Back in the Deer Blind


I grew up hunting and fishing in the great state of Michigan. But as Claire and I have moved around the country during the past eight years, I rarely uncased a gun or fishing rod. So I was excited when a good friend invited me to join their deer camp on Beaver Island!

Beaver Island is not the place to go if you are intent on shooting a deer. The herd is relatively small and since it is a deer management zone you can only shoot a buck with at least three points on one side. After three days of hunting, I was the only member of the camp of four hunters who actually saw a deer. Opening morning I had a nice little four-point meander by my heated blind. Not a shooter, but fun to watch.

As I said, deer camp on the island is not about shooting big bucks, but more about hanging out with the guys, eating and drinking too much, laughing, and telling tall tales. It was great to get back into the woods with a rifle and a deer tag. I am definitely looking forward to many more Michigan hunting and fishing adventures now that we are back in the mitten!

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There was snow on the ground when we arrived, and it snowed every day of deer camp!


The week started at the sight in competition where islanders shoot and have a dinner together.


This is the lovely couple who host the sight in event. Great people!


Sighting in a 50 yards…


Ken won the competition!


As the winner of the competition, Ken is honored as the first in line for dinner…


We are not exactly roughing it at this deer camp …


I spent my days sitting in Ken’s heated deer blind.


My view from the blind.


A black squirrel provides a little entertainment …

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Not many deer camps with this kind of view …


Our camp chef, bogey, makes some amazing meals!


There was even a deer camp cake!


Getting off the island can be a challenge this time of year. I made it just before a white out shut down the airport!


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Leave it to Beaver (Island)


Claire and I took a few days away from our construction project to visit our friend, Ken, who lives on a small island in northern Lake Michigan. Beaver Island is a 13mi by 6 mi. (55 square mile) island 32 miles off the shore of Michigan’s lower peninsula. You can get there by boat, which takes 2 and a half hours, or by small plane which takes about 20 minutes. We chose to fly over with Island Airways.

Claire had not been to the island in almost ten years, and I hadn’t been there for eight. Not much has changed on the island during that time, and probably not much has changed in the last 50 years. Because of its isolation, it always reminds of the old TV show Northern Exposure.

Ken has a beautiful beach house and is a wonderful host. He just completed a small guesthouse on the property, which made the stay even nicer. It’s always relaxing to spend time on the island. Ken cooks some great meals, plus there are a couple of restaurants on the island that do a pretty fair job especially with local fare like whitefish.

Walks on the beach, touring the back roads, reading, eating, drinking, and talking absorbed us for the couple of days we spent with Ken. We also accompanied Ken on a visit to “the furs guy,” a local resident who traps and raises animals for fur. Ken had a special project for him, and we got a kick out of visiting his workshop in an old barn.

I will probably head back up to “the Beav” for deer camp this year. It’s always a great, relaxing place to spend time.


Hanging in Charlevoix waiting for our plane.


The channel and lighthouse in Charlevoix.


Our “ride” to the island.


Look ma! No hands!


Flying over the island.


Trees are not yet at peak color …


Final approach …


A juvenile bald eagle on the hunt …


Wild turkeys on the island …


Big Rock


The Beaver Island Ferry passing in front of Ken’s place …


Beach walk and cigars on the beach …


Early morning from Ken’s deck …


A visit to “the furs guy’s” workshop …


Beaver tails nailed to the wall …


Deer skulls nailed to the fence … Needless to say it was quite an experience!


Laying in a little firewood for winter …


Claire celebrating the largest clump birch tree in North America …

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Traverse City – Our New Hometown


Since the first week of August we have been settling into our new hometown. Traverse City is a resort town in Northern Michigan, and the region has become famous as Michigan’s wine country and a “foodie” destination. In addition to getting used to a new daily routine that doesn’t include schlepping off to the office everyday, the only stress has come from trying to do too much as we fully embrace Traverse City life.

So far we have only scratched the surface of all there is to do in TC. We have taken in our first Traverse City Beach Bums baseball game at Wuerfel Park. Weekly we hit the local Sarah Hardy Farmer’s Market where we have stocked up on fresh, organic, local produce. We have actually canned local peaches and tomatoes that we can enjoy through the winter. We also made homemade pickles and pickled green beans.

Harley rides around the Leland Peninsula and the Old Mission Peninsula have been spectacular. We have attended festivals like “Paella in the Park” and the weekly “Friday Night Live” block party. We also love going to movies at the non-profit waterfront Bijou by the Bay movie theatre.

