Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

The best date June 25, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 8:03 pm
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BT_plane62017

This pilot can’t quite see over the controls!

I admit it’s been a long time since I’ve gone on a date that truly excites me. It’s been some time since I’ve sat across from a guy who likes me as much as I like him, or vice versa. Dating isn’t easy, especially when you have a good idea of what you want, and, maybe more importantly don’t want, in a relationship.

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So it was a fun, refreshing outing today with…..my handsome, funny, goofy, smart, talkative nephew. ­čÖé (sorry, family, for the tease.) I try to take my nieces and nephew on outings throughout the year, and also try to spend time on individual activities. It was my 8-year-old nephew’s turn so I picked him up for a special date. I love exploring the outdoors and being active with the kids. You may have read my other blog posts about our previous adventures in the woods, geocaching and more. I decided today we would explore the outdoors in the city…..we headed to downtown Detroit to wander through the Michigan DNR Outdoor Adventure Center.

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I visited the Outdoor Adventure Center a few years ago when it first opened (read the

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Learning how to keep forests safe.

blog), and it was BT’s first visit, so I looked forward to it. Plus, it was a gorgeous summer day, which added to my plan to walk Detroit’s riverfront after the center.

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The Outdoor Adventure Center basically brings all of Michigan’s awesome outdoor fun indoors to the city for residents and visitors to learn about and explore. There are hands-on activities, exhibits and simulators. There are also tons of interesting facts throughout the center to learn about Michigan’s outdoors, as well as protecting the environment in general. It’s fun for all ages!

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We checked out some live fish, relaxed in a yurt, “reeled in” a walleye and pike from a fishing boat (great simulator!), walked through a mine shaft, and wandered behind an indoor waterfall (Michigan has more than 150 waterfalls!). We laid down in a small tent to discuss the pros and cons of sleeping in a tent and what happens if it rains, then I watched BT climb a tree and slide down. We discussed the awesome ability of beavers to build such cool dams, and I delighted at his laugh upon seeing a hibernating bear inside of a den.

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Eek! Black bear behind us!

He loved the second floor of the center, where there are numerous hands-on activities and simulators. We discussed recycling and energy conversation inside a small mock kitchen and bathroom. Then we tested each other on the sounds of various frogs and birds. He refused to hold my hand across a suspension bridge (um, I wanted it for MY comfort) but did sweetly come back when I was mid-way to “help me.” He piloted a very small plane used by the DNR to monitor hunting and trapping, and I discovered I might stick with commercial airlines for a while!

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We kicked butt as a team in a hunting game, and I almost bounced out of a dune buggy that he drove (seriously, wear a seat belt!)! His huge smile while driving a snow mobile warmed my heart, and he actually congratulated me when I barely won a mountain bike race (he can be a little competitive). On the third floor, we talked about bald eagles, climbing trees and protecting nature.

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Back on the first floor, we sat around the campfire again while we discussed our next

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Love our time together!

plan. With a decision made, we grabbed some sunscreen, snacks and water from my car and headed to the river. I love walking Detroit’s riverfront! Much work and improvements have been done over the past few years. Many people were using the ride share bikes, as well as sitting on benches and standing along the railing. We wandered a bit, then found a shady spot along the river to eat our snacks, watch the many boats coast by and talk. We discussed summer vacation plans, third grade, his book recommendations for me, when I might get married, Canada, birds, the Coast Guard’s duties, sailboats, Corvettes, his dog, my favorite candy, why I don’t like sour Skittles and much, much more. I truly have an adorable, charming, silly, sweet, intelligent, fun nephew (I’m not being partial, it’s the truth!).

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I knew the day was a success when, as we walked along the river front, BT took my hand and shared how much fun he had with me. And then added with his charming smirk, “My sisters are going to be pretty jealous.” Ah, yes, a successful day.

 

Biking on a race track May 14, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 2:43 pm
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Biking on the Grand Prix course!

