As we prepare to go north to Canada, we decide to break the trip up into two segments. It’s easier on the dog and on us. But where to stay? Then I remember. A year ago, old customers of Rachel’s Bread stopped in at my cheese shop. I hadn’t seen them in quite a few years, but we managed to chat and catch up a little despite a busy day at The Wedge. They left us their phone number and invited us to stop in at their cabin in Frankfort, Michigan, if we were ever up that way.

I write to them and ask if it would work for us to rent their cabin for a night on our way to Pancake Bay Provincial Park. The next day, I get a message back from Sandra. “We would love to have you visit and there is no rent.”

Now here’s the thing: we don’t really know Mike and Sandra except as customers. I remember them coming to my bakery feast and always bringing a gift of wine. And once, Mike gave me a teak cutting board he had made and we used it all the time at the bakery. We’re not really sure of what we are driving toward and how it will all go down.

I confirm our details with Sandra and she writes back: “We will have dinner ready when you get here.” This is not what we were expecting. We thought that maybe they had a small cabin for rent, and we could stay on our way without intruding.

When we arrive, after a busy day at The Wedge and four hours on the road, Mike and Sandra are sitting on the front porch of their delightful home. Stella, the dog, immediately makes friends and they welcome us with open arms.

Their cabin sits right next to their home. They take us inside. The space is perfectly set up. Efficient, warm, beautifully appointed, to Stella and us, it is a luxurious send off for our camping trip.

We settle in, let Stella stretch her legs around the property, and are soon sitting on Mike and Sandra’s screened back porch, enjoying some cheese, crackers and a bottle of rosé. Words tumble out of the bottle as dusk quietly creeps in. It feels like we’ve always been here.

Soon, Mike asks us if we might want to taste his version of Negroni. We follow him inside and make ourselves at home on the window seat as we continue the conversation. The ice clinks in the glasses; Mike measures and pours and adds his own orange bitters, then adds an orange slice for the final accent. As cooler air moves through the house, we sip and talk.

Then Sandra serves us her spicy chicken chili with all the toppings. We can’t resist a second helping. And the flán for dessert slips into all the right places. As full night fills the sky, we make the short walk back to the cabin and fall into bed, feeling fortunate.

The next morning, there’s coffee on the porch as the sun makes its way up. Deer visit outside the door. And inside, we eat the croissants that I brought to share.

We leave in the morning, fully sated, and when they suggest that we stop in on our way back from camping, how can we refuse? When we walk back in their door, it’s almost as though we were returning home. We arrived as acquaintances but leave as family.

Here, up on the tip of Michigan, we have found the good life. Mike and Sandra know how to enjoy life to its fullest, and are generous to share it with us. May we pass it on! And here’s the recipe for Negroni, if you want to share it with friends.


1 oz. Campari

1 oz. sweet red vermouth

1 oz. gin

Orange bitters



Place ice in the glass. Add vermouth, Campari and gin. Add 5 drops of orange bitters. Stir. Slice the orange into small quarters. Run the orange peel around the rim of the glass and use it to garnish the glass. Enjoy!

La Bonne Vie’s Rachel Shenk has been an artisan baker for 30 years. Born and raised in Belgium, she has lived in Goshen since 1973. She has been writing about food, traveling and the good life for about 10 years. You can connect with her on her Facebook page, La Bonne Vie, or at her cheese shop in Goshen, The Wedge.

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