Greatest hits around Burlington VT – nearby Waterbury, Duxbury, Waitsfield

Gorgeous fall weather here in Burlington where we are visiting my cousin who lives in the “new north end” by the shoreline of Lake Champlain, with spectacular views, a sandy beach you get to though a staircase in the woods, and a shady greenbelt bike path that unfortunately we didn’t have time to ride. Next trip.

Lake Champlain

We visited some fun hipster drinking spots including St. John’s Club, a private drinking spot, with a back lawn overlooking the lake, and dinner at Burlington Brewery (burgers, salads, a Mexican stew). Breakfast was Montreal-style bagels (chewier than US style) at Myer’s, including good breakfast sandwiches (ex: scrambled eggs, cheddar, sausage). It’s in a former warehouse district along the water that’s turned into arty shops and restaurants.

About a half hour east in the hamlet of Duxbury, tucked into the tree-carpeted hills is Moose Meadow Lodge, run by family friends. It’s a sophisticated but cozy contemporary log-made lodge high on a wooded hilltop with amazing views and rooms with handmade, one-of a-kind bent twig furniture, petrified wood sinks, and decorated with weathered snowshoes, ancient sleds and taxidermies mounted on the walls. Even the refrigerator and dishwasher are camouflaged in birchbark and bent twigs. Behind the lodge is the treehouse, a dreamy two stories, electrified with a fabulous outdoor bathroom/shower in the woods overlooking a gentle pond.

At Leunig’s
A Moose Meadow view
Waitsfield, VT
Duxbury

In nearby Waterbury, we had excellent nachos with chunks of barbecued brisket and Vermont cheddar on the dog friendly patio of Prohibiton Pig Brewery, aka Pro Pig. In the sweet smaller town of Wainsfield, we visited the covered bridge, the Vermont Artisans Store (the art and crafts here are good quality but pricey) and a little outdoor cafe, The Sweet Spot, in a pretty rock garden beside a sun-dappled stream flowing under the covered bridge. Classic Vermont. The leaves are starting to change, with a few reds and oranges and purples. In another week or so, they should be a full spectacle. We didn’t have time to visit another small town, Warren. Next trip!

Dinner with old friends who live in Burlington was fun at Leunig’s, an old fashioned “Burlington institution” specializing in steak frites and beef Bourgignon. As we were walking there, along the pedestrian mall I spotted a local celebrity…”Mrs. Bernie” (Bernie Sanders’ wife Jane.)

Moose Meadow lodge treehouse

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Speculator and Lake George NY – Adirondack ps at last

Finally made it to the Adirondacks! They have beckoned from the nearby Finger Lakes of Central NY but we could never detach from Ithaca long enough to visit. They started in earnest about 3 hours northeast of Ithaca, about 2 hours after Syracuse and I’m still trying to pinpoint what makes this region feel so different than the Finger lakes. More rugged, dense woods, dark wood and log cabins, sparkling lakes with the beach at road level. Ithaca is more bucolic farms and pastures high surrounded by wooded hills, above the deep narrow finger lakes, old gingerbread farm houses made of brick or stone, tidy farmsteads.

We stopped briefly in the rugged resort Adirondacks town in Speculator (gotta love that name) where we found a gorgeous little public park beside a small lake, dotted with yes, heavy wood log Adirondacks chairs and benches. (The real deal, not plastic knockoffs.) the park was named after the boxer Gene Tunney who had a trading camp in town.

Lake George

We found a rustic mini mart with a long line for the one bathroom. I asked the bored looking clerk if there was another option and voila, we were at public bathrooms (line-free) a half block away. The leaves were far more colorful, with splashes of red and orange and purple. The roads we drive on to get to vermont were so backwoods that I checked my google maps to make sure it wasn’t set on “no highways.” There simply weren’t any or many.

