Category Archives: Day Trip

Florida – Big Talbot Island State Park

We had set out a goal for ourselves to explore the coast of Florida. I mean, in general, we are trying to travel EVERYWHERE, but in particular, we wanted to visit all of the named beaches in the state (as well as visit all of the state parks, etc., etc.).

We had decided earlier in the week that we wanted to drive out to Jacksonville this weekend and find something to do. Of course, we also wanted to make sure that we made it out to the ocean at some point during the day. Jacksonville is about a 3 hour drive from Tallahassee, to it’s at the edge of how far we want to travel for a day trip – to make sure we can get there, spend some quality time seeing things, and get back without exhausting ourselves too much or feeling hurried.

I woke up extra early in the morning on Sunday and started Googling things to do around Jacksonville. I read about Big and Little Talbot Island State Parks and thought they looked cool and had plenty of nature to explore and enjoy – just our thing! So, I’m pretty sure I hopped out of bed and started getting ready for the day – waking Donald up in the process and letting him know that I had an IDEA!

We were up, caffeinated, showered, ready, and on the road by 8 am. Amazing what a little motivation will do (I’m not lazy, but I will resist giving up on cuddles). Before we knew it, 3 hours had passed and we had arrived. Our first stop was Kayak Amelia, where we rented some beach cruiser bikes. We headed north out of Kayak Amelia toward Big Talbot Island State Park, first crossing a section of road that was one lane wide, and the traffic alternated directions. Bikers were directed to wait until the car traffic had crossed the bridge, then cross the bridge using the full width of the lane while traffic in both directions are stopped.

There are limitless times to stop, look, and capture. We cannot catch them all, nor should we.


We appreciated the slower pace the bikes offered us vs. traveling in our car. We really had an opportunity to view the scenery and take in the beauty of the park. We could speed up and feel the wind in our faces, or stop and hop off the bikes to look at something closer.

The branches were thick and twisty, below which grew dense patches of ancient palmettos.


I loved the variation in the colors of green and the interplay of the sunlight shining through the leaves. Such a mix of light and dark produced beautiful scenes that filled me with awe as I rode. I don’t know how many times I said, “Oh! Look! It’s so pretty!,” but it was always applicable. Donald really helps me to slow down and appreciate these things around me. I like them, but I am usually driven to go-go-go and see the next thing. He helps me to slow down and really savor where I am.

The bike path wound through the most lush canopy. The shadows danced on the ground before us.


The sky was bright and as energetic as the shimmering Atlantic waters.


After we had biked a while (a few miles?), we came to a long, wooden boardwalk overlooking some water. I’m always a sucker for water, and it was fun to ride the bikes and hear the sound that the tires made on the boards. We saw a lot of shore birds, but most of them were across the waterway from us, so I don’t have good photos of them. At some point, I want to invest in a good zoom lens for my camera, but on this trip, we just had the GoPro and our phones (more portable).

A long boardwalk guided us over tidal intercostal waters.


In the distance white-capped waves can be seen far from the coast.


We finally made it to where we could see the Atlantic Ocean! I don’t think I can stress enough how beautiful it is here. The sunshine and the salt in the air…. delightful!

The coastal islands seemed small and distant but held much life including many dunes.


I could have spent the whole day on this beach, just listening and watching the waves roll in.

Busy shore birds pay little attention to us as they work the sands in search of a meal.


So many birds! They weren’t afraid of any rogue waves and would walk right in the water. There were some seagulls, but also many smaller birds like this little guy. So cute! Donald has an owl call (at least, I think it’s an owl?) that he makes to try and attract the birds.

Dead wood is so alive in the stories it holds of the storms and other happenings it must have seen.


This stretch of beach in Big Talbot Island State Park is known as Boneyard Beach. The description from the Florida State Parks website, “Sculpted by nature, this shoreline boasts 30-foot bluffs and a striking beach peppered with massive driftwood trees that recall images of an elephant graveyard.”

Some dead wood can be functional and serve as a walking stick. Maybe this is one is a bit too large.


I love Donald’s whimsical and playful side. It comes out at various times, but especially when we are interacting with nature. OMG, that branch. I’m pretty sure it would have held off even the Balrog. “Thou shalt not pass!”

So much life lives at the intersection of ocean and land.


I get it. The Atlantic is generally darker and grayer than what you see here. We have taken creative license with our image editing, but I’m enjoying the higher saturation images, even if it makes the Atlantic look more like the Caribbean. πŸ™‚

The many shades of green present from the oaks to the palmettos seems endless when the sun strikes them.


The beauty of the sun filtering through the dense foliage… there are no words. So here are some photos, so you can see a little bit for yourself.

The paths are endless. So much to see around every bend.