My friends and I decided to head downtown today for a bike ride on Belle Isle Park, one of my favorite places to bike in the morning. The 982-acre island in the Detroit River offers a paved 6.5-mile bike path, plus many interior roads, so it’s easy to get some distance after a few loops. We looked forward to the promise of a beautiful weather day and hanging out together while on our bikes. We didn’t, however, plan for the start of preparing for the Detroit Grand Prix to be held June 2-4, 2017 on Belle Isle.

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If you’re a racing fan or history buff…..the Detroit Grand Prix started in 1982 as a Formula One race through downtown Detroit (that doesn’t sound safe to me!). It moved to Belle Isle in 1992 and was held annually until 2001. It occurred sporadically through the years until 2012 and has been held annually since with a variety of races held during the weekend, including the IndyCar Series.

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A lot of set up has already occurred for the race, including cement barricades for the track,┬á grandstands set up, sponsor banners and tents in place, and more. There is lots of high fencing up, I’m assuming to protect spectators during the race, but it kind of blocks your view of the river and nature. The track and festivities are set up on the west side of the island so once you get closer to the east end, the stands, banners and other event melee end.┬áThere were a lot of geese with adorable babies so I feel bad for them on race weekend. So loud and chaotic. I hope they hunker down on the other side of the island!

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We made the most of the obstacles and laughed at biking on a race track. After all, it’s not every day that you get to ride through a Grand Prix race track…on your bike! And your new Chevy SUV, which I thought was fun since Chevrolet is the major sponsor. We had a beautiful day to bike throughout the island and added some good mileage to our ride. I remembered how fun it is to ride with a group of people and how easy it is to rack up miles because you’re distracted talking and enjoying the time with others. It was a great start to the day.

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Now I’m off to celebrate my awesome mom! Wishing all of the moms a wonderful Mother’s Day!

 

When bowling and football collide April 16, 2017

SamM_HHfowling42017A friend recently invited me to join a group of people to play fowling. I had heard of this activity but never played or seen it in action. I was interested in checking it out.

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What’s fowling (pronounced FOE-ling)? It’s a football bowling pin game. Fowling was invented by some guys right here in metro Detroit. It involves the traditional set up of 10 bowling pins on a flat plywood board. Another set of pins is placed about 48 feet apart, then you take turns throwing a football from your board to your opponent’s board, trying to be the first to knock down all of your pins.

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It turns into chaotic fun. And it’s not as easy as you think (although I didn’t think it was going to be easy at all!). The ball, which is much lighter than the pins, may hit the board, floor or wall (or person!) at an odd angle, causing it to bounce around. Sometimes it hits the pins, sometimes it hits the person standing near the board (I have a bruise on my thigh as proof). If the ball bounces and then knocks the pins down, that counts. And if another team’s ball bounces (from another lane) and knocks the pins down, it counts. If you go to grab the ball and accidentally knock a pin down, it counts (I thankfully didn’t do this but saw it happen a few times). So it got pretty comical watching people grab at or try to deflect a bouncing football.

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We played at the HUB Stadium (which stands for House of Urban Bowling) in Auburnfowlingpins Hills. I noticed on their website that they call the activity bombowling (fowling by another name). There are 16 lanes, which were consistently busy. A full menu and two bars, plus space for private parties made for a very busy place.

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The guy that originally coined the fowling term and established the rules opened The Fowling Warehouse in Hamtramck. There is no food onsite but they allow outside food, and have a full bar. Several people mentioned they also have been to this location and enjoyed the large space to play.

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The game was a lot of fun and I definitely would play again. It would be a great tailgate, camping or outdoor game. Have you been fowling?

 

A love for Detroit sports March 8, 2017

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Fun at the Detroit Pistons game!

