Friday, May 30, 2014

Our Michigan Trip, Part 3: Traverse City and the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

And now, time for the third and final installment of the story of our Michigan Vacation.

Having no idea as to where to stay in Traverse City, we selected the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.  It was great choice, as the view from our room might indicate.

And the town of  Traverse City was also delightful.  A downtown shopping area 

jammed with interesting shops, two independent book stores (!), and many neat bars and restaurants, including this one

where we enjoyed dinner one evening.

We also discovered a great local product

that could well be, after the automobile, Michigan's greatest gift to America.

We also just happened to run into lots of interesting "stuff" that was happening to coincide with our visit.  These included a cool Saturday morning Farmer's Market,

a bicycle race,

and a Comic Book Convention that took place at our hotel over the weekend.

Now I once attended a SABR Convention, so I am in no position to cast aspersions on other people's hobbies and interests, but let's just say that there were a lot of interesting looking people attending the Comic Con.

We also discovered a great shopping/retail/residential development that is being developed in the buildings and on the grounds of a nineteenth century State of Michigan Mental Hospital.  Sounds strange, I realize, but it was quite nice.

We also visited a Casino (no pictures, sorry) where I came out $.50 ahead after an hour at the black jack table.  Yes, fifty cents!  Found some great places to eat,

enjoyed a nice pool area at the hotel,

and, I have to add, I enjoyed one of the best rounds of golf I have ever played at The Wolverine, a Gary Player designed course that is one of three courses at the Traverse Bay Resort.

It turned out to be a great little vacation that, as I said in an earlier post, exceeded all of our expectations. Who knows if we will ever get back "up north" again, but this will go down as one of our best trips ever, and one that we would recommend to anyone.

And just to put a cherry on the top of the sundae, we were treated to this spectacular sight from our room on our last night there:

As the advertising tag line goes, it was Pure Michigan.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Our Michigan Trip, Part 2: M22 and the Leelanau Peninsula

On day two of our stay in Traverse City, Michigan, we decided, after diligent research by the "brains of the outfit" - that would be Marilyn - to take a road trip up the M22 highway and the Lake Leelanau Peninsula to the towns of Suttons Bay and Leland (and, no, the town was NOT named after the recently retired Detroit Tigers manager), and along the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Park.  It was a trip that lasted about seven hours and just over 100 miles, and it was a memorable day.

First stop was the charming little town of Suttons Bay.

Lots of neat shops, bookstores (yes, honest to God bookstores) and galleries where several Pennsylvania dollars were spent.   Chief purchase was a hooded rain jacket that cost $58 but was on sale for $19.75 with a cool "Up North" logo.  Not that I really needed such a garment, but at that price, how could I pass it by?

It was interesting to see that there are Pirates fans on the Leelanau Peninsula. Why else would they be raising the Jolly Roger?

Of course, we were a little bummed out when we saw this sign in Suttons Bay and realized that we should have planned our trip for one week earlier:

We then left Suttons Bay and stopped at a cool winery...

...and then it was north on the M22 to Leland,

an oldtime, but still functioning Great Lakes fishing port.  As such, Leland is also known as Fishtown, or, better still....

We lunched at this place,

where the local police chief, a Captain Reneault, told us that "In Leland, everyone comes to Rick's."

The seafood chowder

was unbelievably delicious, but the place could learn a lot from Pittsburgh Lenten fish fries about the portion size for a fish sandwich.

The sandwich, small by Pittsburgh standards, tasted good, though!

After Leland, we then went south on the M22 and headed for Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park to the famous

 and here it is:

 We both made it to the top....

and back down again....

The trip back down was a lot easier.

We then headed to a scenic drive route that included several places where you could pull off the road and just take in some positively gorgeous views of Lake Michigan.

One spot included this warning sign,

but culminated in what may become one of our all-time favorite pictures:

And that was our day on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Coming next in Part 3:  Traverse City itself and our stay at the Traverse Bay Resort and Spa.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Following Up on The Big Break

This coming weekend will see the playing of the Shoprite Classic on the LPGA Tour.  This is significant in that one of the participants will be Emily Talley, who was the female winner of the Big Break NFL last year.

Emily's Big Break was a spot in the field of this LPGA event.  The Grandstander will be following her in this event and will report on her progress.  Good luck, Emily!

SPOILER ALERT:  The remainder of this post will discuss the recently completed Big Break Florida.  If you have saved these episodes on your DVR and have not yet seen them, stop reading now and come back later.

The season concluded last Monday night with a match between finalists Jackie Stoelting, 27, 

and Fiamma Felitch, 24.

