a lot of fun to talk to. You could tell that although they were not the owners, they had a passion and love for what they do, the business and the people. They showed us all the variations and flavors of cupcakes available as well as the small cheesecakes, cakes, pies, cinnamon rolls, cookies and so on. I’m not going to lie…as they were talking…I was drooling a little. And I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to pick just one thing. Nope. No way.

We ordered a small peanut butter cheese cake, small Snicker’s cheese cake and a few cupcakes…all which were outstanding! So rich, creamy and delish! (and no, I didn’t eat them all that night…I saved some for the next day). Ashley made our desserts fresh right there while we waited. They were also nice enough to make us fresh decaf coffee to enjoy with our sweet treats.

Cupcakes and Kisses make all of their goodies from scratch using real ingredients. And not only do they make and serve baked goods, they also have lots of flavors of hand dipped Michigan made ice cream. They also have a rewards type program, where if you purchase 20 items, you get 6 cupcakes of your choice absolutely free! That is outstanding! …and we’re only about 10 points away.

We can’t say enough good things about Ashley, Stephanie and Cupcakes and Kisses. A wonderful place with top-notch delish items. We will certainly be back again soon. Check them out on Facebook or better yet, drive to historic downtown Holly and experience deliciousness for yourself...and get the help needed for that out of control sweet tooth! Tell’m Our Michigan Travels says Hi! 

Enjoying every mile of it! 😎

Monday, July 31, 2017

Friends and family I am overly excited to announce that ‘Our Michigan Travels’ now has an awesome website!! YAY!! The site is just beginning and will soon have lots of photos and videos of trips throughout Michigan, where we’ve been and where we’re going and of course the OMT Blog. 

And soon, we will have items for sale such as OMT t-shirts, hats, and stickers as well as Michigan woodworking and craft items. All things Michigan! YEAH!!

Please! Please! Share with your friends and family to show your love for this great state and help OMT grow! Share your own MI travel stories on our Facebook page.

We also have a new logo and business cards! YES!!

Tell us what you think!

"Enjoying every mile of it!"

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Thumb, the Wonderful Thumb!

The Thumb…Michigan just wouldn’t be Michigan without it. It gives our great state that signature mitten shape. I think that those who live in the thumb area know how special it is, but I would venture a guess that to those who have never been there, would be in for a pleasant surprise. It has miles and miles of gorgeous Lake Huron coast line dotted with a dozen quaint small coastal towns. It has lots of great restaurants, retail shopping, parks, lighthouses, festivals, and super nice Michiganders.

Saturday, July 8th, 2017 Shana and I decided it was time to make another trip to the thumb area. We had been there two years prior and we were itching to visit again. Until about 2 years ago, I’ll admit, I had never been to the thumb area. Shame on me…I know. Hey, it only took me 44 years. Had I not met my wife, it may have taken me 50 years to finally visit this wonderful East side. I am grateful to her for showing me the way. For showing me there is more to Michigan than just great places up north and on the West side.

Our trip started heading North East through Caro, Cass City, Bad Axe, Kinde and into Port Austin. The weather could not have been more perfect with partly cloudy, mostly sunny skies and temps in the 70’s. Taking the main back roads instead of the freeways made for a pleasant drive with a low volume of traffic and sights to see (I always love the back roads, she likes the freeways…but that’s another story. HA!). One thing that surprised me about the thumb area (well there are plenty of things, but this one sticks out) is how many farms and fields there are. I never realized what an agricultural area it really was. Honestly I don’t know what I was expecting, but it really wasn’t farm land. We even had the pleasure of smelling the farm land a few times (Yes, that was sarcasm).

Port Austin

Although technically our trip should have started in Bay City or Bay Port, our trip really began at the top of the thumb in Port Austin. This is a great little town with a nice beach, walking pier, retail stores, marina, park, condos, rental cabins and some nice restaurants. Although we would have liked to have visited multiple places while there, we only had time to walk the pier and have some lunch.