If you’re a sports fan, living in metro Detroit is a good thing. You have your pick of professional sports teams and a host of collegiate teams. There’s no promise that any of these teams will be great all the time (or at all) but you at least get the enjoyment of having a home team to cheer on during games. I know there are many cities that have team spirit but there is nothing quite like being part of Detroit’s love of our teams.

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My dad was a big sports fan (although he often complained of the huge salaries that professional players receive). My sisters and I grew up to be fans of the Detroit Red Wings, Tigers, Lions and Pistons. And we were not raised to be ‘fair-weather fans.’ No, we stand beside our teams even through the most painful, defeating games and seasons (and we’ve faced many of those with certain teams!). My childhood memories are filled with mental images of listening to the Lions and Tigers’ games in the garage with my dad, driving home from the cider mill on a Sunday afternoon while the Lions’ game played on the radio, and staying up past bedtime to watch the Bad Boys win another basketball playoff game. My parents often hosted football watching parties. My grandmother was a diehard Red Wings fan and could spout statistics more accurately and faster than most sportscasters. When I finished chemo and during recovery of my second leg surgery, many of my dad’s colleagues and business partners had season tickets to the Red Wings and Pistons so my younger sister and I could often be found at these games.

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So it’s with a little nostalgia that I recognize that two of our sports stadiums are closing after their current seasons. The Detroit Red Wings will leave┬á Joe Louis Arena and the Detroit Pistons will end their season at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Both teams will be moving to the new Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit.

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Awesome Red Wings game!

I was lucky to take in a final game at each location before the end. My friend and I attended a great Wings’ game a few weeks ago, with an exciting win during an overtime shootout. It was his first game at the Joe and my last. The Joe holds many memories for me. My sisters and I have attended many hockey games, concerts and other entertainment shows at this iconic stadium. I recall being on crutches and hiking up the outdoors stairs. I remember hugging strangers when the Wings made the playoffs one season.

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A few days ago, my niece and I attended a Pistons game at the Palace. It was her first time at a Pistons game and my last game at this stadium. And guess what? The Pistons won! It was actually a pretty exciting game. The Palace too holds lots of fun memories of sports games, concerts, Disney on Ice shows, and many other entertainment shows. I smile when I think of all the memories that I have from this place, many with my family.

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While our memories will soon end at these longtime stadiums, I also remember Tiger Stadium before Comerica Park and the Silverdome that came before Ford Field. So I know that all of us Detroit sports fans will get used to the new stadium, as we did the ones that we’re leaving when they were shiny new locations (my true hope is that the cities won’t let these huge buildings fall to disrepair and gloom as the other stadiums have sadly become). Unfortunately, neither of these Detroit teams are ending their current seasons very well. We can only hope that the new stadium will bring much good luck to them, and all of their fans. Because that, my friends, is the spirit of Detroit. I look forward to the fun memories to come.

 

Jolly time visiting downtown Detroit February 24, 2017

Filed under: Life Lessons — Heather @ 4:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

detroitriverDetroit has been blessed with some beautiful warm, sunny weather days. Great reasons to head downtown to explore the city.

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On a recent exploration, a friend and I first stopped at the river walk to wander along the Detroit River, wave to our Canadian neighbors in Windsor (okay, maybe I’m the only one who does this!) and learn a little history while we soaked up some much needed vitamin D. There were several others with the same idea – I love seeing people getting outdoors to enjoy the downtown area.

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After a nice walk in the fresh air, we headed north on Woodward Avenue. We checked out the progress on the new Little Caesars Arena where the Detroit Red Wings and Pistons will soon play. As we neared Wayne State University, we stopped on Canfield Street to explore some more. And we did a little daydreaming as we wandered through the Shinola store. This Detroit-based company makes me pause beside soft leather handbags, awesome custom built bicycles, fun accessories and of course cool watches. I admit that I eyed a watch (or two) before willpower kicked in and made my wallet stay tucked inside of my purse (for now).

