My better half and I just got home from a short vacation to the Grand Traverse region of Michigan.
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you’ll remember that this is the same location I highlighted as a cheap vacation destination for us, a few years back.
The truth is, we go every year. And while that may seem like it would get stale pretty quickly, we always try to mix in a few new wrinkles. This year’s included:
1. Our first real experience mountain biking. We rented bikes and logged about 20 km through the outstanding VASA pathway. I was on a 29″ fat tire Big Surly bike – it was the most fun I’ve had on a bike and left me craving more.
2. A free parkour “basics” course with Levi Meeuwenberg of Ninja Warrior fame, with a view of Grand Traverse Bay as a backdrop. Levi moved back to his hometown in Traverse from L.A. and left behind a successful career as a stuntman in film, commercials, and massive live performance events to start an organic farm on his family’s homestead. It doesn’t get much more bad ass than that. If you’re not familiar with Levi, you’ll want to watch his show-reel:
Super nice and humble guy. Thanks for kicking our ass, Levi.
I’ll let you guess how many stories of building we leaped from. Parkour training the same day as your first 20 km on a mountain bike is not a good idea, for the record…
A Guilty Pleasure Justified
There’s one thing we don’t change with our annual trip: massive amounts of wine purchases. We love beer to the point of homebrewing our own, but we also love wine and every year we buy a year’s supply of wine from the Grand Traverse region – typically about 3-4 cases.
Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula are right at the 45th north parallel (ideal latitude for grape harvest and home to many of the world’s best winemaking regions). The peninsulas also have a fantastic climate with warmer temperatures later in the year as a result of being on the coast, as well as coastal humidity and precipitation. The result is approximately 40 wineries making some of the best wine in the world.
If you go during the week, you won’t wait in line, and most of the tastings are free or at a very low charge (which can typically be re-invested in to any bottles you purchase). And you can buy some excellent wine for as low as $6 per bottle up to a rare maximum of around $25 (average is $10-14).
So, we load up.
I guess you could call this a “guilty pleasure”, although I don’t have any guilt over it. Lets call it a rare and appreciated “costly pleasure” instead.
Sure, we could save a few bucks if we instead loaded up on a cheaper low-quality box wine alternative made and shipped in from faraway lands, harvested from a pesticide-rich megafarm corporation, before being injected in to and stored in a petrochemical bag, with corners being cut at every step along the way. But…. why?
Every time we go on the tour, we see familiar faces, see beautiful scenery, ask questions to and share stories with the owners, and see, smell, and taste the very grapes that will end up in our bodies. It’s about as intimate and locally sourced as it gets (aside from one’s back yard garden).
The fact that this rare treasure exists just a few hours from home is not taken for granted.
For anyone in our fine state to want to purchase wine in any other way can only be chalked up as lack of experience. Experience it, Michiganders!
Admittedly, wine is not a necessity. And there are cheaper ways to buy it. But sometimes pleasure, experience, quality and principles outweigh the cheaper alternative. Still, a whole lot of sacrifice throughout the year goes in to validating the justification to splurge.
I think that the key is knowing where to draw the line and when to cross it. And how often.