How I spent my summer vacation

You had better get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in.  It’s going to be a long post.

On Labor Day, Mom and set out on our big adventure, driving to Wisconsin to meet a group of Ravelry friends and enjoy a weekend full of giggles and yarn and fiber games.  But before that could happen, we had a long drive.  We went a northern route to avoid holiday weekend traffic (which is killer on the one highway out of Maine) and later, Chicago.  I don’t love driving in strange cities.

We planned two long days of driving: the first to Kingston, Ontario, Canada; the second to Muskegon, Michigan, USA.

Everything went as planned, though the long days were made longer by lots of construction, beginning in Montreal and ending somewhere west of Toronto.  We stayed in a decent enough hotel in Kingston, and got a good tip from the desk clerk about the 407 – a toll road that goes around Toronto.  He said it would be empty and darned but he was right!  It was a welcome relief from solid slow traffic with loads of big rig trucks.  The truckers were all good drivers, but it is still not the most relaxing driving.

Border crossings were easy going in and out of Canada, the US Border guy was quite funny, thought we were crazy to drive to Wisconsin for a vacation. Maybe we were, but we weren’t turning back!

I haven’t been to Ontario since I was nine or ten, and I have never been to Quebec or Michigan, so even though we weren’t stopping anyplace except to sleep, it was interesting to see the countryside as we cruised through.  The rolling hills of rural Quebec are beautiful.  Ontario is much flatter, but still very pretty.  Michigan was so flat and green!  We laughed when we saw a sign for a ski resort off an exit.  There was not a mountain or hill in sight.  I wonder how far it was to that resort?

We crossed Michigan through Flint, Lansing, and Grand Rapids, and went north a bit to Muskegon.  We spent the night there, and got our first extra pleasant surprise.  We had a reservation for a room with two beds, nothing special.  But when we checked in they offered us an upgrade to a suite and we grabbed it.  It was a very nice room, with loads of space, big windows that open, a balcony, table and chairs, comfortable chairs and the required two beds. We joked that it was too bad we were only there one night.

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We had a great view over the marina to the harbor.

The next morning we got to sleep in a bit and have a nice breakfast, then went off to catch the ferry across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee.

It felt really good to be traveling and not driving, I have to say.  They warned us it would be a rough crossing, but to us it didn’t seem like anything much, just a bit of roll under foot. We were traveling in the business cabin, which meant that we got some free coffee while knitting in our comfortable chairs, and so we passed a pleasant morning getting to Milwaukee.

Once in Milwaukee, we were able to navigate our way through MORE construction to an old friend’s house.  She lived in Maine about 15 years ago, and Mom and I had lost track of her.  But when we knew we were going to be in Wisconsin, we used the power of the internet to find her and arranged to have lunch with her. It was so great to see her, and meet the special person in her life, see her home and do lots of catching up.

We left there in the afternoon, in time to find our way through the construction to the airport to meet the first of the Ravelry friends, Kendra from Houston.

So many people thought we were crazy to plan this big trip to spend time with people we had never met.  But we have all been chatting and sharing for years, and I knew we would be fine.  More than fine, that we would have a blast.

At the airport, Kendra found us easily, even having no idea what we looked like! Something about two ladies in matching gray fleece standing around the empty baggage carousel?

Our next adventure was about to begin.  All that construction?  Well, after two days of successfully navigating it, our brains and the GPS finally failed.  They moved a highway entrance from the left to the right and we completely missed it.  Got off the road, found the next entrance – it was closed due to the construction.  But we had Mom and a paper map, and we eventually found our way back to the highway in the correct direction, and were on our way again.

We got to our Airbnb in Hustisford without further delay.  It is a sweet little house right on the lake, and right next door to a pub/restaurant.  An amazingly quiet one with good food!

It is owned by two brothers who have recently remodeled the whole thing, and done a great job.  We did notice a few things that were missed, like bedside table and lamps, and we needed groceries, so after a delicious meal at the pub, we headed to Wal*Mart.  There we picked up groceries for the weekend and grabbed a couple of lamps so that Mom and I could read before sleep and not have to use the overhead light.  🙂 And for those of you who know me, I know you just passed out on learning where we shopped.  If we had known where there were any other stores, I would have pushed to go there.  But looking for groceries at ten o’clock at night in rural America means that you go to Wal*Mart, right? So we did, and got everything we needed.

Thursday was the first day of festivities.  We headed off to Beaver Dam, where we were to meet up with Deb and her knitting group, visit the local yarn store, then connect with Knitting Sarah for a tour of Nancy’s Notions before heading back to Deb’s for dinner.

We texted Deb as we got close and she agreed to meet us for lunch at a local restaurant.  While we were trying to follow the GPS directions to get there, I noticed a car behind me, following pretty closely.  Soon it was flashing its lights and blowing the horn.  I pulled over to let this impatient person go past.  Instead, the car pulled up beside us and the driver was waving madly at us.  It was Deb!  So, we followed her to the restaurant.  Meeting with her was just like meeting Kendra the night before – instant best friends.  Before too long, another woman joined us.  Sue is in Deb’s knitting group, and also the Ravelry friend of Knitting Sarah Group where we all hang out.  Another old friend we have known for years, not minutes!

