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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Fort Wayne, Indiana / Homewood Suites by Hilton

August 2016, Weekday, 2-nights, King Studio Suite #502

A few days before this stay, I was reviewing the map more closely and realized I had stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn next to this Homewood Suites in 2014. I was glad I had double-checked my directions, because although the address for both properties is on Highway 24, the entrance is from Ellison Road. I usually have Gold status with Hilton; however, I recently took advantage of a promotion Hilton was offering, and my status had been upgraded to Diamond before this stay.

Arrival and status perks

I did pre-check-in on the Hilton site and chose my room before my arrival. I do not understand why the app does not show a Diamond member choice rooms or upgrades. My profile says high floor, away from elevator. I also enter preferences for top floor and corner room in my comments. The room chosen for me when I started the check-in process was 301. Suite 301 is a corner room; however, this hotel has six floors. I did not check to see how many floors were in the hotel when I checked in. I was able to bring up room choices as high as floor five, and I mistakenly assumed that was the top floor. 

When I arrived around 5:30 p.m., I asked the front desk agent if the room I had chosen was a good choice. I told her I liked to have a room in a quiet area away from activity. She said it was as good as any, and then she added that she could not guarantee anything about the quietness. Wow, really?! I do not expect hotels to guarantee quietness; however, that unnecessary remark from her made me feel like an unvalued guest from the start. Usually, when I inquire about a room in a quiet area, the employee makes sure the guestroom does not have a connecting room door, is away from the elevator, and sometimes he or she tells me to let them know if I hear anything disturbing, and they will take care of it. 

Water received at check-in
The front desk agent recognized my Diamond status as an afterthought at the end of the check-in process, and she offered me bottled water. The guest who had checked in before me must have been a regular because he seemed to know the front desk agent well, and she had given him a special bag and bottles of water. The bag he received was not one of the on-property amenity bags with water and a snack, it was a special larger bag that the agent had gotten from the back room. It is possible she offered me the water because she knew I had observed the activity before me.

Suite 502

I loved the layout and location of this suite, although the room did not smell fresh. I could not tell if the scent was from cheap air freshener trying to mask odors, or what it was from. Fortunately, it was tolerable. The ceiling fan was on, and I left it on, along with the bathroom fan, for my entire stay, in an attempt to circulate and freshen the air. The windows did not open.
View from entrance
Things I liked about the suite layout: there was a kitchen table with two chairs, along with a desk and chair (some studio suites have a combination with only one desk/table), the bed was around the corner from the entrance door (away from activity in the hall outside the door), there was no connecting room door, and the bathroom contained a large walk-in shower.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Manistee, Michigan / Orchard Beach State Park

August 2016, Weekend, 2-nights, Site #10

View from the path behind site 10
This was our first visit to Orchard Beach State Park, and there were not many campsites available when we decided to camp in this campground. In June 2015, we had reservations on three of the better sites with friends (#s 42, 40, and 38); however, the state of Michigan called us to cancel our reservations a few weeks before that trip. Apparently, the campground was undergoing renovations, and our sites were not going to be open.

Check-in and arrival

Our site was available when we arrived in the afternoon, and it did not take us long to check-in. I asked if any other sites had become available, because the weather forecast called for rain, and the description for site 10 says: Unlevel Site, Poor Drainage, will hold water when rains. There was not anything available for both nights, and site 10 did not turn out to be any worse than any of the other sites in this area. Many sites in this park had the same description as site 10.

View from in front of our camper on site 10
before campers arrived on site 12

Site 10

There was not much room to maneuver and back into site 10, nor was there for most of the sites in this campground. The roads were not very wide, and the sites were definitely not any larger than the sizes stated. Many people had their RVs parked lengthwise along the road, right next to the road, which contributed to the close quarters. Fortunately for us, the two sites across the road from us were empty when we arrived, as we needed the room to back into site 10. It was not a problem making the sharp turn onto the road to leave when we exited.

Fire pit located on the hill slope

Monday, August 15, 2016

Luther, Michigan / Silver Creek State Forest Campground

August 2016, Weekday, 1-night, Site 3

Views of Pine River from the back of site 15 -
taken during a previous visit
From site 15

We had camped in Silver Creek State Forest Campground a few times with our pickup camper; however, this was the first time in our 5th wheel. We were familiar with the park, and figured we had a couple of options for site choices near the entrance. We would not be able to make the loop at the back end of the park for sites in that area, as many of the tree branches are low hanging, and our 5th wheel is too tall. We had hoped to find something available on the river on a Thursday evening.


We arrived around 4:00 p.m. The weather was mildly unsettled, and the forecast called for storms overnight. We were surprised to see that all of the larger riverfront sites near the entrance appeared to be taken. We observed campers on sites 19 and 16, and a canopy was set up on site 15. Later, we noticed a different tent on site 15 and the canopy was gone. Campers on sites 15 and 16 appeared to know each other. We assumed the campers on site 16, who had arrived earlier, had been saving the site for the people who arrived later. We did not check the paper on the site, nor did we ask. We chose site 3 across the road, which is a large secluded site. Riverfront sites 17 and 18 were open when we arrived; however, they are smaller sites.