Towards the end of our bike trip from Kayak Amelia, I was getting really tired. We had ridden almost 10 miles total on these beach cruisers where you stop moving fairly quickly if you stop pedaling. However, just before we needed to cross at the one-lane area of road, there was an offshoot path. Donald was riding ahead of me, so I called out that I was going to explore it and deviated from the sidewalk, thinking he was going to catch up soon. The path was darker and twisty, and went downhill. It was dense with plants and roots and pine needles. I had initially thought that it was just going to parallel the bike path, but it was taking me deeper into the forest, and I wasn’t hearing Donald behind me, so I finally stopped to catch my breath (and take this photo).

What I didn’t know, was that he hadn’t heard me and had spent some time riding back and forth on the bike path, until someone mentioned seeing me go down this trail. (I suppose I can get distracted by new sights and adventures.) He caught up to me and we decided to bike back out (instead of taking the trail to the end). It was pretty, but we were tired and looking forward to our next adventure on Amelia island, just north of where we were (our next blog post!).

Happy Adventuring!

— Jenn and Donald

South Haven 2012

Yesterday was the family reunion, and from the time that I heard it was going to be so close to Lake Michigan and South Haven, I wanted to take some time and head over there. I love being by the water and 15-20 miles is NOTHING to me! πŸ™‚ The only question was if Mom would go for it.

We spent the night in Paw Paw. In the morning, I dragged her to St. Mary’s Catholic Church for Sunday Mass. It was a cute little church right by the court building that we had looked at yesterday. All around the church, the sidestreet parking was clogged. We managed to find the last parking spot in the tiny parking lot, but people were already creating a middle line of cars where it wasn’t legal to park — just to be able to get in to Mass! A good sign, right? πŸ™‚

We were a little bit late, and so we took a seat in one of the back pews, like any good Catholic would do. After Mass, I snapped a couple pictures to prove I was there and grabbed my Mass ticket (parish bulletin). I was surprised to find that it was only 4 pages long! At both my parishes, it’s usually more like 12!


Next, we headed out of town. I didn’t have a lot of charge on my phone, so instead of using the GPS, I just found my way to M-43 and headed west. I wasn’t going to stop until I hit water! We had heard that there was a Blueberry Festival in South Haven this weekend and thought it would be good to check that out. We pulled into town and ended up on Phoenix Street. Just past the downtown area, right before the road dipped down to go towards the lighthouse, there were barricades for the festival. Luckily, there was also on-stree parking RIGHT THERE! We couldn’t have asked for a better spot!

We were on the southwest corner of the intersection, and on the northwest corner was this sign:

I liked looking at all of the boats in the marina. If I could, I would love to live on the water and have a boat (or two or four) of my own!

As we were walking down to the pier, we saw this big, pink flower. It was huge! Probably 7-8 inches in diameter! Even though it doesn’t really look that big in the photo.

And, finally, THE BEACH!


And the lighthouse:


With sailboats on the water!

We read all of the graffiti on the lighthouse. I saw one that said “Hannah was here” and wondered if it belonged to Hannah Ekblad…
Hannah Was Here

I even got Mom to take a picture…. And she was happy that I didn’t push her in the water! πŸ™‚

I tried taking a self-portrait, although it turned out a little funny because I kept squinting in the bright light.

We didn’t take the time to actually swim on the beach, but I did sit down on the edge of the pier and dangled my feet over the side!

More pictures of kids playing in the sand:

Seagull footprints:

Even though I had my good running shoes on, I still walked across the sand to take pictures of the waves. These are tiny compared to the waves of the ocean, but I will take what I can get! πŸ™‚

All of the water and boats actually looked like this:
I added contrast to most of the other shots, but it was kind of cool as they were normally, with almost nothing to tell you where the sky ended and the sea began….

Like me, you might be wondering why my mom was looking at her feet so intently. Well, it appears that where she was standing, when she took a step, the sand would shift and “crackle out” about 12 inches away from her foot.

The Ubiquitous Seagull Shot:

Another look of the beach, pier and lighthouse:

I took pictures of some treats for Erwin:

And for Lindsay:

Amy had suggested that we eat at the Phoenix Street Cafe while we were in town. So, after browsing through a couple of neat little shops, we did just that! I’m not sure if my brother or my dad would have enjoyed it as much as we did.

Here is Mom’s Asparagus Sandwich:

And my Spinach Burger (no meat was harmed in the making of this burger!):

Right next door to the Phoenix Street Cafe was The Blueberry Shoppe. I got 5 pounds of blueberries to take home, some mix to make Blueberry White Chocolate cookies, blueberry jerky, blueberry truffle, and we each tried a blueberry drink.

Mom got the Blueberry Lemonade (which was the better-tasting of the two):

And, although I would have preferred the Blueberry Lemonade, I opted to try something different and got the Blueberry Jelly Belly soda.

