Celebrating Our 20th Anniversary in Saugatuck, MI and Beyond

The Mangolds Christmas 2009

February 10, 2010 Shannon and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary. I know what you’re all thinking, neither Shannon nor I look old enough to be celebrating such a monumental occasion, but in fact, I was 20 years old and Shannon 19 (she turned 20 March 24th). We were young by today’s standard and even then too. I’ll admit if Nathan or Katelyn came home and told me they were getting married at that age, in today’s lingo I would “freak out!”

As a teenager I was a picture framer (yes this is going somewhere) and one of my clients frequented a little west Michigan town called the funny name of Saugatuck. The pictures Bob Gaunt, my client, would bring back of the town and the art he purchased at the galleries in Saugatuck, fascinated me to no end. I vowed to one day go and see this artsy-fartsy town. Almost 25 years later my long-forgotten goal has come to pass.

As with any of my travels, I do massive amounts of research online and elsewhere. Our travel priorities are as follows…

  • Comfort and cleanliness
  • On or near the water
  • Not too far away (2-4 hrs.)
  • Local yarn, antiques, and coffee shops
  • Good eats

Saugatuck fits the bill in every way.

As a bonus, I like to do what I call a boondoggle before we get to our actual destinations – be it weekends or even summer vacations. It’s a way to feel as if you’ve been away for a longer period of time. For us our boondoggle was Lansing, which was right on the way to Saugatuck. In an effort to streamline and simplify the categorizing of subjects, I’m going to break down our travels by days ex. Day 1 of 4. Making these blog entries serves several purposes for me…

  • A log of cities and towns
  • A log of shops and businesses
  • A log of restaurants
  • And most importantly our experiences at all the above

Our’s is a simple taste, so if extravagance is what you’re looking for this may not be to your liking. However, if realistic, down-to-earth travel is your bag, read on my friend.

Sleep Inn Charleston Review – July 19, 2008

Well, it was bye-bye Hilton Head; hello Charleston. The sad day finally arrived after a very event-filled week; we had to check out. We made room reservations at the Sleep Inn of Charleston, SC. Only about 100 miles away, we decided to make a day-trip out of it.

Sleep Inn of Charleston – Hotel Review 1524 Savannah Hwy (US 17 S)
Charleston, SC, US, 29407
Phone: (843) 556-6959
Fax: (843) 556-1187
Website: Click Here

Address:

Booking: I booked this hotel online at Hotels.com. This worked out alright, but we aware, they take the money immediately, rather than waiting for you to pay after your stay. My rate was $115/night and my in-laws were able to get theirs for $112/night. The hotel’s website is HERE.

Check-in: I found the lady at the front desk very pleasant and informative. She asked if we had plans for the evening in Charleston and if she could make recommendations. We welcomed her input and found her info helpful. In addition, she gave us coupons for some restaurants in the area. We informed her we planned on doing a ghost tour in Charleston and if she recommended one. She said she never goes on those tours, “I have enough spooks at my house,” she said.

Since my in-laws made reservations just the day before, rather than when I made mine earlier this month, we weren’t guaranteed that their room would be near ours. The lady made arrangements for us to be almost right across each other.

The Room: Our immediate impression was that it was clean, but had seen some wear in its short life of what looked like about 2 years old. There was a overpowering smell of a “hotel” that maybe at one time allowed smoking, but now no longer does. The smell was readily apparent, but once it cooled off, the smell tended to fade. The beds and linens were clean and comfortable. Interestingly, they had no tub, but one huge shower that sprayed copious amounts of water. For a pool, they shared the pool with the Best Western next door.

Only complaint I really have was not relative to the hotel itself. The guests in the room above us were quite loud and obnoxious at 3 a.m. After enduring what sounded like a 400 lb. man and an annoying idiot bouncing on the squeaking bed non-stop, I made a phone call to the front desk. The clerk was very, very helpful and understanding. She said she would do what she could. A few moments later all the noise stopped and I returned to peaceful sleep.

Breakfast: Was about a 3-star out of 5. They had doughnuts, waffles, cereal, and all the other customary ingredients of a continental style breakfast.

Overall Impression: I would certainly stay here again, but hope in the mean time I can arrange it to do so minus the annoying occupants we endured. Hopefully too, they do something about the pre-mature wear on their walls and carpet. The rating I give this out of 5 stars is about a 3.5, especially for $115 price I paid.

Charleston’s Highlights
I’ll write about Charleston’s highlights in another posting. There are definitely a couple of things you won’t want to miss when going there.

July 3, 2008 – Pigeon Forge, TN

After prayer to ensure a safe journey, we departed Sterling Heights at 5:00 a.m. sharp. Katelyn, bless her heart, was so excited she woke up at 2 and couldn’t go back to sleep. We stopped at Bob Evans in Ohio and had breakfast. We stopped for gas 2 times our first fuel up at Meijer in Ohio was for $3.99 and then again in Kentucky for $4.05 a gallon. Real deals considering Michigan prices are almost $4.20 as of this post.

We arrived in Pigeon Forge at roughly 4:00. We made relatively good time adhering to the speed limits not only to prevent getting a ticket, but for the added benefit of saving on fuel.

