Road Trip Reflections

Before Vinny and I left on our road trip, we decided to establish a few tenets for our trip. Number one, we would stick to a budget of $100 per day. Number two, no chain hotels or restaurants.  We chose these tenets to keep the trip affordable, to prove that interstates and chains are avoidable in most cases, to prove that road trips that support local businesses can fit the budget of the everyday American, and also just to add a challenge to our planning. Number three, we would travel state highways and US highways, not interstates, except for sections of getting in, around, and out of big cities.

How did we do? Well, as for the $100 per day budget, sometimes we were over, sometimes we were under. We hadn’t exactly thought of this from the get-go, but because each day is different, the budget needs to be moved around on some days. For example, a day of staying at a campground and just hanging around often didn’t require much money, except for some food, firewood, and the camping fee. A day of all driving, buying groceries for the next few days, and then staying at a campground often reached just at the budget because everything adds up quickly. Mackinac Island was our most expensive day, and we knew it would be. That day added to around $150 (ferry tickets, bike rentals, fudge, lunch, campground – really the ferry tickets ate the budget that day). But other days, like camping in Ohio or Indiana fell more around $75 or $80.  Thus, our budget was not completely accurate, but we did our best to stick to it and never felt like we were blatantly ignoring it. It was always a consideration and if we were rich travelers, then we probably would have spent more.  So we spent what we figured. It’s a good rule of thumb to always (in the back of your head) plan on spending more than originally planned when traveling.

Our answer: yes, it is possible to spend $100 per day for a road trip for two people. Our biggest parts of that were camping the entire way, shopping in grocery stores and stocking up for two days (don’t forget the ice!), and eating only one meal out per day if we wanted to eat out somewhere.

As far as no chain hotels or restaurants, we did our absolute best. The majority of the time, we did a great job. However, there were a few slip-ups. The first one was staying at the Indian Creek RV Resort in Geneva-on-the-lake, Ohio. Originally we planned to stay at Geneva State Park, but that required a two night stay, so I had to quickly find somewhere else. After I booked it, I found out that it is actually owned by a much larger company.  We didn’t make that mistake again. Then, while looking for breakfast in downtown South Bend, Indiana, we saw a restaurant called La Peep. The menu looked good and it was downtown near the old theater, so we figured it would be worth a shot. As we were sitting inside, looking around, and reading the menu, I had a feeling that it was a chain. When I looked at the back of the menu, I realized it was – a Midwestern and western chain. We obviously had never heard of it. For the record, the breakfast was not as good as many of the local places where we ate. And then one night, we stayed in a hotel in Beloit, Wisconsin. This came out of necessity, after arriving at our planned campground to find a domestic disturbance dispute and many arguments at the campsite right next to us. For a variety of reasons, we decided to leave. So we started driving around rural southern Wisconsin in hopes of finding somewhere to stay. It was late and we knew that we should take what we find. We knew the hotels would be near the interstate, so we headed that way in the dark past many farm fields. We ended up at a Holiday Inn Express and just accepted that it was obviously against the no-chain rule. But, desperate times call for desperate measures. That day was another one over budget.

For the most part, we did avoid all chains except for grocery stores and gas stations. We found great restaurants and campgrounds and enjoyed all of them.

Interstates or state & US highways? This has the most complications, since we did choose to travel the interstate in some instances. They included: getting out of New York and New Jersey, getting out of Detroit, Michigan (until we could jump on a highway), getting into and out of Minneapolis, MN, going to Milwaukee, and heading home from Columbus, Ohio.  So we’re not perfect and often had we planned better, we could have spent the extra time on the interstate. One thing that this trip taught us was that sometimes the interstates are much better for getting from place to place. The smaller highways aren’t built for interstate traffic and sometimes they were slow, as if we were on Long Island. Sometimes the interstates were the same roads as US highways, making it so we were on both at once. We confirmed our belief that interstates are boring. When we did choose the interstate, we were always more tired and restless without scenery along our way. We always hoped that the journey would end sooner, because then it was just miles, it wasn’t really a trip. So, when we have the option and the time, we will always choose the scenic roads and the byways. It can be done easily, it just needs to be planned.

