Wednesday, July 29, 2009

10 Reasons Your Dog Will Love St Joseph, MI

It's the dog days of summer here in Michigan and it's my dog's first birthday to boot (Happy First Birthday Kaj!). So in honor of my canine best friend I'm going to feature ten dog-friendly things your dog (and you) will love about St. Joseph, Michigan.

1. First off, I have to say that St. Joseph is the dog-friendliest town I've ever been to. And because dogs are so welcomed and accommodated here, you see them everywhere! Probably the most popular spot for dog walking and dog socializing is Lake Bluff Park. Beautiful view of Lake Michigan too! In various places along the sidewalk of the park there are "Mutt Mittens" so you can clean up after your dog. Very handy to have around because no dog wants to step in some else's poo!
2. St. Joseph has a terrific off-leash dog park! It's located in Kiwanis Park on Pearl St. just off Langley. It has two good sized, fenced in areas, one for big dogs 30 lbs and over and an adjacent area for the little ones under 30 lbs. Both areas are mowed regularly and nicely maintained. No fee for admittance.

3. There are doggie drinking fountains located around Lake Bluff Park and in the Dog Park as well. There's nothing like a nice cool drink of water when you're out for a walk or a romp. This makes it very easy on dog owners... you don't have to carry your own portable dog bowl with you. And being at doggie level makes it very easy on the doggies too! :-)
4. We have a dog-friendly hotel in town! The Silver Beach Hotel is happy to have your canine pal as a guest with you. There is a one time $25.00 room cleaning fee and dogs must be on a leash when outside of the room. The Silver Beach Hotel is on Main Street and just a block away from Lake Bluff Park and all the great downtown shops and restaurants. :-) [100 Main Street St. Joseph, MI 49085 ph.269.983.7341]

5. There are two radio stations broadcasting in the greater St. Joseph area that have "pet shows" with lots of good tips for dog owners. WSJM (94.9 FM) has "Pet Talk" on Saturday nights from 10pm till midnight. And COSY-FM (103.7) has a show on Saturday mornings at 9:30am. Your dog will appreciate all that you'll learn about him from these shows.

6. We have some terrific digs for dogs here in St. Joseph. If you'd like to board your dog while you're in town you'll be pleased to know that a new facility, Mutterly Love, is here for your baby! In addition to boarding, they also offer grooming, training, doggie day care, and lots of love :-) They are open 7 days a week and the daycare rate is only $2/HR. Don't leave your dog in a hot car while you're at the beach (where dogs are NOT allowed), be kind to your canine BFF and leave 'em at doggie daycare. Mutterly Love is located at 200 Kerth St. in St. Joseph ph. (269) 983-MUTT (6888).

7. If you'd prefer to bathe your dog yourself, you're in luck! There's a 24 Hour Do It Yourself Dog Wash at the corner of Cleveland Ave. and Washington Ave. So if your dog gets sprayed by a skunk while you're out for a midnight stroll... no worries mate! Just bring him over to the Sparkle Quik Lube and clean him up!

8. And speaking of "out walking", there is a really neat walking trail in St. Joseph that your dog will love. The John and Dede Howard Family Recreation Trail skirts both Lake Michigan and the St. Joseph River. You can catch it at the pedestrian bridge from Lake Court Street (behind the water treatment plant) and go all the way to the Bicentennial Bridge on the St. Joseph River.

9. Dogs love FuzzyButz Bakery! This is a terrific place to take your canine BFF. They have all kinds of fresh baked dog treats, even for those with sensitive stomachs. It's more than just a bakery though, they have lots of toys and dog apparel too. Your dog will really enjoy this place and you will make him feel special with treats from FuzzyButz! They're located at 613 Broad Street in downtown St. Joseph. ph (269) 983-WOOF (9663).

10. If you're looking for a more full service pet store you can't beat Martin's Paw Mart at 2121 South Cleveland Ave. in St. Joseph They have everything from crates, to chew toys, premium dog food, treats, leashes, collars, apparel, and more. The staff is friendly and they accept pet food donations for the local Humane Society. ph (269) 983-5270.

If those aren't enough good reasons to bring your dog to St. Joseph, I'm sure these parting shots will convince you that this is a dog-friendly town... these dogs are enjoying one of the free concerts in the bandshell along the St. Joseph River.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Roadtrip: Tabor Hill Winery

This wasn't much of a road trip really, as Tabor Hill Winery is just a few miles from St. Joseph in nearby Buchanan, Michigan. But it was a quick trip to a terrific winery!