After lunch, we gathered at Deb’s, and then headed out to do some shopping.  Firefly Fibers was our first stop, and it was pretty darned wonderful. It is not a HUGE store, but a well stocked one.  I managed to get a few things there before we headed out to go to Nancy’s Notions. (And started knitting with the pink and blue before I could get a photo, sorry!  The pink is Madeline Tosh Light in a discontinued color; the blue-purple variegated is Malabrigo sock in the Anniversario colorway.  The pattern is Rainbow Warrior – more on that later!)

Aren’t they pretty?

I didn’t get photos nor buy anything at Nancy’s Notions, but I really enjoyed the tour with Sarah.  If you want to learn more about the business, do check it out online.  I get their catalogs, and they have EVERYTHING that a sewer or quilter needs. I was curious to see the quality – you know how it is with catalogs – everything looks good.  Turns out, it really is in this case.  Nice quality products and fabrics. If you sew, it is worth checking out.

That evening at Deb’s was SO MUCH FUN!  We sat around knitting and gabbing, we ate a delicious meal, did a yarn version of Yankee Swap, and it felt like Christmas with all the gifts that Sarah and Deb had put together for us.  Loads of goodies, some snacks, and some fiber treats.  Sarah gave me this fabulous fiber from Three Water Farms to thank me for helping out with the group this  spring while she packed up and moved.  And I don’t know if she or Deb put this beautiful project bag and stitch markers in the bag of goodies, but I love it!

This is the yarn that I wound up with after all the yarn swapping was done:

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Our friend Jude joined us at Deb’s, and so when the party was over, we were four at the house.

Friday morning we were off to breakfast in Johnson Creek on the way to Wisconsin Sheep and Wool festival, the centerpiece of our gathering.

I took no photos that day. We did have quite a group of us there – I have lost count, but at least 5 or 6 of us in one group, and then others from Deb’s knitting group and friends of Sarah wandering in and out of the crowds. It was an amazing event.  Like Maine Fiber frolic on steroids.  Two HUGE barns filled with fiber related vendors.  I never even got to them all!  I DID, however, find a few things to buy.  🙂  I know you are surprised by this.

The yarn:  Sock yarn from Knit City, unmatched skeins meant to go together.  And an amazing find – these two skeins equal a sweater quantity of yarn, and were only 28 dollars apiece.  Kendra spotted them in the bargain bin by my feet while I was perusing the full priced beauties at eye level. So a sweater for $56.  Not bad! And it isn’t blue-green, it’s just blue.  🙂

The fiber: the braid is super wash merino from Fiber Optic.  I have seen their ads on Ravelry and never clicked through, because I was afraid of the damage to my bank account.  So I was pleased to see them at the festival, where I could drool in person.  I can’t remember the vendor where I got the ball of merino/silk.  I was so tired I couldn’t do the math, so went on the conservative side with 10 ounces.  I wish I had gotten more, it is lovely.

It was a long day, but so much fun, seeing what all the ladies bought and all that they resisted.

That night Deb joined us at the house, and so did Adina.  Adina is moving to Maine and has hosted a few Ravelry gatherings here, and has come to Whorls and Purls at the Purple Fleece when she is not home in Illinois.  It was great to connect with her and to have her join us for dinner and the night.

So we were six sitting about knitting and chatting Friday night.

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(Mom is sitting out of range, but trust me, she was working on her endless sweater. And do check out that sunset!) Kendra and Jude shared yarn they had brought for us, so there was even MORE yarn added to my stash!

And Mom’s stash looked like this – she only bought one skein, the rest were gifts!  She was overwhelmed.

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While planning this event, someone, maybe Deb or Sue, came up with the idea that we should all cast on the same pattern.  Kendra found the pattern Rainbow Warrior shawl, and we all agreed it would be great.  Some folks cast on Thursday night, some Friday, and some both nights.  🙂 All the colors look so amazing, the finished shawls will be great fun.

Mom took this photo on Saturday, showing our progress.

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We were expecting one more visitor on Friday, but she wasn’t able to make it until after the festival on Saturday.

Saturday we had planned visiting several yarn stores in the Milwaukee area, but we were really fried, and had this beautiful spot, so we decided not to leave it.  I was glad as I felt exhausted, and we planned to leave Sunday morning, so a low key day felt really good.

We spent the day knitting, with Mom and me doing some intermittent packing as well.

There was porch knitting, for sure. And when it got too hot, we moved back to the living room, never stopping knitting, talking, and laughing.

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Saturday evening Teryn and her fiancee Peter finally found their way to us in time to show off her festival purchases, and join us for dinner at the pub next door. We had a fun time, and we are pretty sure Peter did not know what he had gotten into.  He also might have been worried that he was looking at what Teryn will be like in 40 years.  🙂

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Sunday came all too soon. Mom and I were up early, finished packing the car, stripped the beds, and said good bye.