We enjoyed the trip very much, though we probably wouldn’t repeat the same route as it was not our favorite trip ever planned. However, we wanted to see that part of the country and we are glad we did. (I’m still dying for the Rocky Mountain west road trip – someday.)  A few friends asked us what our least favorite thing was that we saw. I thought about it for a while and then I realized that in many places, I felt as though I couldn’t tell you where we were because everything looked the same, like Anywhere, USA. Sometimes I felt like I was on Long Island. Chains started because people appreciated and wanted the same thing – cleanliness, operations, food, lodging – to make home away from home. However, when I travel, I don’t want to be home. I want to be somewhere new and see something new, as many of us do. Seeing the same restaurants, stores, and hotels everywhere sometimes made me ask why I had left home. That is another reason Vinny and I chose to go the non-chain route – to appreciate the different parts of America.

Maybe the tides are changing, and Americans will want unique food, lodging, and shopping everywhere. Maybe someday the chains will not be what takes over the country and corporate America will be totally different. I have to believe that because it would be such a shame to have no need to travel anywhere, knowing that every place was the same as the one before and the one after it.

Luckily, that feeling of sameness didn’t happen everywhere and we really did enjoy our Great Lakes Road Trip 2009. We tend to travel many places at once, because we like to take an overview of a region to see where we would like to return and spend more time. Not everyone prefers to travel this way, but it’s what Vinny and I do. And while we traveled these 3,641 miles, we came across places we would have never found otherwise. Wrong turns and happenstance directions sometimes lead you the best way.

Thanks for reading along with the Road Trip Reports.

Road Trip Report 16

The Great Lakes Road Trip 2009 concluded on July 24 as Vinny and I made our trek from Columbus, Ohio to Long Island, NY.  On our way home, we did travel the interstate all across Ohio and Pennsylvania. This we did for a few reasons, but mostly because we had to get home due to a change in schedule.

Traveling along I-70.

Traveling along I-70.

Pip looking at the open road and wondering why we're on an interstate.

Pip looking at the open road and wondering why we're on an interstate.

By the end of the journey, we were tired and we had seen many new parts of the country.  As always, we were glad to see the familiar signs and Long Island landmarks. Unfortunately, part of that is the inevitable stop and go traffic on the infamous Belt Parkway. Twelve hours after we started, we finally arrived home and we were greeted by a rainstorm.

Crossing into West Virginia for a bit.

Crossing into West Virginia for a bit.

"Expect delays until September." Classic Staten Island, NY.

"Expect delays until September." Classic Staten Island, NY.

Brooklyn.

Brooklyn.

Leaving Brooklyn.

Leaving Brooklyn.

Just about home - sort of.

Just about home - sort of.

Final mileage. 3641 miles.

Final mileage. 3641 miles.

Tomorrow: overall recap.

Road Trip Report 15

Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.

Ohio

After Wisconsin, on a bright, sunny day, we drove the state highways and camped at Potato Creek State Park in Indiana for a few days. Our last destination was Columbus, Ohio to visit our fellow PiP writer, Maria. We didn’t know what to expect from Columbus, but we ended up having a great time and enjoying the city. Vinny and I took our own running tour of a few neighborhoods. Since it’s faster than walking and safer than sight seeing while driving, running is the best way to see a new place.

With Maria we explored the German Village, which is a beautiful neighborhood full of mid 19th century houses with slate roofs. Schiller Park in the center of the neighborhood is perfect for strolling and taking pictures. There is a stage for Shakespeare in the Park, a pond, a playground, and it is overall a pleasant place to spend an afternoon.

A view from the park.

A view from the park.

More of the houses that overlook the park.

More of the houses that overlook the park.

In Schiller Park.

In Schiller Park.

One of the best parts of the day was exploring the 32 rooms of books in The Book Loft, an independently owned bookstore in German Village. The bookstore is like a maze and each room has different sections of books. Sometimes we forget from where we came and had to follow the exit signs! The books are endless. There are also calendars, magnets, bookmarks, and posters, among other things.

The Book Loft in German Village.

The Book Loft in German Village.

Pathway to the Book Loft.

Pathway to the Book Loft.

Our favorite part about Columbus was being able to walk to many of the neighborhoods. We walked to get coffee, dinner, and ice cream. Ice cream in the Short North neighborhood at Jeni’s Ice Cream tasted beyond delicious.  It may be a bit expensive, but the ice cream was from an organic, grass fed dairy farm in Ohio. It was definitely worth the one time price ($5 for an ice cream sandwich). We strolled through the streets lined with impressive, historic homes. Maria said that she showed us only the good parts of Columbus so we’d be sure to return, and she planned effectively as we really liked visiting Columbus. It was a relaxing last stop to have, as I find that I prefer visiting cities where friends live.