Of course one of the key reasons we chose to come back to Michigan was to be closer to our kids who seem to be gradually migrating back to the Midwest. Jake and Hilary have visited twice so far, and now that Jessie has completed the Great Loop we get to see her on a much more regular basis.

Our major activity is building our house on the lake (more on that in a future post.) While the house is being built we are spending more days out at the lake canoeing, cleaning up the waterfront, and hanging by the campfire.

Traverse City has been everything we hoped it would be and we are enjoying every minute of being here!


We love the Beach Bums games! Good, American family fun…


I forgot how much fun it is to cut your own grass. I find it to be a very Zen experience …


Saturday mornings at the Sara Hardy Farmer’s market. Michigan blueberries, sweet corn, cherries, and peaches are of favorites so far.


First attempt at canning … organic tomatoes!


Already a peach cobbler from one quart.. Mmmmmm


Been a long time since I bought produce in bushel baskets …


Perfect way to spend a summer evening … Go Beach Bums!


Paella in the Park!


Harley ride around the Leland pennisula with a stop at Fish Town.


Harley ride out to the lighthouse on the Mission Peninsula.


The season are starting to change on our lake front property.


Paddling the canoe around Arbutus Lake.


Exploring the Arbutus Lake chain the old fashioned way …


As we clean up our waterfront, its been fun to hang by the camp fire.


Work, work, work …


Claire teaching Jessie the fine art of making sushi …


Jake and Hilary checking out our waterfront and progress on the house construction.

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tcgcclogoAs I said in a previous post, we rented a house right on the golf course. Since we are new to Traverse City, at least as residents, we thought joining the country club might be a good way to meet people and get connected to the local community. Neither of us had every belonged to a country club before. Claire has never played golf, and even though I love to play I have never been interested in joining a club. For one reason, there are so many great golf courses why limit yourself to one? Also, country clubs always seemed a bit “snooty” to me.

But, if there was ever a time to try joining a club, it was now. Our neighbor next door is a retired state trooper and member of the club. He offered to “sponsor” us, and we joined during our first week in TC.

The next day I played my first round of golf. Claire decided to just walk along with me. The course is short but pretty challenging. I haven’t played a lot of golf since my son went of to college a decade ago, so my game is pretty “rusty.” But we enjoyed being out, and met a few ladies on the course who are long time members. They told us our house used to be the “party house,” and encouraged Claire to begin playing.

A few days later, I played a round with John, or neighbor and some of his buddies. My game was still pretty “raggedy,” but they put up with me with good humor. After the round one of the guys in the pro shop told me my wife had signed us up for the couples scramble on Friday night. I though this very odd, since Claire continued to say she had no interest in actually playing. When I got home, I asked Claire why she had signed us up. She didn’t know what I was talking about … Apparently one of the ladies we met on the course during our first round signed us up!

Claire was willing to give it a go, but said she would simply ride along in the cart while I played. We were partnered up with another couple. They were so gracious and encouraging to Claire that on the first tee she agreed to try and hit a few shots. She did amazingly well considering she has never played! I week later we bought her a set of starter clubs, and we have now played at least a half dozen rounds together. She has gotten good enough to be frustrated when she doesn’t hit the ball well. She is also hitting some of her drives long enough to actually lose a ball or two.

My son has come up from Chicago twice and we have played a couple of rounds during each visit.

We have thoroughly enjoyed the club thus far. The restaurant is excellent, and now that the weather is turning cold we are using the workout facilities regularly. We’ll see if we still use the club once we move out to our new house next summer…


Sunrise on the golf course … This is the view from the living room of our little house on the course.


Most every time we play we see deer and/or turkeys on the course …


Turkey for a caddy.


Claire with her brand new golf clubs!


Still smiling after her first round of golf …


Claire has a very good swing and lots of cute golf outfits!


The Bancino’s are known as the “dew busters” at the club since we are usually the first ones out in the morning …


Jake playing from a fairway bunker during his first round at the club.


During Jake’s second visit we played our annual “Father vs. Son Fall Classic” in the pretty questionable weather. We finished the first round just a thunder and lightening started …


Round one of the Father vs. Son Fall Classic.


We played round #2 in monsoon rain and wind …


One morning I sat out on the patio of our little house while catching up on email and watching the local high school invitational.


Our first dinner at the Club!