Adirondacks beach (speculator, NY)
Bolton Landing, Lake George
Gene Tunney Park, Speculator, NY

On the way back to Ithaca, we drove backroads along the western shore of Lake George which was lovely and rustic…until we got to the resort town of Lake George, which was over touristed. Then we drove diagonally south east, stopping briefly in the pretty college town of Cazenovia. We met Myra and Mike at Salt Point Brewery which was having an October fest celebration, with outdoor dining, a band, beer, pizza, brats and an amazing sunset.

Salt point brewery, Lansing NY

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Sew Green, Taughannock hike with dog, Aurora Brewing Co. — in and around Ithaca

Rain prompted us to visit the Ithaca Commons where we discovered that Sew Green, which sells gently used Eileen Fisher clothing, has moved about a block east into a smaller space on Greene Street. There is a smaller but still good selection. We had a little snack nearby of savory hand-baked pies at Mama Said, then onto Taughannock Falls state park where there was no problem taking Millie, our dog, on a hike along the north and south rim trails.

Small savory pies
Millie at Taughannock

Tonight we had a dinner of sandwiches and beer flights at Aurora Brewing Company, sitting outside on a chilly grey early evening so Millie could join us. We had a fabulous view looking across a green pasture and vineyards at Cayuga Lake in the distance and the hills rising up beyond.

Aurora Brewery

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Ithaca with a dog (and friends) – Treman Park, Watkins Glen, FingerLakes Cider House, Ithaca farmers market

This is our sweet pup Millie’s first trip to Ithaca and we assumed it was a dog friendly place. Generally it has been…with some surprises. No dogs allowed inside The Ithaca Farmers Market’s open air pavilion, although that didn’t deter the occasional Ithaca iconoclast. I get that it can get too crowded. And dogs can hang out outside the pavilion, for what that’s worth. Still, really?

Millie NOT on the gorge trail at Watkins Glen

At our favorite gorge-ous park, Treman, no problem bringing a dog although it can get a little tricky navigating the steps and narrow stone ledges overlooking the deep gorge and waterfalls with a four-legged friend (on a leash, of course.) We did our usual trick and parked one car at lower Treman and drove up to upper Treman and parked the second car, then hiked one way, the easy way, down from upper to lower.

Millie at “upper Treman”

The very popular Watkins Glen Park was packed with visitors (far more than our little secret, Treman) and we learned from the ranger at the entrance booth that dogs can’t go on the gorge trail…only the rim trail high above the gorge in the woods, which was disappointing but actually wise since the gorge trail is so narrow and busy. Even on a Tuesday midday in late September, there were many visitors including many foreign tourists. A nice Israeli family from Tel Aviv lavished Millie with petting.

Millie at “lower Treman.”
Millie at the Cider House.

On to Finger Lakes Cider House, near Trumansburg, with its spectacular on-high views of Cayuga Lake. No dogs allowed inside the rustic-chic bar-restaurant-shop or on the deck but no problem having dogs in the huge open air tent full of picnic tables (perfect during a rain storm, we discovered) next to a huge field of u pick’em dahlias and zinnias. We duly enjoyed our flights of cider, grilled cheese, homemade tomato soup, garlic cumin black beans and crunchy cornbread.

Humans at Treman (Myra and Hope!)

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Nichols BBQ/Millie “dog of the day” in Corning, NY and Porchfest 2022 in Ithaca

Back to my happy place, upstate NY! Specifically the area around Ithaca. We managed to drive here in one day, albeit long day, from Chicago. About 11.5 hours with a few stops primarily for Millie the dog. The scenery was blah through Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania until a few seconds after we crossed into western NY on Interstate 86. Like clockwork came the wooded hills, the emerald green fields dotted with red barns and white farmhouses, the shimmering lakes and rivers. And the sky! A drama show with dark clouds or fluffy white clouds in the distance, moving across a blue sky, sun blaring through.