Road Trip Report 14

Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Every route takes longer than planned on a road trip, at least in our experience. On our across-Wisconsin day we were a bit behind schedule, but we were trying very hard to get to Milwaukee, WI at a reasonable hour (i.e. daylight, not dusk) on this Sunday afternoon. Always on some form of schedule, we knew that it would be our only chance to visit Milwaukee. So we hopped on the interstate (knowingly violating our rule and found ourselves in Milwaukee in the late evening. Luckily, the day was still golden and sunny.

My grandmother grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has always spoke of it fondly. I have seen pictures of her house and the views of Lake Michigan. While my grandmother loves being a New Yorker, she holds Milwaukee as one of the best places in the world.  I love looking at photographs of her family house, so I thought that finally being in Wisconsin offered a great chance to see the house for myself. I knew the address and how to get there. My plan was to knock on the front door and politely say my grandmother grew up here, would you mind if I took some pictures of the front of the house and looked in the backyard for the view?

The woman who answered the door obliged, but didn’t say much else. I figured that would be the end of it – I’d take a few pictures and leave. As I snapped a few photographs of the front yard, a man walked out from the backyard. We said hello. Charles was very friendly and cordial and asked who my grandmother was. When I told him her maiden name, he said he knew the family! This man, a stranger to me and most of my family, knows some of my grandmother’s family! He invited Vinny and me into the backyard to take some photographs while he went inside to get something. As fate would have it, Charles’ grandfather was the husband of my great-aunt Mary (my grandmother’s sister). Mary died when she was young, so then her widower remarried. Charles is the grandson of Mary’s widower. Charles bought it only a few years ago. Thus, we’re distantly related. But, still related! I’m not sure of the exact chain-of-title for the house, but it was obviously kept in the family.

Aside from this surprise, the box of photographs and scrapbooks astounded me.  He had photographs that I have, ones that I’ve seen, many that I haven’t seen. Mary was the scrapbooker in the family and kept everything. When she died, her husband saved it all and passed it along. We looked through the photographs and I identified pictures of my grandmother, my father, my uncle, my great-grandmother. Charles shared stories of my great-aunt that I never knew. It was amazing. Charles didn’t know many people in the photographs, but said that he couldn’t get rid of any of them because someone knows who they are.  It is now one of my favorite quotes.

The house looks just as it did in photographs from about 50 years ago. Charles said he had fixed a few things and added a fresh coat of paint, but most of his work went to the beautiful deck and the outdoor living room next to it. Once the room is complete he wants to hang historic pictures of the house and of those who lived there.

I never expected such a meeting at my grandmother’s childhood home. It was surreal to meet a complete stranger who has a distant relation and so many photographs that I have. I’m so glad to have met the person who loves the house like a true family member. It is one of my favorite stories.

My grandmother's childhood home in Milwaukee, WI.

My grandmother’s childhood home in Milwaukee, WI.

The modern view from the backyard. The grass is above an underground water storage tank. It used to that Lake Michigan came all the way to the cliff behind her house.

The modern view of Lake Michigan. The grass covers an underground water storage tank. It used to that Lake Michigan came all the way to the cliff behind her house.

Road Trip Report 13

Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin we drove south on Highway 35 from Prescott to Onalaska. Highway 35 is a National Scenic Byway also called the Great River Road that runs along the Mississippi River on the western border of Wisconsin. The hills roll through beautiful green, lush country. In between the small, mostly vibrant towns are gorgeous overlooks and rest areas with historical markers. This road truly made Wisconsin one of the most pleasant parts of our journey.

Entering Wisconsin.

Entering Wisconsin.

Most of the towns welcomed us with the population count on their signs, some under 100. However, these towns never seemed to lack something happening – even on a Sunday. Many have galleries that attract artists and tourists. Ice cream parlors tempt that passers-by.