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jollypumpkinWe next wandered into Third Man Records, offering great selections of music. Originally founded by Detroit-native Jack White (of The White Stripes), the store showcases an array of vinyl records from amazing artists, record players, accessories and more. A listening booth, record booth, stage, and lounge were highlights for me. I love the eclectic vibe of this store.

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Next door to Third Man Records is Jolly Pumpkin Brewery. We of course needed refreshments after all the wandering! I love visiting Jolly Pumpkin on Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City, and have also dined at the Ann Arbor location. This was my first visit to the Detroit location. Jolly Pumpkin serves their own craft beer plus North Peak Brewing Company. They also have a variety of spirits. Oh and food. I enjoy both Michigan-based brands of craft beer, plus the relaxed atmosphere at all of their locations. I will definitely return.

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It was fun to check out the Michigan companies and enjoy the great weather with great company. All in all it was another fun adventure in downtown Detroit. Get there when you have the chance to explore, eat, drink and have fun!

 

Biking Belle Isle Park in Detroit November 6, 2016

hh_bikebelleisleI’m in love. With this mild, sunny weather. The beauty of nature. My new road bike. Life. I accomplished so very little responsibility-wise this weekend because I indulged myself with outdoor activities. We all need weekends to splurge and live life to the fullest, right? Yep, I think so too.

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I kept having this great idea all summer to take my bike downtown to Belle Isle Park but it seems like the months flew by and it never happened. So I was tickled with the mild temps and sunshine that graced metro Detroit the past few days. I’ve been able to get outside on my new road bike and I decided (at about 3am during a bout of insomnia) that today would be a great day to head to Belle Isle.

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I arrived on the island a little before 9am, instantly in awe of nature’s beauty appearing all over Belle Isle. Seriously, Mother Nature isn’t messing around this fall with the vibrant colors splashed all over Michigan. I biked throughout Stony Creek Metropark yesterday, loving the deep fall colors on trees and bushes.

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Belle Isle is located on the Detroit River between the United States and Canada. My sister and I visited Belle Isle last spring to explore the aquarium and conservatory (read my blog about that visit). These are worthwhile destinations if you’ve never been. While the city of Detroit still legally owns the 985-acre island, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources began operating Belle Isle a few years ago, making it Michigan’s 102nd state park. A lot of maintenance occurred and I was impressed with the cleanliness, nicely paved roads (except for the two small pot holes I narrowly avoided in the bike lane!) and several patrol cars seen driving around the island.

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I had so much fun riding around the state park. I arrived early enough that hardly anyone was there yet, which made biking all the better. There was strong wind along one end of the island that provided some serious resistance but, once I pushed through that and rounded a curve, my legs felt relief and my speed increased. A good friend tells me that my speed and strength will increase with practice so that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m on limited time with biking outdoors since crappy weather is too risky with the titanium rod in my leg. But it wasn’t crappy today so I enjoyed every minute I was outside on my bike. I pushed myself on several loops around the island, then rewarded myself by cruising around taking pictures. I decided that I can’t share just one or two photos because it was so pretty everywhere I looked! I hope you enjoy one of Michigan’s gems.

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Heading indoors to discover nature at Michigan’s Outdoor Adventure Center March 3, 2016

Did you know?*

  • There are more than 13,000 miles of trails in Michigan.
  • There are more than 3,000 water trails in Michigan.
  • The Great Lakes hold 21 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, about six quadrillion gallons!
  • Thirteen native species of frogs and toads call Michigan home.
  • Michigan has 102 state parks.
  • You can see the Great Lakes from space!
  • More than 1,000 gallons of water are wasted each year for every one drop of water that drips every two seconds from a pipe or faucet.
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MIOAC_mefire 22016_HH

I love campfires.

These cool facts are a few of the many things that we learned when visiting the Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit. Created by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, this 41,000-square-foot building brings some very cool aspects of our state’s outdoor recreation opportunities inside so residents can discover and experience nature.