In Corning, we stopped for a quick dinner at Nichols BBQ for an excellent Brisket sandwich and an excellent pulled pork sandwich which we ate at an outside table so Millie could join us. People were so sweet to Millie including a nice guy who asked if he could take a photo of Millie as his “dog of the day.” Turns out he and another guy with him were on a 47-day bike ride across the US from Portland to Portland, run by Trek, the bike maker.

On Sunday, we went on our always fun obligatory trip to the Ithaca Farmers Market where I had excellent Cambodian food and bought Ithaca gear for the grandkids. With the weather improving, we decided to walk around Cascadilla falls in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Fall creek, we spotted a band playing on a porch, with a small crowd. Interesting.

Then another band on a porch and then another. Turns out it was Porchfest 2022, an annual event where local musicians of all kinds play on porch’s throughout the neighborhood … jug and banjos, electric guitars, a soul singer with a sound machine, a family with little kids. Too much fun! One volunteer told me Ithaca’s was the first Porchfest. And it went on hiatus during the height of the pandemic.

Apparently other cities have them too, including Des Moines. The sun came out after a thunderstorm and lit the neighborhood. Then a half hour later, as we were listening to a crazy band, with kids dancing frenetically, the sky got dark and it poured again. No one cared.

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Apple Cider Century ride and Biking beyond in SW Michigan’s Berrien County

Iowa spoiled us when it comes to biking, offering so many great trails hidden in the woods, lining rivers or along former rail lines, away from the cars and pickups that rumble down rural backroads, kicking up dust and occasionally causing heart palpitations.

why this area is called “Michiana”

But here in SW Michigan, in the absence of designated bike trails, we are getting into biking the backroads (aka “secondary roads”) around Three Oaks, with help from handy brochures with 9 routes to the north and 9 to the south. We found the brochures at the Dewey Cannon Trading Co./three oaks bicycle museum which also offers rental bikes.

The routes are charted by Three Oaks Spokes, a nonprofit bike touring club, the same folks hosting the annual “apple cider century” bike tour this weekend (last September Sunday), offering 15, 25, 50, 75 and 100 mile rides. I also found slightly different routes online at applecidercentury.com.

Avery road near Three Oaks (south of highway 12)

We rode most of the “Dayton Lake Trail” and learned the hard way that improvising can be tricky.

My edited version

We tried a few alternate roads to shorten the 28-mile ride (due to daunting headwinds that slowed us so much that I wondered if my bike had a flat tire) and occasionally found ourselves on a scary highway (route 12) with huge trucks speeding by, way too close, or bucolic dirt and gravel roads lined with tall browning corn or yellowing soybeans, dotted with an old barn or farmhouse. One very scenic and empty paved road (Buffalo Road) turned suddenly into an “un-improved road,” according to the official sign. Too unimproved to ride safely.

No trip complete without loading up here!

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Art Museum, ModGen, River Walk, Usingers – Milwaukee

The weather was still gorgeous but we didn’t want to miss going inside the Milwaukee Art Museum . With the sun shining, making the lake a shimmering blue and the trees a shimmering green, the museum was all the more spectacular, a soaring white skeleton of a building with lots of glass, including a cavernous great hall entry and long white curving halls that feel like magic tunnels. Every which way, the building dazzles, offering selective views of the water and greenery outside. I forgot how interesting the art collection is too, although the architecture is the main attraction. We enjoyed the folk art, the modern homewares design, a special exhibition on the work of the late 19th century French artist Jules Cheret, “father of the Modern poster” whose work advertised the Folies Bergere among other things. (One of my favorite posters depicts a performer catching cannon balls shot from a cannon in his bare hands.) The museum café food looked good but we were still stuffed from our complimentary breakfast with omelet at our hotel, The County Claire so we just had coffee/ice tea on the cafe’s patio overlooking the lake.