Dinner
We had dinner at Calhoun’s. This has been a Tennessee favorite of mine for a long time. They’re famous for anything from their steaks, seafood, and my personal favorite – Ribs! They were as always terrific. Shannon and Katelyn shared chicken tenders. Nathan had the special which was a Pork Chop with broccoli and a side of mashed potatoes. Our bill came to roughly $55.00 for all of us. Considering this was our main meal of the day I didn’t figure that was all that bad.

Traffic Surprise
To our dismay, on the way into Pigeon Forge, starting almost from the point we got off of Hwy. 640, onto Hwy. 40, there was bumper-to-bumper traffic. When we arrived at Calhoun’s we enquired about the traffic, and according to them, Gatlinburg, which is just up the road from where we were at, is known for being one of the first places in the United States to celebrate the birth of our country, by having a parade that starts at the stroke of midnight. People were lined up trying to pile into the small town before the streets get blocked off. Even as patriotic as I am, we decided to forego those festivities in favor of a quiet evening here in Pigeon Forge.

Accommodations
After almost 11 hours travel, we were ready to huddle into our room. I had some anxiety about checking in. I had previously booked a room here and had to cancel it when we decided to arrive a day early and needed a room for 2 days rather than just the one. The cancellation went through without incident, but I just wasn’t sure by cancelling and booking another reservation was going to work out. I could just imagine, someone thinking I intended to cancel the reservation and cancelling both of them. To my relief, the room was in fact ready.

Econo Lodge Riverside Review
Now, I’m not a connoisseur of hotels, but I have stayed in my share of good and bad, and there are certain things we MUST have in order to enjoy our stay at a hotel. Econo Lodge Riverside at 2440 N. Parkway Pigeon Forge TN 37868 is in a great location. It’s billed from a 2 to 3 star hotel but several sites. Incidentally, I located this hotel at Kayak.com for a rate of $79.99 (Thu.) and $99.99 (Fri.). This rate includes a non-smoking room with 2-queens with a AAA discount. Below is a description of my rating system and my review of the room.  

My Rating System

  • Cost – This is a very important factor in all of our decisions. In the past we have paid dearly for a room only to be disappointed. Budgeting for rooms for us typically falls in to the $75 – $100/night, depending on the area.
  • Cleanliness – We don’t mind paying an extra $10 or $15/night, if we can be assured the room is going to be clean. We have had bugs, hairs, soiled sheets, mold, mildew, rooms in disrepair and swore off ever staying at not only that particular hotel, but sometimes going as far as never wanting to stay at the chain. Best Westerns and Days Inns are 2 names that we have seen go down the tubes in terms of quality.
  • Closeness – Being in close proximity is important. This saves time and fuel, and enables us to absorb ourselves in the surroundings of the tourist attraction, but not be so close that we are dealing with crowds.
  • Quietness – Seldom, if ever, can you avoid noise, or predict it happening. The quieter the better though. We’ve stayed in 4 and 5 star hotels only to be totally disappointed with the stay due to loud and rambunctious hockey or softball teams and even grown-up reunions or retreats.
  • These are my ratings from lowest quality to highest: Awful –  Bad – OK – Good – Fair – Moderate – Excellent – Superb

So with these things in mind, let me just say, it’s been roughly 2 hours since we checked in trouble-free with this Econo Lodge in Pigeon Forge and here are my immediate reactions.

  • Check-in: This went relatively well. The lady at the front desk was polite enough and was helpful. I would suggest here that if you require a room on the first floor due to medical problems (like I currently have) you book this in advance and let them know. We were assigned to the third floor. When I requested a lower level, I was quickly cut-off and told there were none available. Here would have been a good chance for her to at least have offered to check for cancellations, and to offer at least a second floor. She did neither. I immediately asked if there was an elevator. She said yes, but it’s proximity to our room was prohibitive. I may as well take the stairs, although slowly and with a great deal of discomfort. The walk to the elevator would have been roughly double in length.
  • The Room: Very clean. A bit cramped, but with good reason. There are (2) queen beds, an small kitchenette style area with a small fridge, coffee pot, and microwave, 26″ TV, 2 closets with doors, a table with (2) chairs, a full dresser, a luggage table, and the standard night stand.
    • The decor was tasteful and up-to-date. It appears this is their original state, as no signs of paint or new wallpaper are evident. The carpet is a bit worn in high traffic areas, as is to be expected, but there are snags, perhaps from children or luggage.
    • The linens were all clean and in good supply. Enough for all (4) of us.
    • The soap products seem a bit stingy, but do-able. I did notice while we were checking in, a gentleman that must have been here for a couple of days had to come and get a bar of soap from the hostess, as his room attendant apparently forgot to leave a fresh bar. We had a bar on the sink and on in the tub, so apparently, the room attendant forgot to leave (2) bars of soap.
    • The pool is smaller than in the pictures, but clean. Being on the smaller side, the pool was quickly crowded, with a lot of screaming kids and non-existent adults.
  • The Breakfast: This was nothing short of disappointing. Definitely do NOT take this into consideration when factoring the price. With (2) Cracker Barrels, Bob Evans, IHOP, and scads of pancake restaurants to pick from, they actually do you a favor by not serving a decent breakfast.
  • The Beds: Not the most supportive, and they were probably due for a change-out soon, but they served their purpose.
  • Overall: My impression of this room is MODERATE
  • Would I stay here again? Yes
  • Would I recommend it? Yes
  • Recommend to who? Family on budget, business, or budget-minded couple on a get-away.