Site 3

We have a 30' 5th wheel, and site 3 was long enough to park our RV and truck end-to-end. The site butts up to the hillside, and there were trees around the perimeter.

Site 3 from the road

Site 3 - photo taken from back of truck

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Montague and Whitehall, Michigan / Trailway Campground, Car Show, Hart-Montague Trail, Downtown

July 2016, Weekend, 2-nights

Beautiful bouquet for our camper from a friend's garden

Trailway Campground arrival and check-in

We arrived at Trailway Campground via Dowling Street/Business 31 from the south. The campground sign was easily visible; however, we misjudged which drive went into the campground. When arriving from the south, the drive directly in front of the sign goes into the campground, and the drive after the sign goes into the parking lot for Montague Foods. We had arrived a bit early that Friday morning, and another camper was on our site. We were able to complete the check-in process, and park in the overflow area of the campground until the other guests departed.

Site 39 in Trailway Campground

Site 39 is a pull-through site near the back of the campground. It has a cement pad (for the table; not to park on), and full hook up. The site was grassy with a couple of trees. The site was nearly level; we had to put down one set of leveling blocks under the driver's side wheels.
Looking toward site 39 from the front

Monday, July 25, 2016

Summer in Muskegon, Michigan

July 2016, 7 nights over 2 different weeks and weekends

I have provided information about the Muskegon area a few different times in other blog posts. I am sharing new information in this post. The easiest way to find more information about a topic you are interested in, is to click on the label(s) at the bottom of this post (e.g. trail, lake, campground, etc.).

Smash Wine Bar and Bistro

We stopped at Smash Wine Bar and Bistro located downtown Muskegon on a Saturday for their Bloody Mary special - $5 for this delicious beverage, which came with a beer chaser. We were impressed, and definitely plan to stop here again! The excellent service matched the good quality beverage.

Smash Bar Bloody Mary photo taken
before we received the beer chaser
There was not anyone sitting outside when we arrived, so we went downstairs and had our beverages at a table in the bar area. We later learned the patio is monitored, and we could have taken a seat at a table on the patio/sidewalk, and someone would have been out to greet us.

We did not have anything to eat this visit (other than the snacks in our drinks), as we had just eaten lunch at Se4sons Gastropub. The Smash Nacho plate looked fabulous, and I imagine that is what we will try next visit.

Se4sons Gastropub via Lakeshore Trail

We rode our bicycles on Lakeshore Trail from Fisherman's Landing to Se4sons Gastropub. I noticed a couple of new signs on the trail, which provided great information for people not familiar with the trail or downtown. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Benzie County, Michigan / Upper and Lower Platte River, Platte River State Forest Campground, Lake Township Park

July 2016, Weekday-weekend, 3-nights

View of Platte River across the road from site 17

Platte River State forest Campground, Sites 18 and 17

This was our first time staying in Platte River State Forest Campground. Not many State Forest Campgrounds offer campsites large enough to accommodate large RVs, and I could not find much information about this campground or kayaking the Upper Platte River before our stay. I had found one vague reference to 45' sites (not on the state forest website), so we decided to arrive with our kayaks on Thursday evening - hoping to find a suitable site, and hoping we could access the river from the campground.

Labeled campground map; click to enlarge
There are 26 sites in this state forest campground. All of the sites are located across the road from the river except site 16. Site 16 is not right on the river, although it does offer an excellent view of the river without the road in between. It is possible I do not have the site numbers on the photo above exactly correct; however, they are all labeled in the correct locations, as I am referring to them in this post.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Grand Rapids, Michigan - GRR / Crowne Plaza - Grand Rapids Airport

June 2016, Weekday, 1-night, King executive guestroom #539

Sunrise from guestroom
I have stayed in this Crowne Plaza many times. We had a few new experiences this time, so I am sharing that information below. You can find more information about this property in my previous blog posts at the following links: February 2016, club floor guestroomJanuary 2014 and August 2013, king guestroom and king club floor guestroom; December 2011, king suite; May 2011, king guestroom; and August 2010.

Arrival and status perks

I redeemed 20,000 points for a king executive guestroom, which I thought was a great value. As a Platinum member, I received my choice of an on-property goody bag or 600 bonus points. The bonus points posted to my account the day I checked in. I received access to the Club Lounge, although I am not sure if that was a Platinum perk or a guestroom perk. It seems like an executive guestroom would include access to the lounge.

Guestroom 539

This guestroom is on the top [5th] floor in the C-wing section of guestrooms. There are only four floors of guestrooms in the north section (D & E wings), so the fourth floor is the top floor in those wings. A guestroom diagram is provided in the blog posts from February 2016 and January 2014. We stayed in a guestroom on floor 5 once before, although I could not find a blog post with pictures for that stay. It must have been a long time ago, as I only recall a few vague details. I usually request an executive or club floor guestroom, and this was the first time I recalled any differences between the guestrooms. I think I will always request an executive guestroom for future stays!