It’s All About the Bicycles

Today is a day that Billy and I count down to in the summer – the start of the Tour de France. He is a huge bike guy; I just love the Tour. I am in awe of what these men do, how far they ride, for how long, through the Alps for goodness’ sake. Whole mountain ranges are devoured by their bike tires and sweat. It is an amazing feat, and I am blown away by their tenacity and athleticism. We hope to go and stand on the sidelines one day, cheering them on along the road of some small town in the mountains of France.

Our date night this week was bikecentric – I am not sure if the Detroit Zoo planned it for the week of the Tour on purpose, but if not, good timing on their part! The zoo hosted an evening event, a Bike Safari if you will, where participants could ride their bikes through the winding paths of the zoo, stopping to view the animals along the way. It was family friendly, although it was sponsored by New Belgium Brewery; you just got one of those neat wristbands to prove you were over 21.  Over 800 people attended, and it made for a very fun evening. Despite being so many people in attendance, it was not a difficult ride. I get really nervous if people ride too close to me, I am not a super confident bicyclist. However, there were three different start times, and it really divided everyone up very effectively. People riding were spaced very well, and it only became tricksy a few times, when riders would stop suddenly in front of you to see an animal, rather than biking to the side of the pathway and stopping.

There were three hydration stations set up, and two of them included a 3 – oz sample of New Belgium beer to those who wanted to imbibe. We of course drank our samples, along with the water that was also provided. I am not a super big beer drinker, but I enjoyed my choices! The options were Cirtadelic Tangerine, Fat Tire, Voodoo Ranger IPA, and Dayblazer. I chose Dayblazer and Fat Tire; Billy had Voodoo Ranger and Dayblazer. We also got a can each at the end of the ride as well, same choices. We stuck with two we had already had – me again with the Fat Tire, Billy with the Voodoo Ranger. They were icy cold and delicious after the long hot ride through the zoo. There was a live band at the finish, along with a few food options and the opportunity to purchase more drinks. Alternatively, people could choose to go listen to scientists speak at the reptile house about the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project. Nature nerds that we are, we opted for the wolf-moose project, although our beers did come with us.

The two scientists were full of interesting information and facts. We have always wanted to visit Isle Royale, so it was cool to talk to people who have not only been there, but really know the island intimately, and all of her inhabitants. It is a sad scenario though. Right now, there are some 1500 moose on the island. And just two wolves, who are so inbred that the pack is dead. They cannot reproduce. The pack in its heyday numbered 50, at least in as far as scientists have been tracking its numbers. Due to all the inbreeding though, numbers began to fall as they died off. Their health was compromised and a strain of parvo killed a bunch off. The moose are without predators, and while this seems like yay moose ~ it really isn’t, as they may run out of food sources themselves as the island may not be able to support that many moose, unchecked. This is the subject that the scientists we spoke with were studying, the effect of the moose upon the fir, and just how long these moose could be sustained by the fir trees on the island. They eat fir trees, and these fir trees barely have the opportunity to grow, as the moose just eat the heck out of them. An obvious solution would be to introduce a new pack. I would love to see this happen, and have the balance returned to the island.

That is only replica moose scat, btw. Lol. And a kick butt caiman looking at us in the reptile house.

This event was a great time, and well worth the money we paid to do it. It was a wonderful night and we will definitely go again. If you are interested in reading more about the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Project, you can go here and here. If you are interested in participating (even cooler!) check this out.

 

Bringing the Outdoors, In – OAC, Detroit

The DNR Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit was designed to bring “up north” to Detroit, and it really captures the spirit of being outside, while teaching about the natural resources and treasures that can be found in our state. We had been wanting to visit for a while, and we decided it would be a fun little excursion for our family to celebrate Wyatt’s second birthday. 

 
As you walk through the OAC, you are introduced to all the different natural resources and landscapes that make up the state of Michigan – water, sand, forest, flora, fauna. I didn’t take photos of everything, but you get to “explore” the watery world of the Great Lakes and Michigan’s rivers, complete with a simulated kayaking ride and simulated fishing,  stand in a giant yurt and learn about the many camping opportunities that abound here, stand behind a giant waterfall, explore a mine (Detroit has huge salt mines), learn about the sand dunes, and duck into a beaver dam exhibit. The waterfall was a big hit with Wyatt, as was the aquarium. The waterfall was my favorite part too.