Both were likable, attractive, and good players throughout the season, and I would have been happy had either young lady prevailed.  However, the championship  match offered little suspense, as Jackie dominated from the first hole on and won the match, 5 and 4.  As part of her Big Break, Jackie will have a spot in the LPGA Manulife Financial Classic in Ontario that will be played from June 5-8.  I shall be reporting on that event as well.

What was the best news of the finale was the fact that the "villainess" of the series, the equine-like and foul-mouthed Mary Narzisi, 24,

was not a part of the championship match.  She did make it to the Final Four of the series, and she got more irritating and unlikable with each passing show.  I was hoping she'd have been gone by week two.

Anyway, another great edition of the only "reality show" that I watch.  Can't wait for the next one.

To Absent Friends - Bunny Yeager

I have often stated that news obituaries can be the most fascinating part of the newspaper, and today was no exception with the Post-Gazette's page one obit notice for pin-up photographer, Bunny Yeager.

Yeager died at the age of 85 this week. Turns out that she was born in Wilkensburg, hence the page one note in the PG.  At age 17, her family moved to Florida, where she took to modeling and, later, photography.

As a photographer, she specialized in doing female pin-up shots that featured the famous, or, depending on your point of view, the infamous Bettie Page.  She had a knack for making female models feel comfortable and, shall we say, less inhibited when posing for her.  As a result of this, she was one of Hugh Hefner's "go to" photographers during the early years of Playboy Magazine, and she was responsible for many of the centerfold shots during those days.

But it was teaming up with Bettie Page that made them both famous.  Here is Yeager setting up one of the more famous Page photos.

And here is one of the results of that session....

There are many other, as I said earlier, less inhibited pictures of Miss Page from this session, and you can find them easily enough by going to Google Images.  I am choosing to keep The Grandstander  family friendly. 

She went on to a full career as a photographer of importance.  In 2010, an exhibit of her photos was mounted at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and she was responsible for the famous photos of Ursula Andress taken during the filming of the James Bond movie, "Dr. No".  

You can learn more about her at

As I said, obituaries make fascination reading.

RIP Bunny Yeager.

Our Michigan Trip, Part 1, or A Visit to The Big House

Regular readers may have noted that The Grandstander has been off the grid for several days. This is due too the fact that Marilyn and I just took a six day vacation "Up North", as the natives say, to Traverse City, Michigan.  It was our first time in this part of the country, and the trip exceeded all of our expectations.  In fact, the trip was so nice, that one Grandstander post is not enough, so our trip will be summarized over at least two, and possibly, three Grandstander posts.

So let us begin with Day One of trip.  It is an eight hour plus drive to Traverse City from Pittsburgh, so we decided to break up the trip by stopping and staying overnight in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Naturally, we had to make a visit to undoubtedly the most famous structure in Ann Arbor.  Officially, it is the University of Michigan Stadium, but, of course, everybody knows it as The Big House.

Now, over the years, I have had no strong feelings about the sports teams of the University of Michigan, one way or the other, but I have to tell you, that it was really neat to visit a place that you have seen countless times on television over the years.

Unfortunately, we were unable to get inside the stadium.  The gates surrounding the place were locked and there were foreboding signs everywhere saying that entrance to the Stadium was ONLY on game days.  (As an aside, I can remember being on the campus of Purdue University back in the mid-nineties and walking right into Ross-Ade Stadium in the middle of the week and sitting in the empty stands.  Of course, that was Pre-9/11, and times have changed.)  Anyway, I was struck by a couple of things about The Big House.

One, it is dug into the ground as opposed to being built from the ground up.  As a result, you get the impression that it is smaller than it actually is.  I pictured standing outside of Heinz Field or Beaver Stadium, and those structures seem much larger than this place, but of course, The Big House, as they will point out to you endlessly in Ann Arbor, is the biggest college football stadium in America.

It sits, literally (and, trust me, I am using that word correctly here), across the street from a pleasant neighborhood of houses.  We parked in front of a house where a father was playing in his yard with his two little kids, and walked right across the street to an entrance gate of the Big House. Picture Beaver Stadium in the middle of a State College field, or old Pitt Stadium jammed in among University buildings in Oakland, and the contrast is startling.  I can't even begin to imagine the disruption to those neighborhoods when over 100,000 football fans descend upon the place.

During our walk around and for several hours afterward, the strains of one song kept running through my mind.....

We noticed that the Ann Arbor Public Safety Department gets into the spirit of the place...

And we saw this very cool monument to the University mascot.....

In the end, of course, walking around the outside of the place is not like actually seeing a game inside the place, but it was pretty neat experience, nonetheless.  I will no doubt feel a little differently the next time I actually watch a football game on TV from The Big House.