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I’ve been itching to visit the center ever since it opened in 2015. So it was a clear, crisp Saturday that we headed to Detroit to learn about Michigan’s outdoors while indoors. I am an avid fan of outdoor recreation, from hiking to biking to camping to fishing…and more. Even I was in awe of the many details and points of interest included in this center. There are multiple exhibits and hands-on displays that take visitors from under the water to land to the sky. I learned a lot about our great state!

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Visitors learn how the Detroit River and the Great Lakes are connected and play key roles in fishing, shipping and recreation activities. Then you ‘go underwater’ to learn about native and invasive species, and the many opportunities to fish.The Belle Isle Aquarium hosts a tank filled with various species of live fish. We then wandered through a yurt, a circular tent with a solid floor, door and minimal furniture (this is a great alternative for tent camping) and learned about Michigan’s state parks.

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Fun kayaking through this display!

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The next display let visitors get into a fishing boat, cast some lines and reel in fish via an interactive screen. I kayaked one of Michigan’s many rivers (these interactive displays are so cool!). Did you know that Michigan has 150 waterfalls? I didn’t know this! We walked behind a real waterfall and learned more about fish and amphibians. A short ‘underground’ cave shared information about mining and the importance of bats to our ecosystem.

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We visited the sand dunes and glimpsed at a duck blind. I loved the campsite set up in the middle of the lower level. From a tent to a water pump to campfire and chairs, it was so realistic of what camping is and perfect to let visitors sample the fun. There are many ways to camp in Michigan – car camping (car is on site), rustic camping, backpacking, cabins, yurts and more.

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We learned about Michigan’s abundant forests, checked out a 35-foot tall oak tree and looked into a black bear den. I will admit that when I first poked my head into the den I was startled to see such a realistic looking bear sleeping in the corner (no worries, it is not alive)!

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On the second level, there is a suspension bridge, small plane to highlight the importance of the DNR’s work in the sky and exhibits highlighting the various hunting and trapping ways. There were some fun interactive displays that let you ride a snowmobile, mountain bike and off-road vehicle on trails. A small home model showed the major environmental benefits that small adjustments can make in water conservation and more.

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One of the many ‘animals’ we met.

Throughout the exhibits were animals, from bears to deer to frogs to bats to ducks and more. These life-like animals were placed in all the right spots as you walked through the displays. More than once I was startled to come upon a squirrel or lizard! I loved it!

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On a side note, the Outdoor Adventure Center is in the historic Globe Building, which was the site where many steam engines were built for passenger and freight ships. The Detroit Dry Dock Engine Works (later the Detroit Shipbuilding Company) was the company that Henry Ford served as an apprentice. There is an interesting exhibit highlighting the history of the building and these companies, including a model of the Boblo boat (many metro Detroit residents will remember that boat!)

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As we wandered through the center, I was so pleased to see many families discovering the exhibits together. Adults and children were enjoying the displays and interactive exhibits. I heard many laughs and conversations discussing the facts highlighted in displays.

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A cool campsite!

I really enjoyed exploring this center. It shows off so many different opportunities for people of all ages to be outside in nature. I’m proud that Michigan offers so much diverse outdoor recreation adventures to residents, encouraging people of all ages, backgrounds and location to get outdoors for fun and healthy living.

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One important message that I took away from the visit is that all of us can help protect our land and water. Whether it’s volunteering to track frogs, reporting illegal hunting, planting a garden to attract butterflies, recycling, picking up trash on a trail (and not being the one to litter!), or educating the next generation on the importance and fun of being outdoors, everyone can do something positive to help our home. I believe change starts with just one person. Let that person be you.

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The Outdoor Adventure Center is located on Atwater Street in downtown Detroit (across from the riverfront walk and William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor). Admission is $5 for adults; children 2-12 and senior citizens are $3. Free parking is available next to the building. Click here for hours and directions.

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*Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

 

 
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