We ate lunch at The Bank 1884. It’s a great place that was indeed a town bank at one time. It had lots of exposed brick, hardwood floors and old timey black and white photos adorning the walls…even in the restrooms. We ate outside because of the beautiful weather and enjoyed watching people scoot around town (there was a farmers market going on that day). I ordered the Chicken Salad sandwich with chips and the wife ordered the ham, cheese and pineapple Panini…all were extremely good.

After lunch we went to the beach area, and then walked along the pier. The beach and park area were not crowded at all. They even have this metal human shaped art piece by the beach where people can place padlocks. “Padlocks of Love”. It’s a thing, you’d have to look it up. We will certainly be back to Port Austin to try the coffee place, beer place and to spend some time on the beach.

Once we left Port Austin, we were on M25 the rest of the trip heading South East. Now, I have an M119 sticker on my car (Just North of Petoskey; Lake Shore Drive…Tunnel of Trees, Harbor Springs, Good Hart, Cross Village, Legs Inn) and I love it. And if there’s an M25 sticker out there somewhere…I will get it and proudly stick it on my car.

Grindstone City and Pointe Aux Barques Lighthouse

Not far from Port Austin, to the East, is Grindstone City. It’s strange that it’s called a city, because…well, there’s not much there. However, what is there, is charming. On this trip we visited Rybak’s Ice Cream Store for some much needed ice cream. Yes, I said much needed. What? It is a delightful place that looks like an old general store built back in the late 1800’s. It still had the original brick, hard wood flooring, huge porch and even an iron pot belly stove. They even had large black and white photos on the wall of the Grindstone people in the 1800’s. If you’re a history buff like I am, you’ll love it. We sat on the porch enjoying our ice cream, the view and the peace and quiet. Oh yeah, I got Tennessee Toffee and Shana got Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream. Both in waffle cones and both delicious.

When we were there two years ago, we stopped at the Grindstone General Store, just down the road. And yes, it was for ice cream also. The General Store was also a very nice place with very large servings of ice cream and friendly people. It’s kind of funny that basically in the middle of nowhere are these two ice cream places. It’s certainly worth it if you’re in the area.

The Pointe Aux Barques lighthouse is a great place to stop, rest, relax and get some good photos. We stopped to test out Shana’s new camera with shots of beautiful Lake Huron, the lighthouse and grounds. Not only is there a lighthouse, but there is a campground area next door. It looks like a great place to camp and I’m assuming (because I’ve never camped there) that the sunrise is spectacular. One day we hope to camp there and find out for ourselves.

Back on the road we drove through more quaint towns; Port Hope, Harbor Beach, Forestville, and Port Sanilac. We wanted to stop and spend some quality time in these towns, but our final destination was Lexington for dinner and it was already late in the afternoon. We hope to go back in the fall to a few of these towns to see what they have to offer. We did stop at one of the pleasant rest stops along the way. It had a high overlook of the lake and some nice picnic table areas.


Another attractive coastal town, Lexington is quite a gem. It is larger than the other towns we had visited that day. It has a wonderful downtown area with retail shops, restaurants, a brewery, and ice cream shops. Before grabbing a bite to eat we wandered down to the waterfront marina and park. The place was hopp’n that day because they were having a concert in the park. There were a lot of people around. This trip was very different than two years ago when the place was quiet with very few people around. Quiet or busy, Lexington is a great town.

The plan was to have dinner at The Windjammer, but it was quite busy, so we decided to try Sweetwater instead. This was a nice place and the pizza and breadsticks we had were very good. The pizza dough was more like fresh baked bread and the breadsticks had lots of cheese and flavor. After dinner, it was getting late, so we decided to head back home.

One final note of our trip; as we were driving from Lexington East towards I-69 (yes, I gave in to taking the highway going home), we spotted an enormous bald eagle soaring out of a tree and flying right in front of us. The wingspan must have been at least 6 feet long. It was stunning to see. So majestic and beautiful. That is certainly something we don’t see every day, so when we do, it’s a big deal. It was just the thing to cap off a wonderful trip.