One reason for taking this route was to visit Pepin, Wisconsin, birthplace of Laura Ingalls Wilder. We had seen her homes in Kansas, Missouri, and South Dakota, and this one in Wisconsin fit perfectly into our schedule. Pepin, Wisconsin is 0ne of the larger small towns on the highway. In town we stopped at the Laura Ingalls Wilder museum (free admission), which is mostly a museum of early Pepin history and pioneer days. However, the museum also had interesting Little House paraphernalia such as a Little House board game (who knew!?) and dolls of the book characters. It warranted a short visit.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, WI.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Pepin, WI.

From there we headed out 7 miles on County Road CC to visit the Laura Ingalls wayside, where there is a reconstruction of the Ingalls’ family home (the one from  Little House in the Big Woods).  The drive is enjoyable and the wayside is peaceful. The unfurnished log house is open to the public. Surrounding corn fields and rural farm country enable visitors to imagine what Laura might have seen in her childhood days.

Historical marker at the wayside.

Historical marker at the wayside.

Little house reconstruction.

Little house reconstruction.

Side/rear view.

Side/rear view.

The interior. This is the loft where the Ingalls girls slept.

The interior. This is the loft where the Ingalls girls slept.

Cornfields behind the house.

Corn fields behind the house.

Another corn field view.

Another corn field view.

If you are in the area, Pepin is definitely worth a visit, as is the 7 mile drive to the Laura Ingalls wayside. You’ll have to drive back to Pepin to find a highway. Before you leave town, get a cup of coffee at Grand River Roasters. It’s excellent. The snacks are delicious and there is wi-fi.

We continued on WI-35 for a while, enjoying the views and the many towns. Eventually we had to veer off and head towards the interstate. Why an interstate? We had an important mission in Milwaukee, WI that we didn’t want to miss.  That story is tomorrow’s post. It’s my favorite part of the trip.

Road Trip Report 12

Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.

Minnesota

With the purpose of adding another state to our visited list and seeing a new city, we decided to swing into Minnesota between our Wisconsin travels.  The National Trust for Historic Preservation conference was in Minneapolis/St. Paul in October 2007 and I had heard good things about both cities.

Almost missed that one!

Almost missed that one!

We didn’t have any plans except to walk around and find some coffee – the usual. We also didn’t have directions, so we ended up taking a scenic tour until we found ourselves downtown near the Nicollet Mall. Nicollet Mall is an entire city block turned into a pedestrian mall with restaurants and stores and a light rail running down the street. Cars are also allowed to drive down the street, but not park. The mall wasn’t really what we were looking, nor could we find anything that wasn’t a chain.

Looking down Nicollet Mall.

Looking down Nicollet Mall.

Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.

Mary Tyler Moore in Minneapolis.

Fountains on the mall.

Fountains on the mall.

Thank goodness for Internet on phones and all of their applications to direct us away from the chain stores and the mall to what Minneapolis has dubbed “Eat Street.” Eat Street is filled with ethnic restaurants mostly, but surrounding it are neighborhoods there were many people walking around.  The Spyhouse is a cool coffee shop there. Good coffee, good desserts, internet, comfortable chairs, funky mugs, and many people around our age hanging out made it worth the wait and the walk for the coffee.

Spyhouse Coffee. Go there when you visit Minneapolis.

Spyhouse Coffee. Go there when you visit Minneapolis.

Another reason for visiting Minneapolis was to see the famous Spoonbridge and Cherry sculpture in Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Again, the phone helped us out here. We walked the 1.5 miles or so through Minneapolis and crossed a very large pedestrian overpass to get there. The residential architecture of Minneapolis provided entertainment on the walk and we were able to a lot of the city (or at least it felt like it!) The sculpture garden was worth the walk as well. The main attraction is the Spoonbridge and Cherry, but there were many others.

Another view.

Another view.

In the sculpture garden.

In the sculpture garden.

A unique sculpture.

A unique sculpture.

After the garden we headed back to the car, but walked a different way. We passed through Loring Park,  which had gardens, paths, a lake, and a picnic area. It is the largest community park in Minneapolis and there is a Loring Park neighborhood (historic!) as well.

Another pedestrian bridge!

Another pedestrian bridge!

Loring Park.

Loring Park.

Loring Park.

Loring Park.

And just for the heck of it, for seeing modern American culture, we felt the need to visit Mall of America just south of Minneapolis. You know, the one with the roller coaster in the middle of it. Approaching the Mall was probably the most interesting part. Hotels sit adjacent to the mall, the huge sign welcomes you, and there are so many  directions to follow. While we’re glad to have seen it, just once, our impression was that it is just a giant mall. In the middle there is a Nickelodeon kiddy theme park and some larger-than-life Lego statues.