Our quick vacation to South Haven was now complete, and we headed back home. Plus, our 3 hour time limit for parking was about over…. πŸ™‚

Day Trip to Ann Arbor

For our last pre-school trip of the summer (there will be tons of after-the-start-of-school trips, this is just my latest excuse), April and I headed over to Ann Arbor for the day. I had lots of suggestions on what to do, but due to time constraints, we weren’t able to fit them all in. πŸ™‚

We stopped at Our Lady of Good Counsel on the way to look at the grotto and the new Garden of Gethsemane. Unfortunately, we got caught in the post-Mass traffic and we sitting in the middle of North Territorial for quite a while trying to turn into the driveway, but being blocked by people exiting. After a long bout of laughing, we decided to cruise by the new rectory/house. We couldn’t determine which one was “ours,” but they all looked pretty nice. πŸ™‚

Word of the Day: swanky
1. A person or object that is posh, high-class, glamorous, classy, upmarket, etc.
2. A person or object that is cool, awesome, hip, maybe even obsessed by the person using the word, to describe that person or object.
(Thanks to Urban Dictionary for the definition!)

While parking, we saw that Fr. John’s car (SUV, whatever) was there, so we sought him out. We caught him in the main part of the Church where I told him of the Plans of the Day and that we were visiting OLGC. He didn’t have a long time to chat, as he had to get ready for Mass, but did get to greet April.

Growing in Faith since 1920

We took a quick tour of the upper floor of OLGC and I tried to point out some things. I don’t know how good of a tour guide I was. I tried to point out the saint statues in the main space, the mosaic to Our Lady of Good Counsel, the big Bible, the small chapel behind the tabernacle, some of the saints drawn on the windows and the Day Chapel.

Our Lady of Good Counsel Mosaicdscn3577Day Chapel

Then, we went outside and looked at the garden and the grotto. I made April try to figure out who’s who in the garden between Jesus, Peter, James and John. She did well. Then, I mistook one of the displays they had there. I thought it was the cross, getting ready for the crucifixion. However, in Fr. John’s bulletin article for today, it says that it’s an olive press, and gives the significance of that. I did like the suggestion that it might be a catapult. Heehee. It’s even aimed at the church. I suppose that’s one way to get people in to Mass…. πŸ™‚

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, OLGC, Plymouth, MI

St. JohnSt. Peter
St. JamesJesus praying...

“Catapult” Heeheehee!

It was close to noon when we left OLGC, so we thought that lunch might be a good next course of action. I wanted to go to Casey’s Tavern because they have awesome sandwiches. There was a book fair going on in Kerrytown and parking was pretty impossible. After driving up and down the streets, I finally parked at the hospital and we walked over.


Casey’s is not open on Sundays. We trekked up to Zingerman’s and saw that the line for food was out the door. We got into the store portion and April picked up some raisin bread for her family. We hopped over to Zingerman’s Next Door and I introduced her to their gelato.

I think she likes it!
April and her mint chocolate chip/dark chocolate gelato

April at Zingerman's DeliZingerman's bakery case

Across the street was a book fair in Kerrytown. April found a present for her nephew: A space story puzzle book which was self-published by a young boy. He had published 3 little books and they are all pretty cute. Not only did she get the book, but she got her picture taken with the author and the book signed by the author and the illustrator (the author’s mom)!

April takes a photo with the book's author

Still hungry, we made our way to State Street for sandwiches at Amer’s Mediterranean Deli. We checked out a couple used book stores on the way, but managed to hang on to our cash. πŸ™‚ Amer’s is great for having a huge list of sandwiches (over 80!) on multiple chalkboards, arranged by type of meat. I had the T.M.H. (turkey, muenster, honeycup mustard) and swapped out the usual rye bread for challah. Yum! I also got a peach italian soda. Yum!

April and her sandwich from Amer's

My T.M.H. from Amer's Mediterranean Deli!

By the time we finished eating, it was 3:30 pm. We had wanted to get home about 5 pm, so we started to make our way back to the car. We rode the M bus to the Cardiovascular Center, took photos with Bo Schembechler (heehee), cut through the Cancer Center and down the hill to the car. After all this traveling, I was quite thirsty and suggested we stop for drinks before hitting the highway. We stopped at Sweetwater’s Cafe and got lemonade slushies. I got regular and April got the strawberry variant.

Bo and April, chillin’:
Bo and April

Bo Schemechler's Plaque

Just as we were getting on the highway, we saw a ladder truck with a US flag flying from the ladder. There were firemen standing around. Framed by the dark clouds in the background (as it had just started to rain) and lit by the sun it was a gorgeous site. Sadly, I was driving and not able to take a photo for you. I did beep and wave as I passed, though! πŸ™‚

Shortly after arriving home, I remembered that it the funeral visitation for Fr. JJ’s dad was tonight. I quickly changed clothes, jumped back in the car and drove to Dearborn. I arrived in time to pray the last mystery of the rosary and give hugs to Fr. JJ. He said he was so glad that I had come. I know that he will need lots of prayers, both Monday when he has to preside over his dad’s funeral and in the days to come, particularly in the quiet times when he is alone. Please help me pray for him and for his family for God’s peace and comfort.

Finally, I raced back home to try to make it to Mass at SS. Cyril and Methodius at 8:30 pm. GPS said that I was going to be 15 minutes late, but I managed to be only 5 minutes late. Whew! So glad I made it to Mass! πŸ™‚

Not bad for a Sunday! How was yours?