Happy hump day, everyone! Because I am a government worker I got to enjoy the President’s day holiday this past weekend. I decided to take this precious three day weekend to visit my friend Matthew in the Mitten State.
Matthew lives in the town of Midland, which is in the tri-cities region along with Saginaw and Bay City. Because sometimes I go through mega-cheapskate phases, I flew into Lansing rather than Midland because I got a good deal on a ticket. Matthew and his girlfriend were nice enough to drive 90 minutes through rural Michigan farmland to retrieve me. After a bit of a headache getting a cab to DCA at 5:30 AM, I eventually landed at about 1:30 PM.
We were all ravenous, so we hit up an Indian lunch buffet at the recommendation of Matthew’s co-worker. Fighting our inevitable food coma, we did a little driving exploration of Lansing. Sadly, the state capitol building was closed on Saturdays so I couldn’t get a nerdy tour, but we drove by and saw the very pretty building in a lightly falling snow.
We headed back to drop my stuff at Matthew’s place before taking off to Saginaw for our evening activity: a Saginaw Spirit hockey game. Those of you who follow Stephen Colbert may recognize the team from Colbert’s ongoing support and sketches about the Spirit. It’s one of only 3 American teams in the Ontario Hockey League. A few years ago when the Spirit was in contention to win the OHL, Colbert adopted them in an anti-Canadian, pro-American pride schtick. The mascot is a screaming eagle, so that is also right up Colbert’s alley. His support has stuck around, and in 2007 the Spirit even added a secondary mascot, Steagle Colbeagle, in his honor.
The start of the game was SUPER dramatic. First, we got to hear both the US and Canadian national anthems. Matthew was super excited to hum along to Oh Canada. Then, the Spirit entered the ice through the screaming beak of a giant inflatable eagle head:
The Spirit dominated the Windsor Spitfires to win 7-3. I enjoyed a Canadian beer (it seemed only appropriate), and we even got to see one legit fight. Minor league hockey is the best.
After the game, all three of us were somehow ravenous again so we hit up a local bar and grill before calling it a night and heading back to Midland.
Sunday morning I slept until 9:30 (unheard of!) and after some time with Meet the Press and This Week, Matthew and I headed out to the local rail trail for our respective weekend long runs (he is training for a spring marathon). It was absolutely FRIGID outside, but I bundled up as best as I could. It helped that we ran into some snowy friends on the way to the trail head:
I also stopped for a little pre-run snack:
I ran for 70 minutes with 5 minutes walking tacked on the beginning and the end as warm-up and cool-down. At one point in the first couple miles, my heart rate monitor read 198. I decided to blame that on the bitter cold messing around with my technology. I stayed in the right endurance heart rate zone for the run and ended up covering something just under 8 miles. The second half of the run was a little faster than the first (warming up really helps those muscles), but it was honestly a struggle to power through it. My body will really be ready for a recovery week next week.
My run started and ended at a major Midland landmark: The Tridge.
A tridge is a three-way bridge. The one in Midland is a foot bridge that spans the Chippewa and Tittabawassee rivers. It is surrounded by several trails, including the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, which is what we ran on. It runs from Midland to Clare, for a distance of about 30 miles, and is very well maintained. Even though there was snow on the ground all around us, there were only a few truly slippery spots. It is a super impressive trail and such a great thing for the runners, walkers, bikers, etc. who live in the area.
After some delicious bagels and coffee at Espresso Milano in downtown Midland, we got cleaned up and hit the road to the town of Frankenmuth for our afternoon adventure. Frankenmuth is known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” as all the cute little downtown shops are done up in Bavarian architectural style.
After driving through town on the lookout for leiderhosen, our first stop was an obvious one: Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. Bronner’s declares itself the “World’s Largest Christmas Store.”
The wonders of Bronner’s cannot even be explained. To start, there was a Christmas ornament for EVERYTHING. Literally. The most entertaining was the huge variety of ornaments for specific professions. Teacher, doctor, taxi driver, accountant, nail stylist, garbageman, basketweaver, you name it. Plus everyone’s favorites self-promotional ornaments.
And the large-scale decorations cannot even be described. Oversized ornament balls, giant creepy santas and nutrackers, random woodland creatures in holiday garb. Oh, and did you perhaps need a Christmas tree that doubles as a wedding dress? Complete with creepy vampire husband?
Only an hour in Bronner’s and I was a little Christmas’d out. Luckily, Frankenmuth also has its own brewery, so we stopped for some brews and nachos. I’m a big fan of dark heavy beers, so I tried their Munich Style Dunkel Lager. It was good but not great. The nachos were also passable, but mostly just because I was ravenous.
We hit up a few shops on the way out of town, including the Cheese Haus (who could resist?)
After that we headed back to Midland and stopped at the overlook over the beautiful scene of…the chemical plant.
Midland is a company town, and apparently they are very proud. After knocking out a bit of work, Matthew and I grabbed a beer (I tried the pseudo-local Arbor Brewing‘s Espresso Love which was QUITE good), and then headed to the fancy restaurant in town.
Cafe Zinc is in the Hotel H, and both are owned by the company of Midland’s company town. I had
a glass of some delicious wine: Wairau River’s Sauvignon Blanc, and the beet salad and the swordfish off of Cafe Zinc’s menu. All were very satisfying ,and a perfect way to almost end the weekend of fun!
Monday morning Matthew and I headed out for another, shorter run through the neighborhoods around his place. My legs were seriously feeling the long week of training so it was a little rough. Plus, the snow and ice pack on the sidewalks and streets didn’t help matters. But I powered through! 55 minutes in zone 2 shouldn’t be that hard. Phew.
We headed back to Lansing, and after some delicious Thai lunch it was back on the plane for me. I landed at the same time as Hubz who was returning from a Maine ski trip. Perfect timing so I can send my suitcase home with him and then high tail it across town for my Monday night class. Blech.
My Michigan weekend was fantastic! Many thanks to Matthew for showing me around the middle lakes-ish Michigan region. But I must admit that after an action-packed weekend and a late night Monday class, it’s no wonder I’ve been dragging a bit this week. On the schedule for this weekend? So much sleeping!