One of the many signs, just in case you were wondering what it looked like.

One of the many signs, just in case you were wondering what it looked like.

Legos in the mall.

Legos in the mall.

The amusement park.

The amusement park.

Although we spent just half a day in Minneapolis, we did walk a lot of the city (we think) and we liked it. It seemed like a safe, fun place to be with lots of events and people our age. It would probably be a nice place to visit again.

And now Minnesota is on our list of visited states.

Road Trip Report 11

Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.

Upper Peninsula, Michigan & Wisconsin

After leaving Mackinaw City, Michigan we drove over the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan.  (In this post, the U.P. and Wisconsin are combined because it was a full day of driving for us.)

After we crossed the Mackinac Bridge.

After we crossed the Mackinac Bridge.

Unfortunately it was a rather dreary day, though we were glad it was a planned driving day and not an outside sight seeing day.  We drove US-2 across the U.P. Along the way we saw many, many advertisements for pasties (pronoucned “pass-ties, I think) which are a signature U.P. breakfast.  It’s sort of like a handheld breakfast pie with sausage, bacon, cheese, eggs, and other meat depending on the recipe. Much of the route passed along Lake Michigan and through the Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests. We passed many abandoned motor courts and through small crossroad towns. One of the biggest towns was Manistique, where we had breakfast at the Cedar Street Cafe.

Pasties everywhere in the U.P.

Pasties everywhere in the U.P.

Although this picture doesn't offer much proof, it was a beautiful view, especially when the sun was shining.

Although this picture doesn't offer much proof, it was a beautiful view, especially when the sun was shining.

Almost missed it. Wisconsin seems to hide its welcome signs (at least out of drive by photography range).

Almost missed it. Wisconsin seems to hide its welcome signs (at least out of drive by photography range).

Wisconsin was just as dreary in terms of the weather, but we soon entered farm country where there are beautiful big, red barns everywhere. US-41 took us to WI-64, with our destination of Brunet Island State Park in Cornell, Wisconsin. We did enjoy the farm country, even with the rain. I could look at barns all day long. One of our favorite parts of the day was towards the end. We needed groceries for camping. Based on the size of the dot for the town on the map, it looked like Medford, WI was the biggest stop before Cornell. Hoping for the best we turned off WI-64 when we saw a “County Market” sign.  As it turns out, we stumbled upon a community owned supermarket! It was as big as normal (chain) grocery stores, clean, well stocked, organized, affordable. We were psyched, especially because we hadn’t found any local grocery stores on our travels yet.

Farm along WI-64.

Farm along WI-64.

As we approached Brunet Island State Park, the sun started to shine before setting for the day. And it was the perfect evening for a campfire!

Hooray for sun!

Hooray for sun!

So it may not have been the most exciting road trip day, but we were still glad to see more of the Great Lakes region.

Next up: Minneapolis, MN!

Road Trip Report 10

Vinny and I were driving along US-23 in Michigan, well I was driving and suddenly Vinny shouts “pull over!” I pulled over and what did I see, but possibly the greatest roadside sign on our entire trip. I would have driven right past it!

Flamingo Motel. US-23, Michigan.

Flamingo Motel. US-23, Michigan.

Closer view.

Closer view.

We pulled into the parking to get the second picture, and it was obvious that motel was no longer in operation, though it seemed to have some residents of sorts. Everyone loves flamingos.

Note, there is also a flamingo motel in Mackinaw City, MI, but this is not that one. This one was somewhere around Bay City, MI.

—————————

Road Trip Update: We’re actually back in New York now, but there are many more posts to share about our adventures.

Road Trip Report 9

The Roadside America photograph collection (of giant things) from our trip.

Some with historic or cultural significance, some just for our amusement. Enjoy. They made us laugh.

I have no idea what this is, but it stands next to a BP gas station and nothing else near East Harbor State Park, Ohio. The waiter (?) looked like he used to carry a tray.

I have no idea what this is, but it stands next to a BP gas station and nothing else near East Harbor State Park, Ohio. The waiter (?) looked like he used to carry a tray.

Another view of the giant man near the BP.

Another view of the giant man near the BP.

