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    Vacationing with the Benedicts: Wisconsin and Pure Michigan

    My side of the family planned a summer vacation starting in the Wisconsin Dells. However, we had a day to burn before meeting up with them and decided to pay a visit to Leah’s cousin in Chicago. We had a lot of fun staying with Kendra and meeting her boyfriend, David. While in Chicago, we enjoyed Lincoln Park Zoo (which is free – we highly recommend it) and a delicious Mexican restaurant.


    Visiting Leah's cousin in Chicago


    Leah and I were a little ahead of the rest of the family. We were commissioned to locate a restaurant and found a Denny’s down the road. However, after realizing Wisconsin is home of Culver’s, Mom and Dad asked us to find one. One of the most common phrases on the vacation was, “There’s a Culver’s – how much you want to bet Mom and Dad stop?”

    Once we had our first Culver’s fix, we continued to the Wisconsin Dells. The Dells are sandstone rock formations that surround the Wisconsin River. We got a close-up view on a Wild Thing jet boat ride. We enjoyed getting whipped around as the boat captain thrashed us into 360 degree turns and plunged the nose of the boat into the water.


    Benedicts before the jet boat ride


    There are over 20 different water parks in the Dells area. We went to Noah’s Ark, who claims to be America’s largest waterpark. My favorite attraction was the Scorpion’s Tail. At the top of the tower, I stepped into a capsule. As the glass closed around me, a voice counted down toward zero (I felt like I was about to join the Hunger Games). When the countdown got to zero, the floor dropped out from beneath me and I plummeted ten stories before doing a loop and reaching the end of the slide 400 feet later. It was the most intense water slide I’ve ever experienced, and it couldn’t have taken more than 7 seconds.

    One night, we attended the Tommy Bartlett Show. The show consisted of aqua athletes performing breath-taking stunts on boats, skis, and wake-boards. There was also a stage show that featured acrobats, jugglers, and comedians. Other than a comedian crossing the line of acceptable family humor, I recommend taking a family to this show; it was suspenseful and filled with humor.

    After a few days, we packed up two tents and a thirty-foot trailer to travel onward. Joe and Brittany had to head home early, but we were glad to have had time with all of the immediate Benedict’s.

    Several Culver’s stops and hours of driving later, we settled down in Door County. Door County is a peninsula on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. We did a lot of shopping and were amused by Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, where goats live on it’s grass roof. We swam at a few beaches and enjoyed riding the car ferry to explore Washington Island.


    Goats on a roof in Door County


    One of the highlights and musts of Door County was the Pelletier’s Fish Boil. Fish boils originated in Door County and are unique to that area. A fish boil takes place outside over a fire. A cook fills a giant pot with water and adds potatoes and onions, and fish are added later. As everything is cooked, the fish oil rises above the water. The cook then pours fuel on the flames below the pot, causing a giant flame to ignite the fish oil. I was standing so close that I almost singed my eyebrows! The result is a delicious meal. We enjoyed the fresh-caught (same day) white fish and potatoes. The food was delicious, but the service was so-so.


    Door County Fish Boil


    Next, we made our way into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We passed through Escanaba (in the sunlight) and floated across the springs of Kitch Iti Kipi. I was excited to show Leah the springs since it was a place I visited as a child.

    We settled near Lake Superior in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We enjoyed viewing the falls and wading in the river. We also spent some time at the Michigan Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. We walked the beach and learned about the many shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s crazy how a freshwater lake can stir up such wild sea-like storms.


    Whitefish Point


    While in the Tahquamenon area, we also visited Oswald’s Bear Ranch . This ranch has 29 live roaming bears. We were able to get up close and personal, and Benny fed the bears apples. We were hoping to pet the bears, but due to a new federal law, we missed the opportunity by just a few weeks.


    Oswald Bear Ranch


    We were so blessed to be able to join my family on this trip. Mom and Dad were so generous and found the most interesting places to visit. I spent lots of time bonding with my brothers, and we had many interesting game nights. The campfire food and morning breakfasts were fun to make together, and we faced the challenge of sorting individual marshmallows out of a big bag of them melted together. Leah and I left a few days early to prepare for more Northern Michigan with Leah’s family. I had the privilege of driving Leah on her first trek across the Mackinac Bridge!


    Life Since Lynchburg

    It’s hard to believe that we are half-way through June! It wasn’t that long ago we packed every corner of the Honda and moved our life to Michigan. Though we greatly miss our friends in Lynchburg, we have managed to pack our summer full of time with friends and family. Here’s some of the things we’ve been up to:

    House Bouncing
    Since we arrived in Michigan, we’ve been trying to balance our schedule between our families. It has been stressful at times because we are both “people pleasers.” However, with a little bit of communication, we have been able to spend time with everyone. This has consisted of fishing and swimming with my brothers as well as going to their ball games, watching Call of the Wildman and running with my sister-in-law, and much more. I’ve had time to get my farmboy on while driving tractor and helping my dad water the fruit trees on the farm. Leah even caught her first fish! For now we are house-sitting before heading to Mississippi for training.

    Leah and Ben fishing


    Mackinac Island
    One of the first weekends back, Leah and I traveled to Mackinac Island with her mom and sister Mary. We participated in the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 10k Run/Walk. After the race, we spent some time cooling off in the water of Lake Huron and touring around the island. We even ran into our friend, Jenny, who was working at a small gag gift store called Caddywampus. Per Jenny’s recommendation, we stopped by Joann’s Fudge before leaving the island by ferry. This trip was a lot of fun. Leah and I enjoyed getting to spend some quality time with her mom and sister.

    Mackinac Island Lilac Festival 10k


    Yet to come…
    Tomorrow we will leave for an undisclosed anniversary celebration location. Leah and I have decided to take turns each year to plan a trip in celebration of our wedding anniversary, an idea we got from my parents. We decided that this would be my year to plan. I am very excited to surprise Leah with this year’s destination.

    This weekend we will visit our friends Noelani and Devon in Mississippi. We will begin our training for our upcoming assignment in Turkey on Monday. We are greatly anticipating the chance to meet new people and learn about our upcoming opportunities. The training will be two weeks and we will be staying with a host family. After our training, we have two family vacations planned.

    And so begins the traveling…  There are many miles to drive in the next few weeks, but we are looking forward to spending quality time with each other, new friends, old friends, and family!