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Time to Update the Blog!

Old Blog

We originally started this blog to share our experiences living in the Seattle area.  We did blog on and off during our three years there, but the next life adventure has brought us back to Michigan!  Now that we are settling in and building our home here, we have updated the look, feel, and title of the blog.  We also expect the tone of the blog to evolve as our lives evolve and we pursue new passions and adventures….

Stay tuned!


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Traverse City: “The Caddy Shack”


We arrived in Traverse City, our new home, on the 6th of August. We rented a house “sight unseen” via the internet. Actually, Claire did a virtual walk through with a realtor via Facetime on her computer. Frankly, there were not a lot of rental options in TC which is an issue that the local government is trying to deal with. Since our new home won’t be completed until next summer, we needed to rent a place for almost a year. We chose a little house that sits right on the Traverse City Country Club. Since we are new to the TC area, we reasoned that the country club would be a good way to meet people and get connected to the local community.

Neither Claire nor I have ever been members of a country club, and Claire doesn’t play golf. Since joining, Claire has taken up the game and we have appreciated open views out our windows. The house is only a few hundred feet from the club house, so we regularly walk over to play golf or have dinner.

The house was about what we expected. A bungalow built in the 1970’s, the owner was an elderly lady who recently passed away. Her family decided to rent the house out until they can decide what to do with it. The place is all 70’s paneling, pink tile, and pink drapes. The carpet (which is everywhere) is new, and the entire side of the house that faces the golf course is windowed.

We love the location and the view, but I am looking forward to having nice kitchen and bathrooms again, and having space for all our belongings. We have filled the two-stall garage from floor to ceiling with boxes and furniture that won’t fit in the little bungalow.  But for the time being, the place meets our needs and we have affectionately dubbed it “The Caddy Shack.”


For the first two nights, we slept on a air mattress while we waiting for the moving van to arrive with our stuff.


Right on time!


Relieved to see the Big Green Egg arrive safely!


Halfway through the process and the garage is starting to fill up. By the time we were done it was floor to ceiling!


Great views, once you look past the paneling and pink drapes …


No patio, but we created a little out door sitting area where we enjoy watching the golfers


We are on the corner of the eighth green and the 9th tee box. Because of the location, we don’t get any stray golf balls hitting the house.


One room is set up as our “project room” where we share a desk and are managing the construction project. The room is full of architectural drawings, sketches, material samples, etc.

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Going Home

Road Trip

On the last day of July, 2014 we awoke in Seattle for the last time. We spent the night at Matt and Deb’s, since all our belongings were now on a truck headed for Michigan. Our last official duty was to meet the realtor at the house for a final “inspection” and then we hit the road! Since it was just after rush hour and we were heading east out of town, the traffic was relatively light. However, I breathed a sigh of relief when we crossed over Snoqualmie pass and drove out of the Seattle congestion for the last time.

We hadn’t gone but an hour when a bald eagle swooped down not 50 feet in front of the truck and grabbed some fresh road kill from the middle of the highway. That bird looked as big as a private aircraft as it flashed across the windshield!

Two hours later as we approached the eastern state line of Washington State, a car 100 feet ahead of us lost control and began cartwheeling down the highway at 70 miles per hour. The dust cloud that suddenly enveloped us was a bit disconcerting, as we didn’t know where the out of control card came to rest. We pulled over and checked the highway mile marker so that Claire could call 911 while I ran back along the shoulder to assist the occupants of the car. It had come to rest upside down on the left hand shoulder. I arrived at the car along with two other passersby. The passenger’s door was sprung open and the driver (the only occupant of the vehicle) was lying on the ceiling of the car. The older, heavyset woman was conscious but dazed.   Luckily and off duty EMT technician was one of the other people who stopped and he took control of the situation. We made sure there was nothing else we could do, and then continued our journey.

The trek across the northern United States took us through eight states. We intentionally chose a route so that we could make stops at Devil’s Tower, Mount Rushmore, Sturgis (it was bike rally week,) and the Bad Lands. Other than a massive rainstorm in Wisconsin that washed a big rock off a train trestle into our windshield, we had no more drama on the trip. The weather was great, the sights were amazing, and when we crossed the Mackinac Bridge into the lower peninsula of Michigan we knew we were finally home.


Ever since I saw the movie Close Encounters, I have wanted to get an up close look at the Devil’s Tower …


Since it was the beginning of the bike rally in Sturgis, a lot of fellow travelers on their Harleys were also checking out the local sights.




