The Million Miles – Sterling MI

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By Lisa Ann Krutzik

I arrived at The Girls Getaway where I was greeted by my friend and a beautiful bedroom with amazingly soft pillows. By this point the 7 hour drive had turned into 11 plus hours (thanks to the welcome center, lunch, and photographing the bridge). I was mentally done for the day. It seemed I was asleep in1.2 seconds once my head hit those soft pillows.

Next day I awoke to find myself in a sunlit room of vintage elegance. The furniture was turn of the century. The eyelet on the sheets brought me back to a time when my mother would iron eyelet sheets beforIMG_3296se putting them on my bed. The curtains hung against the window with such ease it made me take a deep breath of relaxation. There was no stress in this space, just quiet.

This was a retreat house not a bed and breakfast. I had planned for this and brought along my own groceries. I entered the kitchen, made a sandwich, and sat in the quaint dining room with a handmade doily gracing the center of the table. After seeing the quilt sewing room in the basement, I entered a large bathroom and enjoyed every drop of water that fell upon my head from the large waterfall showerhead. I am confident that if I didn’t have a schedule to keep, I would have stayed in that shower a lot longer. I heard my friend return and the day was off and running!

Local Adventure

One piece in the ‘plan of action’ with this project is to experience a true local tradition. When my friend asked me if I like Mexican food I really didn’t think much about it as I replied: “Yes”. Gretchen responded with, “Great! There is a little roadside restaurant that you have to experience! It will be the best Mexican food you ever eat!”

Tony’s Taco’s moves locations almost every year. He is in town only seasonally and sends a great majority of his earnings back to his family in Mexico. This summer he was tremendously lucky to find a cement landing where a gas station had once been. His extremely clean mobile kitchen was parked in a way that it almost looked like a building. A tent was erected next to it fIMG_3117sor sun cover and picnic tables were filled with people taking pleasure in his culinary creations.

In the time frame we were there enjoying our food and Mexican soda out of glass bottles, cars kept rolling in one after another. Locals, tourists, and just random travelers who found this little taco stand in the middle of nowhere. I had never had a taco like the one I enjoyed that afternoon—and the fresh guacamole? There are no words!

Flower Farming—an AmerIcan Business 

What would you do with 30 acres of lush farmland? Well it was an easy answer for Walter & Joy Reinhardt! The story about Reinhardt Blooms and over 100 different amazing cut flowers and perennials will be released later this week!IMG_3122s

A 3rd going on 4th Generation Dairy A Family Affair

Kyle’s family has owned the dairy farm that skirts the water’s edge of Saginaw Bay since 1925. His grandparents farmed the land for 58 years before his parents took it over and they have been farming it for 29 seasons this summer. The fourth generation of children will probably take over the family dairy as a team. Kyle and his new wife Michelle, Rebecca, and Katie plan on working together to keep the family farm exactly as that: a family farm.

IMG_4812This farm is an example that the traditional family farm can still provide a positive living and lifestyle through the production of milk, beef, and pigs. On average they milk 50-60 cows per day and they grow their own feed for the animals. Within the past two years the family has invested in expanding the milking parlor to milk eight cows at a time. This expansion is flexible to 12-head so that if in the future, as the herd enlarges, they can accommodate the growth.

Rebecca likes raising the calves into young stock and it was because of her interest in raising pigs that Kyle and Michelle met. Rebecca needed help taking her first pig to the fair and talked her brother into helping. Kyle then met Michelle at the fair and they have been together ever since. Rebecca currently works at Reinhardt Blooms, milks cows, and looks forward to being her own boss. Katie is the youngest and she is currently working on the farm full time doing whatever is needed from milking to harvesting.

It was easy to see Gary & Tina Pickvet not only love the family they’ve raised, but also love the life they’ve built for themselves on this farm. Big smiles were on their faces as they shared the history; ringing laughter as they talked about the kids experiences on the farm.  Their devotion to being real with everything they are doing so they don’t get bigger than what they, as a family, can handle was evident.

When I asked about any downsides they looked at each other and seemed to be searching for an answer. Eventually Gary said, “You can’t go anywhere because you can’t leave.” He and his wife Tina are looking forward to the day when Kyle, Michelle, Rebecca, and Katie officially take over so they can be free to travel a bit.

While I was there their nephew Zach was visiting from North Carolina. Zach, age 13, had these thoughts about staying on the family dairy farm. “This has been the funnest (sec) place to visit! I’ve been to Disney World and their rides don’t compare to coming to the farm! The ATV during the summer and the snowmobiles in the winter make this the best place to visit ever!”