In our opinion the thumb area should be a travel destination for anyone, especially those in Michigan from the North or West side. If you’ve never been there, you owe it to yourself to at least visit one time. Come and see what the East side has to offer I'm certain you will like what you find…and I’m willing to bet that you’ll be back.

“Enjoying Every Mile Of It!” 😊

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Why do we do what we do?…or What’s our goal with all of this?

When I started the “Our Michigan Travel” blog a few years ago, the goal was pretty simple; just write about the places we go, the things we see, the people we meet and the things we do. Simple enough, right? Well, the goal is still pretty much the same, but now, the new goal (in my opinion, maybe not so much the wife’s) has changed and gotten…what’s a good word here…loftier, I would say. But I would also say that the “loftier” aspect of the goal is still in the future. Perhaps call it “The Five Year Plan”, which I will explain at the end.

First and foremost, the goal or purpose for my wife and I is to travel the entire state of Michigan before we die and to visit each town and city. Now some would say that is quite the lofty part of it...and it is for certain. The reality of completing this goal is more than likely a delusion or pipedream as some would say.  Sure, but we are going to give it our best shot.  If we were well off and didn’t have to have jobs, well, then we may just have the time to do it. Unfortunately, for now, until we win the lotto or we retire, we will make the best of the days off we have together.

Second, while traveling to and from these cities and towns, we plan to take amazing photos of beautiful, weird and wondrous things. Our brains and memory is not what it used to be (hey, we’re not in our 20s anymore), so we take as many photos as we can to help jog that memory if need be. It’s always nice to go somewhere and be able to capture a moment, a building, or a scene and reminisce about it later. Photos capture moments in time (I know that sounds corny and cliché, but it’s true). Also, it is our plan to sell some of our photos within our side business. We figure perhaps others would love the beauty we are able to capture on our trips.  

Thirdly, we want to embrace the communities, the people, the festivals, the restaurants, the quant shops and so on. That’s what makes these Michigan towns what they are; the people and what they do. It is extremely pleasing to visit towns that embrace their heritage and history. They cherish the town and celebrate with fairs, festivals and parades. They decorate the streets and show off what they have and have done to the locals and those who visit. The little Mom and Pop stores that remind you of better days and slower times are what make these communities special. It’s always interesting to see what other towns do to share their pride with others.

Forth, because we love our travels and believe that Michigan has so much to offer we want to share the experiences with friends, family and our Michigan readers. Many of our friends and family are like us; born and raised in Michigan and yet there’s so much of it we’ve never seen or experienced. We talk to each other about certain places and things to see and do. It seems almost always, we end up sharing information that the others have never done and vice versa. It’s only natural that if you love something to share it with others. And if they don’t love it too, then you drop them as friends. HA!! Okay, just kidding.  

Fifth, we wanted to inform and entice non-Michigander people to come to Michigan and enjoy what the state has to offer. The only way for out-of-state people to become educated about the wonderful aspects of Michigan is to get the information out there. People are lucky enough these days with the Internet and having plenty of information available to them. If we can do our small part with the blog, then we are happy to do so. We hope that those from Florida, Texas, New York or any other state will visit and have a grand experience.

Sixth, this one is simple and more important to us. We write the blog to help create a timeline or documentation for us to read 10 or 20 years from now. As I said, we’re not in our 20s anymore and the ol brain doesn’t retain things like it used to. Even a month or so after a trip we have a hard time remembering exactly what we did (So, yes, when we go on our little excursions, I take notes and she takes photographs). The blog will also be great for our kids and grandkids to read someday. I know I desperately wish there were documents and more photos of the adventures and trips my parents and grandparents took. I would love to see and read about what they were like and what they did.