We returned to the Third Ward to quickly visit ModGen, a fun plant and home goods store, then walked along the Riverwalk past cool loft apartments in old brick industrial buildings, with boats parked in the water out front. The Bronze Fonz, a statue of Fonzie from the TV show Happy Days was smaller than I remembered. (But perhaps fitting: I met the Fonz, aka Henry Winkler, decades ago in a Montana grocery store oddly, and he’s a small guy.)

Brats near the Riverwalk

Several tour boats set off from the river and looked like fun, less populated than the Chicago boats. At the famous Usingers sausage store we found a great old interior with old murals and marble counters but no grilled brats to eat but a kind butcher recommended one of several restaurants across the street, Buck Bradley’s Saloon (Not the next door Milwaukee Brat house, surprisingly), where we got a delicious grilled brat heaped with sauerkraut and grilled onions.

Usinger’s Sausage Co.

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Granor Farm, Froelich’s, 3Arbor Arts, Alaplash, 3 Trilogy, $3.99 gas —-return to Three Oaks, MI

granor farm heirloom tomatoes

The young stylish couple dressed in expensively non-showy casual wear in front of me in line at A. V. Granor Farm, an organic farm market with specialty foods as well as organic fruit and veg, racked up a $313 tab before soaring off in their Tesla into the otherwise unassuming rural countryside. Is this The Hamptons? No, it’s southwest Michigan. Who knew? (Many, other than us.) Open during the week only on Friday, the farm also has farm-to-table summer dinners that sell out way in advance.

Three Oaks felt different on a Friday in August, compared to Wednesday. Lots of city folks. Bet they appreciated the $3.99 gas. It’s $5.48 in Chicago. And we thought $4.15 in Bridgman was bargain. We saw $3.97 in Indiana, just over the Michigan border.

On a Friday, more galleries, furniture and home good stores catering to tourists also were open. 3ArborArts has contemporary artwork, all by women currently; Alaplash has cool curated home goods and furniture; 3 trilogy has retro furniture and artwork; Froelich’s has two stores across from each other on the main drag,a sweet bakery and a cavernous restaurant and retail shop with good food (excellent muffuletta, salads) and rows of jars containing Froelich’s homemade dill pickles, jams, tomato sauce, chopped olives, with helpful recipes posted beside each.

Froelich’s

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Milwaukee – stunning lake front, art museum, Leon’s frozen custard, Bavette burger in Third Ward, walkers point, FLwright’s affordable housing

The weather was so gorgeous today when we arrived after a short 90 minute drive from Chicago that we couldn’t bear to go indoors, which meant skipping one of Milwaukee’s main attractions- the stunning art museum designed by Santiago Calatrava that looks like a massive white bird landing on Lake Michigan’s shimmering blue waters. We did walk down from our cozy Irish hotel, the county Clare, to watch the huge outstretched white wings of the museum slowly, slowly, slowly close into the base of the museum at 5 p. M. And will try to be present when the wings open again at 10 a.m. What other building does that?

Open and shut Milwaukee Art Museum

Compared to Chicago, Milwaukee’s lake front is marvelously undeveloped with huge green lawns stretching out to the rocky shore, sometimes with sandy beach. We were amazed at how few people were around, again compared to Chicago. We walked various stretches of the lakefront to the north, near downtown and in the south neighborhood of Bay View where Three Brothers, the famous Serbian restaurant in an old wooden corner tavern endures in a now trendy residential. (I ate its specialty , a massive filo dough and cheese concoction, Burek, there years ago, following my old friend Johnny Apple’s orders.)

Lunch was tacos in the zocalo food truck courtyard in the hipster Walker’s Point neighborhood followed by an obligatory stop at Leon’s Frozen Custard, which was so creamy and delicious. Nearby, on Burnham Street, we found six FLwright houses all on the same block, surprising modest and small by design. Wright was experimenting with creating affordable housing. I wondered if they are affordable today. (VRBO offers an overnight in one for $231.) They’re on a busy street in a working class neighborhood. One has siding which I am guessing would appall Frank.