D, DJ, and I visited Tabor Hill last Saturday. On a tip from the book, From the Vine: Exploring Michigan Wineries, we made dinner reservations in advance (5pm). When we got there and saw what a popular place this was we were glad we did.

The drive from our condo took about 25 minutes on single lane roads through farm country, mostly corn fields and vineyards. When we arrived at the vineyard, about 4:10pm, the parking lot was packed. We managed to get a spot as someone was pulling out.

The setting is very pretty with mature trees and rolling hills of grape vines visible from the parking lot.

We wanted to take the winery tour before dinner and the tours start on the half hour. So we went inside first to check out the gift shop.

We finished looking around inside just before 4:30 and then headed back outside to the place where the tours begin. Evan was our tour guide. He was knowledgeable, humorous, and encouraged questions. :-) The tour started right on time.

The tour began outside where the grapes are first processed.

Then we moved inside to see the vats where the wine is aged.

And on to the bottling room.

Then we went outside and returned to the basement of the main building where we looked at the trophy display and the uniquely carved oak barrel heads.

The tour finished up right at 5:00pm so we then we made our way upstairs for dinner. We checked in with the receptionist and were seated immediately.

We passed by the Grape Escape on the way to our seats.

The room we sat in had a lovely view of the vineyards. In fact, we were surrounded by them.

Our waiter was attentive and brought our menus right away. There were so many delicious sounding menu items it was very difficult for us to make our decisions. But we finally did! D and DJ had the Tempura Prawns (with Chardonnay) ...

And I had the Raspberry Pecan Chicken with Sweet Potato Succotash (and a Rose)...

What can I say? The food was fabulous! I brought half of mine home because I didn't want to pass up dessert. For dessert, DJ had orange cheesecake, D had a bowl full of fresh berries with whipped cream, and I had a brownie cheesecake.

Everyone enjoyed their desserts as much as their entrees. It was a terrific meal, no doubt about it. We also ordered a some truffles from the candy case in the gift shop. They were wonderful too but at $2.25 a piece we probably won't be ordering them again any time soon.

On our way out we stopped in at the wine tasting bar and sampled several varieties of Tabor Hill's wines. I can't say which was our favorite, we liked all the ones we tasted. We brought 6 bottles home with us (2 of the Demi Sec, their most popular wine).

Just before we got in the car to return home we went into the vineyard to grab a quick pic of their grapes. When all is said and done, at a winery, it's all about the grapes.

Would we go there again? Ohhh yes! I look forward to returning during harvest time. I can't wait to smell the scent of the grapes being processed. I expect we'll have finished all our bottles of Tabor Hill wine by then so it will be time to restock ;-)

Tabor Hill Winery is located at 185 Mount Tabor Road
Buchanan, Michigan USA 49107
(800) 283 - 3363

Monday, July 27, 2009

Port St. Joseph, Michigan

Most people tend to think of St. Joseph as a beach town, resort town, art town, or the county seat for Berrien County. But St. Joseph is also a port town. D and DJ and I got to witness that first hand this past weekend.

After a nice breakfast at Sophia's Friday morning, we stopped at Lookout Park to gaze upon the lake for a bit. Immediately off the coast was a freighter heading north. We watched it for a few minutes debating if it might be coming into port in the St. Joseph River.

We decided to run back to the condo to get our cameras (our DSLs, not the point-and-shoot I took the previous pic with) and head into town to see for ourselves.

Sure enough, just as we arrived at the top of the bluff in front of the Whitcomb we could see the ship coming down the channel of the river between the north and south piers. The channel never looked so small until a freighter occupied it!

We watched it progress through the railroad bridge...

And waved back to the crew members who waved to us! The Alpena typically carries a crew of 21 and sails under the Inland Lakes Management banner carrying cement products between Lafarge facilities along all 5 of the Great Lakes.

In just a matter of minutes the rear of the ship was passing through by the bridge...
Before we knew it, the freighter was pulling up to the dock to load up.
I've watched freighters come and go along the Great Lakes and connecting waterways all of my life. But until I came to St. Joseph I'd never seen one come into port and pull up to a dock, up close and personal. I imagine it would be akin to threading a needle when you're floating on raft... the skill required must be substantial!

I'm not sure how long the Alpena was in port. It was still at the dock when we drove by on our way to South Haven on Saturday but it was gone by the time we went to the concert in the bandshell Sunday afternoon. I would have liked to have seen the Alpena put out of port. I'm sure I would have been amazed by that too!

Does anyone know if there is a publically available listing of freighters coming and going from the port of St. Joseph?