The Five Year Plan (or hopefully the 1-2 year plan)

With any written document, book, article…or blog, the key is to get it out to the public. This process takes time, effort and usually money. Yes things like Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media are important, as is word of mouth, but sometimes you need more. And, sometimes you may want a simple blog to turn into something grandioso (you know; something much bigger than it is). A cake maker may start out making free modest cupcakes for family and friends and within a few years is now making luxurious 5 tier wedding cakes at a whopping $2500! Or let’s say the weekend fisherman with a canoe, a pole and a few lures who starts fishing as a hobby and now runs a fishing guide company full time with booked weekends, a lodge and five employees.

So what am I getting at…Right? What I would love to see happen with this blog is it turns into a full blown business with books, a magazine, merchandise, and so on. I realize that there are a few Michigan magazines and books out there already…all great in their own way, but it can’t hurt to have a few more. Right? Now, currently I don’t have all the answers, the figures, the money, and so on, but that’s why I call it the five year plan. My hope is that within two to five years this tiny blog turns into something much more. Fingers crossed. We shall see. And hey, if not, well, I’ll just keep on plugging away at blog posts, sharing our stories of travel and adventure through the wonderful state of Michigan.

I will ask this of all our readers…please, please share this blog, the Facebook page and the soon to be published website (coming in a week or so) with all of your family and friends. Feel free to share your stories of traveling across the great state of Michigan. We all want to hear your stories as well.

Thank You!
Jerrod & Shana Smelker
Your “Our Michigan Travels” Tour Guides

FACEBOOK - https://www.facebook.com/OurMichiganTravels/?ref=bookmarks

WEBSITE – OurMichiganTravels.com

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Michigan Book and Michigan Author

Taking a slight break from my “Michigan Honeymoon Part 2” story (Yes, it’s coming soon), I wanted to write a quick post about a book I purchased over the weekend and the author. Being a blog about traveling this great state, I thought this post would fit right in perfectly.

Last weekend I took my kids to our local Barnes and Noble store for a few books. It’s easy to spend an hour or two in that place…along with a big chunk of change. Not only did I purchase a few books for myself and the kids, but I needed a bookmark…and no ordinary bookmark would do. So I found a little gem of one…BACON! HA!! (sadly it does not smell like bacon…oh well)

One section I visit every time I am at any brick and mortar bookstore is the…can you guess? Yes, the Michigan section. Seeing lots of books about Michigan and from Michigan authors just gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling. Why? Because, one, I like to support Michigan businesses, business people and Michigan products. To me, there is no better Michigan product than a Michigan writer writing about Michigan. And two, someday, hopefully soon, I (well, my books) will be in that very section. More on that in other posts.

I had heard on the radio earlier in the week about a Michigander who had written a few books about traveling Michigan. I was intrigued by the description of the books and was surprised to hear that the author spent a few childhood years in my old home town of Ionia. After hearing this, I thought: I’ve got to get one of the books and I have to meet this author. So…

I purchased “Backroads and Byways of Michigan” by author Matt Forster (second edition, 2014). The book has great chapters on many of Michigan’s towns (Lower Peninsula and the U.P.) including photos and things to see and do. There are also maps of the routes taken and some great historical information on each location. It is a great read. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy the history and if you’ve traveled the state at all, you’ll catch yourself saying, “Hey I’ve been there.” Or “I never knew that was there.”

A few days later I got in touch with Matt and he was gracious enough to meet me for coffee and conversation. Right off the bat I can tell you that he is a very nice and down to earth guy who, I found out, I have a lot in common with. As a youngster he used to live near my uncle and coincidentally, Matt looks and acts a lot like him. I thought that was cool. Matt and I talked for about an hour and I’m certain we will be talking again soon.  

I highly recommend purchasing “Backroads and Byways of Michigan” and the other books Matt has published.  His new book “Michigan’s Nature Centers and Wilderness Preserves” is out now and I’ll be purchasing that one soon.

Find Matt and some of his great books at www.big-words.net or at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble.