A Winter Visit to Mackinac Island

As a Realtor, driving through the snow and showing homes in the winter can occasionally be a challenge in Grand Rapids. When one of my lifetime clients considered purchasing a summer home on Mackinac Island I was up for the task. What I discovered though, was that this trip would be one of the most memorable times of showing homes of my career. Northern MI Realtors have more fortitude and can have way more fun!

The adventure began with a 4 hour drive north, stopping at a favorite stop in Cadillac, Clam Lake Beer Company for lunch. I highly recommend them for their extensive menu, great food, and of course spirits and craft beer. Crossing the majestic Mackinac Bridge at night was a first for me. At 5 miles in length, it’s the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere! For the feint of heart, they have vehicle escort service across the bridge.

Then it’s rise and shine at 6:30 to catch the 8:00 Star Line Mackinac Ferry to the island. The usual 20 minute summer ride can take more than twice that long as the boat cuts through the ice. Meanwhile, we are toasty warm inside the boat with an occasional sneak outside to photograph and video.


getting around via winter taxi

winter taxi

Upon our arrival, the docks were busy with construction workers unloading lumber and supplies as this is the season for hotels and shop owners to get their projects done before tourist season. We saw windows being replaced, front porches partitioned off in plastic while buildings were undergoing a facelift. Our hotel was the only one open this weekend, and we were very happy with the accommodations at the  Pontiac Lodge. There was one restaurant open,  Cawthorne’s Village Inn (same ownership as the Grand Hotel) where Planked Whitefish is a favorite. I especially liked that they had the Grand Pecan Roll, a fudgy ice cream classic featured at the Grand Hotel.

The Mustang Lounge was our alternate choice that was open for food and drink. Our server/bartender  Miranda made a great Cosmo, instantly adding her to my friend list. They also serve breakfast, lunch and appetizers. Except for historic Doud’s Market which has been servicing the island with groceries since 1884, all of the other stores and eateries were in hibernation and the street was filled with parked snowmobiles and the occasional horse drawn island taxi. Our host, and listing agent for our home tour was Billy Borst from Mackinac Island Realty. My client, Cindy, rode shotgun behind Billy and I scored the sled and off we sped through the snow covered streets, up and down hills to view available inventory and see some pretty exciting scenery. Showing homes by snowmobile was a first for me!

We also did a lot of on foot touring that day. From Mission Point Resort  through Main Street to the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Hotel  The sky was blue and even in the crisp afternoon the sight of the Grand Hotel closed for the season sparked memories of Jack Nicholson and the movie “The Shining” but there was no sign of the 2 little girls or boy in the hall or voices of “redrum”. Imagination run wild!!!

Grand Hotel in winter

Grand Hotel closed for the winter

In the evening we joined my daughter, Alicia and her partner Thomas for a twilight cross country ski trail lined with lanterns. Beautiful groomed trails took us past the Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf rock formations and ended at a bonfire complete with hot chocolate.

Twilight XCountry Trail

Twilight XCountry Trail

Arch Rock

Arch Rock















Following a fabulous meal and a good nights rest, we were back out in the morning to take a taxi to the airport. The ferry doesn’t run on Sunday’s in the winter, so taking a small plane to the mainland was our only option. I don’t mind saying I was slightly terrified. William, the pilot, assured me that he had 15 years of flying experience so Cindy and I along with our 2 other flying companions hopped in the plane, me in the co pilots seat. It’s a 5 minute plane ride from Mackinac Island to St. Ignace and the views of the Mackinac Bridge were fabulous. I found myself disappointed that the ride was over so soon. As I left the island after our winter view,  I am now anxiously awaiting my return trip for our closing on Cindy’s new condo at the end of April. Then, of course there is always the Lilac Festival, Fourth of July, the Labor Day walk across the bridge, etc. etc.  ………..

flying over the Mackinac Bridge

Mackinac Island Air transportation to St. Ignace

with Alicia VanHeulen, Thomas Birks, Cindy Idema & me, Karen Gill

snowmobiles parked everywhere on Main Street

A little story with a moral …

3 weeks ago my husband Bill had total knee replacement surgery and was doing relatively well. At his 2 week followup appointment we went in to have his staples removed. I dropped him off at home around noon to ice his knee and rest and went dashing around on errands. I called him at 1:00 to see if he wanted anything to eat, and he said he wasn’t feeling well. He may just have been very tired from going out after surgery for the first time, but at 3:00 he thought we should go in to the emergency room to be checked. At 3:45 in E.R. he had an EKG and 20 Dr’s and nurses came flying into the room. He was having a heart attack. At 4:15 he was in the cardiac cath lab having a blockage cleared.  Bill didn’t have big clues like crushing chest pain or pain in his left arm, just some general “discomfort”. He is doing well now, and having experienced this, we want you to know that if you, or someone you love has that nagging thought that something is wrong, listen to your body and please go to the ER, or better yet, call 911. It may turn out to be nothing, but you may just be having something serious happening, and time is of the essence.

Warning signs of a heart attack

Happy New Year from Karen & Robbie

New Years Eve at Crystal Springs

New Years Eve at Crystal Springs


We are very grateful for our business and all of our clients that we have worked with in 2015, and look forward to helping anyone wanting to buy or sell in the coming year. All signs are pointing to a fabulous real estate market in 2016. Cheers.

Listing your home during the holidays

If you’re ready to make a move you may be hearing, “Wait until the spring market”. What really happens to potential buyers for your home over Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and even DEER HUNTING SEASON?!? When exactly is the spring market?

Festive outdoor lighting

Grand Rapids has been a global corporate relocation area for quite some time with people coming and going from the other side of the state, other states, and from across either ocean. Ask any human resource manager if they’re furloughed in November, December, and January and you will hear a resounding “NO” and an occasional “I WISH”. People still retire, change careers, and accept transfers during the holiday season. Home inventory is low, so there are less homes to choose from and these homes are full of warm and cozy feelings allowing potential buyers to get a real idea of what life could be like for them in any given home. As a seller you have less casual lookers and more serious buyers who mean business and your home is already looking fantastic with greenery, decorated mantles, tinsel on the Christmas tree, and 2,500 LED lights hanging from the trees and soffits welcoming them in the door.


Christmas lights

Let’s talk about the spring market….. 1,613 homes were sold and closed in Kent County during the months of January, February, and March in 2015? This means they were shown and under contract during or shortly after the holiday season. If  you recall, the last two winters weren’t exactly dry and balmy. Compare moving in winter with its crisp dry air and clean fresh snow vs. fall and spring with rain and mud, or summer when it’s so hot you could fry an egg on your washing machine as the movers bring it into your house. Moving is moving. You can use the winter months to unpack boxes and arrange your furniture so that when spring and summer come around you can hang out at the beach while your neighbors vie for the attention of buyers with 2 or 3 times as many homes competing for their attention.

Now then, are you ready for us to pop over with that “for sale” sign?!? Cheers!!! Continue reading

2 Real Estate Agents and a City at Robinette’s

Fall …gorgeous color, crisp falling leaves, pumpkins, cider and warm donuts. What better place to spend part of an afternoon than at Robinette’s, one of the 19 Kent Harvest Trails locations throughout the Grand Rapids area. Robinette’s is open year round but Fall is special with hayrides, a corn maze, Jumping Pillow, and apple picking. 

RobinettesWe parked our cars and the heavenly aroma of baking donuts immediately lured us into the bakery (no surprise there) where we had fresh baked pumpkin spice and chocolate covered donuts. A variety of pastries, pies, fresh cider and full homemade lunches are served daily by their friendly and efficient personnel.  


over 10 varieties of apples

In the adjoining cider mill there are over 10 variety’s of apples, packaged soups, candy, truffles and pre-packaged mixes of all kinds.

Next door in the Barn are more treats and gifts, even clothing and purses to purchase! The Barn also offers a nice loft area for wedding or baby showers, business meetings, etc., with space for as many as 60 people. Appropriately enough, we ended up in the winery with Robinette’s tasting room staff, and our new friends…. Kare, Jonah, and Karen.  Kare, who has 25 years experience, delighted in educating us on the grapes and wines. Cheers!


Michigan wines

Michigan wines

Karen, Kare and Robbie wine tasting

Karen, Kare and Robbie wine tasting

Karen and Robbie’s picks for July 4TH weekend!!

Weekend in the City

It’s the holiday weekend! Great weather is forecast and fireworks are everywhere. Please be considerate of your neighbors who have served our country and may be dealing with PTSD.


Here is what we have so far: Wednesday, July 1 Get an early start at the celebration in Ionia at the Ionia Fairgrounds 317 Dexter St.

Friday, July 3  on the riverfront in Allegan and at our favorite, Firerock Grill at Stonewater Golf Course. Enjoy special appetizers and great food.

Saturday, July 4  Ada/Cascade Fireworks, 7590 E. Fulton St. (near corner of E. Fulton/Ada Drive) Allendale Fourth of July, Allendale Township Park, 6676 Lake Michigan Dr. Here’s a fun one for race fans Berlin Raceway  2060 Berlin Fair Dr., Marne, dusk after the race. Caledonia Independence Day Celebration, CalPlex, 5401 100th St., Caledonia. East Grand Rapids John Collins Park over Reeds Lake, 650 Lakeside Dr. SE, 10:15 p.m. Grandville 4th of July Celebration, Grandville Middle School, 3535 Wilson Ave. SW. and here’s the BIG one Grand Rapids Amway Family Fireworks, Ah-Nab-Awen Park, 303 Pearl St. Kentwood 4th of July, Kentwood City Center, 4900 Breton Rd. SE. Gun Lake Fireworks, over Gun Lake, 2104 S. Briggs Road, Shelbyville, 10:20 p.m.

Heading to Lake Michigan? Grand Haven 4th of July, Waterfront Stadium, 1 N. Harbor Dr., Grand Haven. Always a fun one with the boats and dingy’s in the channel Holland State Park, Holland State Park over Lake Michigan, 2215 Ottawa Beach Rd. Muskegon Fourth of July, Heritage Landing, 1050 7th St. Saugatuck Fourth of July Celebration, over the Kalamazoo River, Saugatuck.

Have fun and be safe!!

Weekend IN THE CITY 6.19-6.21

Weekend in the City

TGIF ! Here are Karen and Robbie’s picks for the weekend in Grand Rapids!

Friday It is a beautiful, sunny Friday. It’s beach time!!! Spend the day enjoying the sun, and the evening driving the shoreline of Lake Michigan from Grand Haven, eat dinner at The Kirby House, then go to Saugatuck and have dessert at The Sweet Shop.

Japanese Gardens

Saturday Just maybe the large opening crowds have thinned out a bit and it’s time to visit the new Japanese Gardens at Fred Meijer Garden 9-5 Saturday and 11-5 Sunday. Simply breathtaking!!

 Sunday Happy Fathers Day to all of the dads! Have a fun family day with the kids and go see Kuza, Yuri & Nika at the updated tiger exhibit at John Ball Zoo! The trail is phase 2 of the habitat and has expanded the exhibit by 2,000 square feet.