The second floor gave kids the opportunity to stand in a giant duck blind, a prop airplane, and learn about different natural resources, including maple syrup! There was also a nice display about Citizen Science, which I thought was really cool. When we were walking around there was a small school group visiting, so we couldn’t get too close to some of the exhibits, but they seemed to center on hunting, which I was fine with skipping. So was Wyatt, who was just a little freaked out by the taxidermied animals ~ including Smokey.

After exploring the upstairs, we headed back down and hung out in the play area, which included a giant tree that kids could “climb” to the second floor, and a slide. It was really neat, for a bit older kid than my guy. We enjoyed hanging out around the faux campfire in the Michigan shaped Adirondack chairs though. 
The fee for entry was only $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for kids two and up, and is a great place to take kids, especially in the cold blah of winter. We left having learned a few new things, and inspired to take a possible small camping trip this summer, which I feel might turn into staying in a cabin near wilderness, rather than in a tent, but close enough for now, right? It was also a nice reminder of the natural treasures that make up Michigan. If you are ever in the area, I recommend popping in for an hour or two! We had a great time. 

Date Night at The Republic Tavern

It’s been eons since my husband Billy and I have gone out on a proper dinner date. One where we got to encounter new foods, new sounds, a new experience and really, to spend time with each other just the two of us. 
This building is way cool, which is not depicted in this photo. Lol. The restaurant is in the Grand Army of the Republic Building in Detroit, and it looks castle-like.  Republic  is a scratch kitchen, meaning they make everything from scratch. They also locally source as much as they can, which is pretty darn awesome. Since it is locally sourced, it is also seasonal.   
The restaurant was packed, as I had anticipated. Luckily, Republic takes reservations, something I am finding that less and less restaurants do. I love reservations, especially now that I am a parent. I don’t have the luxury of waiting for a table anymore. My time is limited, so when I go out to eat, I want to know I can go in and get a table. So yay Republic! 
The crowd was a little older, maybe late thirties and up, except for at the bar, which seemed to hit all age ranges. The hum of conversation was perfect – not so loud you had to shout, but not so quiet that you felt weird talking at a normal volume. 
The drink menu had a few good wines and beer listed, as well as handmade specialty cocktails. They also offered a whiskey flight, which intrigued my husband, but he settled on a draft beer instead. I ordered a glass of Biutiful Malbec, and we settled back to peruse the menu. The waitress told us that the menu was designed for us to pick and choose and share, and that the food is served family style. It is also served as it is made, and is brought out as it is done.  This wasn’t a problem for us, as we weren’t ordering very much, but I am curious as to how that works in a bigger group or with different food. 
We started with the Ploughman’s Platter, which was amazing. Black pepper bread, pub cheese, a sharp cheddar, venison salami, pickled celery, actual pickles, and some sort of smoky tasting jam. I didn’t care for the jam, it was like eating a bonfire, and I don’t eat meat, but the rest was so good. I could have eaten that pub cheese all night. The pickled celery was also amazeballs. 
We skipped the Greens section of the menu and went straight to the entrees, or Pasture, as they called it.
I had the whole smoked trout, with aioli, nuts, and veggies. I knew to expect a head, since it said “whole” right in the description but I still couldn’t look at it. My husband and our awesome waitress discreetly took care of it for me. I thought the trout was very good, especially with the sauce. No complaints, but I also wouldn’t go wild over it. 

My husband on the other hand, did go crazy over his. He ordered the Pork Steak, which was charred, and served with herbed jam, paneer, cherries and apple. It also had bacon with it. 

I think it is safe to say that he enjoyed it. 
We had also enjoyed a few drinks each by this point, so my photos get a little worse from here! But don’t worry, there is only one!
For dessert we split the lavender lemon crumble, which was seriously the best part of the meal. It was tiny but delicious, a bijou jewel on the crown of the dinner. It was shortbread crumble, lavender and honey ice cream, with lemon curd. Oy. It tasted of summer and spring all at once. 
We had such a fabulous time, and laughed like lunatics, and just in general, had a blast. We don’t normally splurge on ourselves much anymore, and it was so nice to do so with my guy. Overall, I highly recommend Republic to anyone who is interested in craft dining. They bill themselves as American Rustic, and I would agree that that is their style. If you are a vegetarian, it is maybe not the best option for a night out, but would be perfect for a nightcap and dessert, maybe after visiting the Opera House which is just across the way a bit.
I love all these restaurant options in Detroit these days. We haven’t been to the city for dinner for a while (try two years!), so we are behind on all the spots, but we are having fun discovering them!!  Detroit’s food game is en pointe these days!