Having grown up on a dairy farm myself, I totally understand where he is coming from. There is always something to do between chores: the hay barn, the cats, the toys, the tractors, tree houses, and for the most part—parents don’t even think twice about their kids being outside and having a good time on their own. It is a good life and when you produce good wholesome food for your family and your community, it just feels good to be a farmer.

An AmerIcan Wedding Project™ Vintage WeddingPinconning

A Model T Ford, an airplane from the 1930s, horses, and a reception in the airplane hanger—the wedding of

Kyle & Michelle was not only a step forward in their lives but also a step back in time.

Round Trip

Because this Michigan trip was part of a 10 wedding prelude to the launch of the tour, I traveled back to Wisconsin. Turns out the trip back only added more adventure!

Once I knew I had the dream vehicle, I wanted to test critics’ views of flex fuel when it came to gas mileage. Unlike Wisconsin where almost every Kwik Trip had ethanol fuel, Michigan forced me to google for gas stations that offered it. I found myself driving almost an hour southwest of where the wedding was so I could fill up.

IMG_4839sBecause of this detour I had another opportunity. I went to visit the man who wrote the AmerIcan Wedding Project™ song for us: Dan Vaillancourt. When he asked me what I had done that week, I told him about Tony’s Taco’s and he responded: “Tony’s Taco’s! That place is legendary! Whenever I travel north I have to seek it out and eat there!” I was over 50 miles away from Sterling at this point.

Dan travels throughout the country sharing his unique ‘funkified’ version of folk, funk, and acoustic music. He sings in coffee shops and private homes while on the road. To provide a more stabilized income for his now growing family (he and his wife have a little girl) Dan teaches private music classes.

Dan took me to the tri-bridge in the center of Midland, Michigan where a bridge connects over the top of the Y section at the river. He shared that not only do upstate Michiganders call downstate people trolls because of the big Mackinac Bridge, but the people in Midland actually have a troll art project and you could find trolls all over the city!

After visiting with Dan and walking around in the beautiful downtown area of Midland, I drove past Dow Chemicals. They are in the final process of developing solar paneled roof tiles in an old car factory. This in turn reminded me of the trees I would see in a few short hours as I headed back north toward Mackinac Bridge.

IMG_4875sIt was still daylight when I arrived on the south side of the bridge. I gathered my wits by taking some pictures before attempting to cross over. Not having a choice but to be on the outer edge of the bridge, and visually above the guard rails, I was even more nervous than the first trip.

I now knew why Michigan has two state fairs. There would be no way to take a trailer with live animals over this bridge! The Mackinac is so big they have a painting crew year around. They paint the inside and outside of the bridge and by the time they get done, they have to start over. That is job security!

I was so stressed out by the time I got to the toll booth on the other side, I never even thought about stopping for gas. I just wanted to be on land!

An hour or so after the bridge I noticed the sun was setting and there was a turn off for a state park. I pulled in, grabbed my camera and photographed the sun setting over Wisconsin. This would be the perfect honeymoon destination for anyone who wanted nature and seclusion. Along the shoreline there was campsite after campsite for the perfect getaway. There were also a number of beautiful cabins available for rent either by the day or week.

It’s not only difficult to find ethanol fuel in Michigan, but most gas stations in the Upper Peninsula are closed by 9pm and they don’t have 24 hour pumps. The dream vehicle (Ford Escape) tells you how many miles of gas you have left in the tank. To say the least, I didn’t get home that night.

Waking up at the crack of dawn, after sleeping in the front seat of a SUV on what feels like the edge of the earth, is a magical event. Photographing dawn breaking over Michigan—with a quaint lighthouse glimmering in the distance—was like being in a movie. After fueling (regular gas), Sirius™ radio entertained my brain until I found myself driving into my own driveway.

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God had a good laugh and then entertained my senses with the sunset and sunrise that followed. Enterprise came to my rescue in getting me there and back with the dream vehicle. Kyle and Michelle had their vintage wedding even if it was a little wet. And I had the best taco of my life. The AmerIcan Wedding Project had begun. And yes, it was a good trip.

[Vehicle notes: Regular gas had higher gas mileage, Ethanol cost less at the pump – it worked out exactly to 0.16 cents per mile with either fuel. I traveled exactly 1,125.1 miles round trip and averaged 23 miles to the gallon.

Both types of fuel take fuel to get the product to gas stations. Both are produced here in America. But ethanol production has added over 150,000 American jobs since 2005.  I have to admit if I owned a Flex Fuel vehicle, I would use ethanol consistently. Is the Ford Escape Flex Fuel SUV still my dream vehicle? Yes and No. It was super comfortable, easy to drive, powerful, and stable, but I only got 23 miles to the gallon on average and that was highway mileage! I did find out there’s plenty of leg room—thanks to the unplanned SUV sleepover!]

1,000,000 – 1,125.1 = 998,874.9 miles to go.

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