We were sad to leave, but still had more vacation ahead.  First stop, Chicago.  I avoided it once, but we headed for it on purpose this time.  Mom has two old high school classmates who live there, and we were meeting them for lunch.  It was a pretty wonderful time.  These two people, and the wife of one of them, are amazing people with such interesting stories, I could have stayed listening all afternoon.  In fact, we did for a few hours before finally heading out to continue on our way.

I was disappointed at the amount of traffic on a Sunday, but knew it was better than a weekday.  We were heading east now, and had a day and a half to get to Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.  We stopped driving at about 7, which got us to the Toledo area.  We were lucky that the first hotel we tried was neat, clean, had a room, and served us breakfast, too!

Monday morning we set a leisurely pace, but still made it to Niagara Falls by about 2 o’clock.  We decided to skip lunch until we got there, because I really needed to be done with driving.  So when we got to our hotel, we checked in to what turned out to be ANOTHER huge water view suite! (The mist to the right is spray from the Horseshoe falls.) This time it was two rooms, and we got to stay more than one night!

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We got some “lupper” (lunch-supper) and went for a walk down to the falls.  It was advertised as three blocks.  The last one was a huge long one down a steep hill, but we did survive that trip!

I had never seen the falls before, they are incredibly beautiful.

Tuesday we booked a tour that took us behind the falls, a boat ride into the mist, and to a few other attractions in the area. It was great to not have to drive or figure out where everything was.  After we got back from that, we took the advice of our breakfast waiter and headed down the river to Niagara on the Lake for supper, and a view of where the river meets the lake.  This was a beautiful area, quite different in nature from Niagara Falls.  Mom and I agreed that if we ever come again, we will make sure to allow more time to explore this town.

 

 

Our original plan had been to take two days to get home from here, but when we thought about it, we thought we could get up super early and make it in one day,  we knew if that really turned out to be dumb, we could always stop part way.  So 3 am found us in the car and heading back to USA and home. The trip was uneventful and long.  We toughed it out and after a breakfast stop, we only stopped for bathroom and refueling breaks.  We were at Mom’s house by 4:30 pm.  We were able to convince A that she wanted to bring Mom’s car over after work and drive me home in my car, so I was done driving when we pulled into Mom’s driveway.  More than 2500 miles! It was long and so much fun, I know I would do it again.  But maybe not for a while.

So, that’s what I did on my summer vacation.  I should have enough yarn to keep me busy for a few months.  🙂

Thought I would wrap up with a few sunsets we saw along the way.  And one dawn.

 

Edited to add – here’s a link to the knitting Sarah’s blog post about the weekend in case you want to read about it from a different perspective.

 

 

24 thoughts on “How I spent my summer vacation”

  1. Oh wow, what an amazing trip, and the memories you will treasure, especially all the time with your Mum. I don’t think I could do that drive, 250 miles there and 250 back had me shattered for days this summer. But all that yarn and all those people. Wonderful.

    1. It was definitely a memorable trip. It makes the Ravelry group even more fun now that I know people. 😉 As for the driving, well, I am accustomed to trips with one long day since I had family in southern Connecticut, and family in eastern Maine for about thirty five years. But this trip made that one seem short!

  2. Oh. My. God. What a trip! It looks utterly fun and fantastic (if exhausting!) And you made me all nostalgic for Niagara-On-the-Lake–we lived in Buffalo for years and that was my favorite day trip!

    1. Oh, that must have been nice to live near it! I was surprised at the carnival aspect of Niagara Falls. Once I saw the falls, I just wanted to leave the area. 🙄
      But Niagara on the lake and all the vineyards were lovely, especially in the late afternoon light.

  3. OH, Sal, it was like living it all over again! I knew from our exchanges in the Rav Group (http://www.ravelry.com/groups/friends-of-knitting-sarah, if anyone is interested – best group EVER) that we’d totally get along, but having met you and spent time with you, I now know we’re friends for life! Picking me up at the airport, dyeing a RED skein of yarn just for me, helping with the planning, driving across the USA – you are the BEST. Many, many hugs, and thanks for the travelog, letting me relive it!

  4. Wow! What a vacation! Sounds like a wonderful trip. You were pretty close to me! I am about an hour south of Flint and about 12 miles east of Alpine Valley Skiing. There actually is a hill there 😉 Thank you for sharing your wonderful photos. The sunsets are beautiful and all of the new yarns look so delicious! I will have to remember if I ever go to Wisconsin again, the ferry is the way to go. At least I could knit and not have to worry about all of the trucks and traffic of the highway. So glad you had a safe, wonderful vacation.

    1. Wish I had known we would be so close, we could have waved! Glad Michigan has a hill, but we sure did chuckle, it is so flat by Flint and Lansing, we weren’t expecting a sign for skiing!

  5. What an awesome trip you had! Man, you and your mum are road warriors! Knitters rock. I’m happy that you got to hook up with like-minded women who know how to have a good time.

  6. And THAT is how you do a Proper Vacation. Wow. I really need to take travel tips from you.
    Thank you for a wonderful post, and all the photos. I just loved seeing to many places and people and things with you.
    🙂 It is awesome.

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