Giant bicycle in Geneva-on-the-lake, Ohio.

Giant bicycle in Geneva-on-the-lake, Ohio.

A large directional tree at the Bronner's Christmas Store, the world's largest Christmas store, in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

A large directional tree at the Bronner's Christmas Store, the world's largest Christmas store, in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Me & a giant lightbulb at Bronner's Christmas Store.

Me & a giant lightbulb at Bronner's Christmas Store.

A giant mouse on US-24. We stopped to get its picture.

A giant mouse on US-23. It's so cute that it deserves another spot here. We saw more than one giant mouse.

A giant chicken on Wisconsin 64.

A giant chicken on Wisconsin 64.

Another giant chicken in Wisconsin.

Another giant chicken in Wisconsin.

A giant cow in Minnesota, on the outskirts of St. Paul.

A giant cow in Minnesota, on the outskirts of St. Paul.

The spoon bridge in the sculpture garden in Minneapolis.

The spoon bridge in the sculpture garden in Minneapolis.

We know we missed a lot of roadside America because we didn’t necessarily detour to find certain statues, etc. Instead we found most of these by chance and just shot pictures from the car window. There certainly were an abundance of giant chickens. Does anyone know why?

Road Trip Report 8

Brief notes on the trip, state by state, with sights, places, and photographs.

Michigan, part 2

Mackinac Island

As we drove north in Michigan, we continued on US-23 which followed much of the lake shoreline. While the sights and scenes on this route in southern Michigan were not that exciting, as we drove further north we passed through lakeside communities. Stretches of houses along the lakeshore entertained us with their clever and unique yard signs, whether stating the name of the property or of the family.  We did not pass many chain hotels, but rather many motor courts or cabins or small motels.

Aside from just seeing Michigan, our main destination was Mackinac Island.  The island is known as the jewel of Michigan and is famous for its Victorian era architecture, the Grand Hotel (with the longest front porch in the world), and not allowing cars since the early 20th century.  And while a round trip ferry ride for two was about half of our daily budget, we really wanted to visit Mackinac Island.

Approaching Mackinac Island by ferry from Mackinaw City.

Approaching Mackinac Island by ferry from Mackinaw City.

The ferry ride is under 20 minutes (which begs the question of why is it so expensive?) and the approach to the island is gorgeous. Mackinac Island is in Lake Huron and on the other side of the Mackinac Straits and the Mackinac “Mighty Mac” Bridge is Lake Michigan. The water is clear and all shades of blue/green. Lucky for us, the clouds dissipated and the sun shined brightly as soon as we arrived on the ferry.

Main Street on Mackinac Island.

Main Street on Mackinac Island.

Arriving at Mackinac Island is a bit overwhelming since the ferry docks are right next to the main strip. In other words we were immediately amidst hundreds of bicycles and pedestrians and many carriages pulled by horses.  Bicycle rentals were not cheap either, but we decided it was the best way to tour the island. An eight mile bike path is paved around the perimeter of the island. The two hour bike rental for two bikes was $18 and well worth it. Everyone was on a bicycle. The path takes riders or walkers through the town and then through the state park, where visitors can see the natural beauty and some wildlife of the island. The bike path is actually a Michigan Highway (M-185).

The bicycle path.

The bicycle path.

The highway sign with mile markers (0-8).

The highway sign with mile markers (0-8).

The main shopping strip of town is chock full of stores that sell typical tourist junk – anything that has “Mackinac Island” written on it. And there are many restaurants and fudge shops. We didn’t spend too much time on the main street because the sidewalks were very crowded, but we did have some fudge and candy.

The Grand Hotel.

The Grand Hotel.

While on our bike ride we found the Grand Hotel.  It is beautiful and has one of the best views on the island; however, we were disappointed to find that unless you are a guest of the hotel you cannot even walk in front of it. If you want to enter the hotel or walk on the porch it costs $10 per person.  Also, there was a sign proclaiming that after 6pm men must wear suits and women cannot wear slacks. We opted for just a few pictures.

Ten dollars to walk across the longest porch in the world - not for budget travelers.

Ten dollars to walk across the longest porch in the world - not for budget travelers.

My camera could not capture the full length of the porch of the Grand Hotel.

My camera could not capture the full length of the porch of the Grand Hotel.

