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Trip Report Big 10 Quest #4 - Michigan State University

2012 Big 10 Quest 4 – Michigan State University – April 14, 2012
12 campuses – 12 months - 2012


The original plan for our Big 10 Quest was to visit the 12 universities of the Big 10 in the 12 months of 2012, one per month. However, when we mulled over the distance from us to the two in Michigan along with how close they are to each other, it made more sense to combine their visits into a weekend. I checked hotel rates for both and found a good buy at a Clarion in Ann Arbor (with an alumni association discount in addition to the stay two nights and get one free promotion). We decided to drive to East Lansing, visit Michigan State, drive the hour to Ann Arbor, and then relax at the hotel. That would give us an early start on visiting the University of Michigan and then the drive home.

Our drive to Michigan State was uneventful. We again decided to hold off on lunch in anticipation of eating in East Lansing.

Arriving at the college, we saw lots of students walking around - more so than the semi-deserted campuses we've been seeing. We drove around to get a feel for the lay of the campus. As we drove, we noticed that campus parking was reserved and full anyway. We ended up parking at a parking garage near the Union (Division Street Garage). On the way to the union, we saw the Peanut Barrel, a restaurant recommended by Fodor's posters.

However, I suggested a different start. In order to enjoy the ice cream in the Dairy Store AND the Peanut Barrel, why not have ice cream first, visit the campus, and then top off our visit with a meal at the Peanut Barrel?

Entering the union, we checked the directory for a visitors' center. No luck. We then asked a young man clerking at a store if there was a visitors' center. He said no, but asked if he could help us. He pointed out some campus highlights (Spartan statue) and lowlights (classroom buildings) on a map. We were glad that he mentioned the statue as that is the sort of photo opportunity that we watch for, but might not happen upon on our own. (Later we a stopped in a different store in the union and saw campus maps on the counter.)

A nearby lounge was filled with displays in honor of incoming freshmen weekend. One young man gave me a lengthy sales pitch about a combination business/philosophy major. Another tried to sell us on a multi-level health drink program. Meanwhile, I realized the top of my water bottle was missing when I felt water on my leg. I ditched the contents and recycled it in the large women's lounge/study area.

Back at the Dairy Store, we mulled our choice of flavors. He picked a scoop of Death by Chocolate and I choose one of the same plus one of coconut chocolate almond. There was almost no seating, so we went outside and sat on a heating grate. The ice cream was yummy.

As we finished up, my husband got a quick glimpse of Sparty the Spartan speeding down a pathway on a golf cart. Starting our walk, I noted that the college has fewer bike paths than Illinois, a carillon similar to all of the schools, and like all of the schools so far except Illinois a general ignoring of crosswalks by motorists.

Our next stop was the Spartan statue, a photo opportunity. After that, we walked on a sidewalk along a river. Like Indiana, the Michigan State campus incorporates its natural background into its landscaping.

Although we did not find a visitor center, there were helpful visitor information kiosks. When we saw signs in a field declaring that Sparty's Spring Festival had been moved to the International Building, we decided to check it out. The International Building had a food court and the festival featured a number of activities for the students including caricatures. We saw were able to click a photo of Sparty there.

We meandered back to the Union where the lounge area was being refilled with furniture that had been stacked in the Women's Lounge to make room for displays. The stand of free campus newspapers also had a pile of free yearbooks from last year. I thought that was surprising. On our way out of the building, we ran into Sparty again and we both got high 5's.

Our next step was dinner. A brief walk led us back to the Peanut Barrel where we snagged the last inside table. My husband bought the recommended olive burger (with slaw) and I bought a garden burger with mushrooms. They were both good. I enjoyed the college ambiance of the restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating filled with groups of chatting students and alumni. I found it odd that we didn't get the "throw the shells on the floor" peanuts that I'd been told about, so when a nearby table scored some towards the end of all of our meals, I queried the waiter. He said that they are free during Happy Hour from 4 to 7 on Monday through Friday.

We retrieved our car not knowing what sort of a bill to expect. When the person in front of us drove out, I saw 16:28 displayed on a screen. I was shocked at the bill until I realized that was the time. Our fee was actually a fairly reasonable $3.50.

We drove to the basketball center for a photo. Unfortunately, in the few minutes when we got out to take a photo of the Magic Johnson statue, we got a $25 ticket. The sign was confusing and it turns out there is no parking there on Saturdays unless the site is manned and they are charging. So, if you go there, beware. I was able to contest the ticket and have it withdrawn. However, it did put a damper on the day.

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