FLWright’s affordable housing (one with siding 😳

Dinner was at Bavette in the lively Third Ward area, which has massive old brick forever warehouses with interesting restaurants and shops. Who knew a hamburger could be so good and original – quality meat served rare with a slice of grilled eggplant and tomato, feta, tzatziki, something vaguely spicy. Dirck was happy with his Cuban sandwich.

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Sentimental journey back to Des Moines – Botanical Center expansion, Des Moines Art Center special exhibits, Highland Park neighborhood coolness (“The Collective”), Big Grove/Lua breweries, Fresko

Three months after moving to Chicago from Des Moines, we returned to our former home of 32 years for a very busy 3.5 days. It still feels like home, with our daughter there and so many old and dear friends. Iowa’s capitol city looked better than ever – we managed to squeeze in one bike ride on our favorite loop down the river to the Botanical Center, over the Women of Achievement Bridge, past the East Village to Principal Park and then over to Gray’s Lake (alas, the trail from the ballpark to the the lake was closed due to construction, so we rode along MLKing Parkway), to Waterworks Park, then up north on Cumming Parkway through the cemetery and back to Forestdale..

New to the Highland Park neighborhood

We duly noted the construction going on around Captain Roy’s on the river (a new boat rental place, we gather) and the Botanical Center’s expansion of its outdoor gardens caught our eye, for sure. Sadly, no time to visit. Also noted the complete eradication of one of the city’s biggest eyesores – a superfund site south of downtown (the Dyko plant) that is now a grassy field awaiting possible development as a pro soccer field!

Just south of Sherman Hill, the new Big Grove brewpub was packed with people (sadly, it wasn’t open for lunch at 1 p.m. when we tried to go – opens at 3 p.m.). We have enjoyed the one in Iowa City and the original is in Solon, IA. Lua, the smaller one-of-a-kind brewery across the street, proved a perfect patio to hang out on a balmy Friday night. Friends wanted to go to Irina’s – a Russian food-inspired restaurant with an outdoor patio on Hickman. Pleasant enough but pretty heavy food for summer and a dull view of a classically nondescript suburban thoroughfare.

We were more impressed by the new (to us) Fresko on Locust Avenue, which has a large varied menu of shareable items and lighter fare. I “Didn’t you used to work in this building?” I asked our dining partner David. “Yes,” he replied. “We’re sitting in what used to be our conference room.” Excellent margaritas, pork tacos, shrimp. We also ate at our favorite Peruvian place, Panka, which remains excellent (Next trip, we hope to try it’s offshoot near Drake – soon to be opened Peruvian chicken restaurant). Speaking of Drake, friends wanted to go to the Drake Diner for breakfast – we haven’t done that in years. It’s still good! As is La Mie in the Roosevelt Shopping Center.

I didn’t get a chance to wander around the trendy East Village but I did make a quick trip to the Highland Park/Oak Park “emerging” neighborhood. Des Moines Mercantile has well-curated Iowa-produced goods including pricey but oh-so-cozy looking wool blanks from Amana, IA. I chanced upon another new-to-me place called The Collective which specializes in sustainable, eco-friendly, vegan products – the kind of place where you can frefill your reusable containers with bath and kitchen products (“Suds of Love Laundry Soap,” “Charcoal and Mint Tooth power,” Vegan Body Butte,…); plus find metal drinking straws, menstrual caps, non-plastic hair bands and a lot more.

The Des Moines Art Center is as stimulating as ever, with two interesting temporary exhibits – a media-focused exhibit “Images Unbound,” examining the societal impact of images we’ve been bombarded with since the invention of photography (including some Carrie Mae Weems’ evocative, atmospheric “Sea Island Series (Women in White”), photo essays of deep south black communities), and a post-social distancing exhibit in the print gallery of images (print and photo) of intimacy called “Hold Me Closer.” including my favorite Deana Lawson photo “Wanda and daughters”! There’s also been a change-up of artwork in the other galleries that kept me on my toes as a former docent.

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