Objects in my camera lens are larger than they appear …


Driving through Sturgis during the bike rally was pretty cool, but I was jonesing for my Harley.


For the record, Claire took this picture… Also, this was pretty tame for Sturgis…


I have seen so sights around the world, but never got a chance to see Mount Rushmore. It was worth the wait!


Claire Bancino for President!


We know where we are heading!


Wall Drug is the best marketed tourist trap in America. Not my first time there, but Claire wanted to see it. I warned her …


The Bad Lands were pretty cool. I want to go back on the Harley!


Bad Lands panorama …


Almost home as we enter the upper peninsula of Michigan!


Crossing the mighty Mackinac Bridge into the lower peninsula!


View of the bridge from Mackinaw City.


Nothing like Michigan beaches!


It is good to be home.

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Packing Up


In the last 7 years we have moved 7 times. Some of the moves have been across the country. Some moves have been across town. Sometimes Claire has completely handled the move when I had to go ahead to start a new job.   Claire is a packing and organizing machine! This time we had the luxury of (1) being retired, and (2) doing the move together. Still, moving is always stressful.

We started packing things a couple of weeks before the actual move. Every once in a while Claire would disappear into some other part of the house and when I tracked her down I would find her quietly wrapping and boxing possessions. When the professional crew showed up all they had to pack were dishes, TV sets, and a few odds and ends. I like to think that we are not materialistic. It seems like we don’t really have that much “stuff.” But when you start packing it and moving it, it seems like an overwhelming job.

When the moving crew showed up, I thought it would be a half-day job to load the truck. The last item didn’t go into the truck until nearly 8pm. Big “thanks” to Matt and Deb who let us stay at their apartment in the city for our last two nights in Seattle. After the moving truck left, we needed a day to clean the house, and then the following morning Claire did a final walk through with the landlord’s representative. We have always been proud of the fact that we have left every home we rented in as-good-or-better shape than we found it. By the way, if you are in the market for a really nice home in Kirkland Washington here is the listing for the house.  Note: some of the listing pictures are our furniture while some are older with the owner’s furniture …


Claire and the driver get things organized …


Big truck! Our possessions only took 1/3 of the truck. Our stuff travelled with the stuff of two other families…


Every room was packed and ready to go by the time the crew arrived.


We used the garage as a staging area.


The same day a driver showed up to pick up Claire’s car. The dude seemed a little “sketchy” but hey! The car did eventually show up in Michigan.


The Big Green Egg cleaned up and ready to travel. Crossing my fingers it survives unlike the “original” Egg that we moved up from Texas…


Driving the Harley onto the truck was fun!


Final Seattle sunset from Matt & Deb’s apartment…

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Wallace Falls


My daughter and her family love hiking, so we decided to take them to one of our favorite spots in the area, Wallace Falls. We hiked the falls a few months ago with the Alexes, but enjoyed it so much we were happy to go back.

This time we only went to the middle falls (there are lower, middle, and upper destinations) but hiking with little ones is certainly more arduous. The kids did great, and only the adults were huffing and puffing on some of the longer uphill climbs …


A great photo op is always a good reason to take a break …


Big sister isn’t the only one who is ready for a photo op …


Poopah and Meemaw are ready to go!


Everyone is ready to go!


The view from the lower falls shows us our next destination …


Everyone is still feeling good!


Poopah and Meemaw are breaking trail …


The middle falls…


Another photo op!


Ready for the hike back down …

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The Woodland Park Zoo

When the grandkids come to visit you have an excuse to do all those “childish” things you really wanted to do anyway. So we headed out to visit the Woodland Park Zoo with our own little monkeys.

At first it was a bit like the beginning of Jurassic Park. All we were seeing were empty paddocks where the animals should have been. We were beginning to think the only animals were the ones in the brochure, but as we worked our way back into the zoo, which is much larger than it appears on the map, we started to encounter all kinds of furry and scaly creatures.

A zoo is a bit like Christmas; it can only fully be experienced through the eyes of children. It certainly turned out to be a half-day well spent. We could have easily spent the whole day, but Poopah and Meemaw started to “poop out.”






A dragon!


Taming the dragon …




The elephants were shy …


The orangutan impersonating a homeless person …


How cute is this!?!?!


And it gets EVEN cuter!


No zoo is complete without the petting zoo!

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