After a while we tired of the tourist mess, so we decided to go walking in the middle of the island (mostly uphill) past some beautiful house and through the state park. This was a fabulous way to spend our afternoon.  We strolled in the shade and on trails, saw only a few people, and gazed at Lake Superior.  Had we not walked away from the crowds we would have missed out on the true beauty of Mackinac Island because while it’s known for its architecture and no-cars, it is just as much a haven for naturalists.

View while walking through the trails.

View while walking through the trails.

Another view of Lake Superior from Mackinac Island.

Another view of Lake Huron from Mackinac Island.

Looking through Arch Rock onto the bike path and Lake Huron.

Looking through Arch Rock onto the bike path and Lake Huron.

Mackinac Island was worth the trip, though the expense (we were over budget that day) would prevent us from returning anytime soon. With all of the crowds, it took away from what we expected about the island, but the views of and from the island provide good memories. The chance to be someplace in the United States without cars and their pollution is rare, and the trip to Mackinac Island is worth that experience.  Horses and carriages transport guests to the hotels.  Packages are delivered by carriages. Painters carry their supplies on bicycles. It is a completely different world in some respects. These pictures cannot do the entire island justice, but hopefully they give you a glimpse of Mackinac Island.

A mysterious empty house near the bike path on Mackinac Island.

A mysterious empty house near the bike path on Mackinac Island. I immediately stopped to take pictures!

M-185 (Main Street).

M-185 (Main Street).

Horses and carriages at work.

Horses and carriages at work.

Road Trip Report 9

Michigan, part 2

As we drove north in Michigan, we continued on US-23 which followed much of the lake shoreline. While the sights and scenes on this route in southern Michigan were not that exciting, as we drove further north we passed through lakeside communities. Stretches of houses along the lakeshore entertained us with their clever and unique yard signs, whether stating the name of the property or of the family. We did not pass many chain hotels, but rather many motor courts or cabins or small motels.

Aside from just seeing Michigan, our main destination was Mackinac Island. The island is known as the jewel of Michigan and is famous for its Victorian era architecture, the Grand Hotel (with the longest front porch in the world), and not allowing cars since the early 20th century. And while a round trip ferry ride for two was about half of our daily budget, we really wanted to visit Mackinac Island.

The ferry ride is under 20 minutes (which begs the question of why is it so expensive?) and the approach to the island is gorgeous. Mackinac Island is in Lake Superior and on the other side of the Mackinac Straits and the Mighty Mac Bridge is Lake Michigan. The water is clear and all shades of blue/green. Lucky for us, the clouds dissipated and the sun shined brightly as soon as we arrived on the ferry.

Arriving at Mackinac Island is a bit overwhelming since the ferry docks are right next to the main strip. In other words we were immediately amidst hundreds of bicycles and pedestrians and many carriages pulled by horses. Bicycle rentals were not cheap either, but we decided it was the best way to tour the island. An eight mile bike path is paved around the perimeter of the island. The two hour bike rental for two bikes was $18 and well worth it. Everyone was on a bicycle. The path takes riders or walkers through the town and then through the state park, where visitors can see the natural beauty and some wildlife of the island.

The main shopping strip of town is chock full of stores that sell typical tourist junk – anything that has “Mackinac Island” written on it. And there are many restaurants and fudge shops. We didn’t spend too much time on the main street because the sidewalks were very crowded, but we did have some fudge and candy.

While on our bike ride we found the Grand Hotel. It is beautiful and has one of the best views on the island; however, we were disappointed to find that unless you are a guest of the hotel you cannot even walk in front of it. If you want to enter the hotel or walk on the porch it costs $10 per person. Also, there was a sign proclaiming that after 6pm men must wear suits and women cannot wear slacks. We opted for just a few pictures.

After a while we tired of the tourist mess, so we decided to go walking in the middle of the island (mostly uphill) past some beautiful house and through the state park. This was a fabulous way to spend our afternoon. We strolled in the shade and on trails, saw only a few people, and gazed at Lake Superior. Had we not walked away from the crowds we would have missed out on the true beauty of Mackinac Island because while it’s known for its architecture and no-cars, it is just as much a haven for naturalists.

Mackinac Island was worth the trip, though the expense (we were over budget that day) would prevent us from returning anytime soon. With all of the crowds, it took away from what we expected about the island, but the views of and from the island provide good memories.