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.

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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 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.

Road Trip Report 7

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

A giant mouse on US-23. We stopped to get its picture.

As we drove through Michigan we saw countless stores and billboards for fudge, cheese, and – way up north – pasties.  Aside from this giant mouse we also saw a giant cow, but felt like that was a more common sight for roadside architecture.

Road Trip Report 6

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

Michigan, part 1

The Henry Ford

We drove up US-23 from Toledo, Ohio into Michigan. I was hoping for a grand entrance into a new state – you know, a big welcome sign and a suddenly different look since I’d never been to Michigan. Yes, that is perhaps a roadside delusion but I was holding out hope.  Anyway, all that to say that the southern portion of Michigan looked much like Ohio.

Since we couldn’t find any breakfast in Toledo, we continued with the hope that a small Michigan town would have a good locally owned breakfast café. We found Bobbie’s Kitchen in Monroe, Michigan and the pancakes were delicious.

Fueled by pancakes and coffee, we continued north in Michigan bound for Dearborn, Michigan and The Henry Ford.  The road scenery didn’t change much or thrill us, but Dearborn wasn’t that far away.

We started our visit at The Henry Ford by taking the Ford Rogue Factor Tour.  The tour takes visitors through the actual factory in five parts: a video with the history of Ford, a simulator movie about the process of making a F-150, an observation deck to see the environmentally friendly endeavors of Ford, a walk through the final assembly plant for a F-150 where you see the actual truck being assembled (Ford’s famous assembly line), and finally a gallery of the classic cars. We enjoyed the visit very much and thought it to be worth the $15 admission.

At the Ford Rogue Factory Observation Deck an exhibit demonstrates how the parking lots are environmentally friendly.

At the Ford Rogue Factory Observation Deck an exhibit demonstrates how the parking lots are environmentally friendly.

The Legacy Gallery at the Ford Rogue Factory.

The Legacy Gallery at the Ford Rogue Factory.

The next day we returned to The Henry Ford to visit Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford Museum. Greenfield Village is a collection of historic houses, some reconstructed and some relocated, that Henry Ford gathered in Dearborn to show people American history. Vinny described Greenfield Village as Colonial Williamsburg meets Walt Disney World.

The Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop - Greenfield Village.

The Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop - Greenfield Village.

A dining cart in Greenfield Village.

A dining cart in Greenfield Village.

Greenfield Village was very enjoyable; we rode in Model T to get a tour of the village, walked in the house of Wilbur and Oliver Wright and the original Heinz (think Ketchup) house. We saw a skit in the general store based on the actual proprietor and one of his costumers. We visited Edison’s Menlo Park reconstruction and saw how a phonograph works. Unfortunately, we were unable to see everything because we didn’t realize it could be an entire day in itself, but what we did see was a good representation of everything in the village. We enjoyed the combination of history and a theme park. (The food from the restaurant, A Taste of History, and the candy from the candy shop were delicious.)

Greenfield Village is a National Historic Landmark.

Greenfield Village is a National Historic Landmark.

From a historic preservation perspective, it is interesting that the entire village is a National Historic Landmark when individual landmarks typically lose their designation once moved.  Greenfield Village is not a living history museum, although there are craft demonstrations and skits and people dressed in period costume to answer any of your questions. It seemed like children and adults were enjoying their visit because there were so many activities, from walking down the (clean) streets to watching a show, to playing games in the town square to taking a ride on the train, in the Model T or in the omnibus, and of course finding something good to eat. It’s a unique place, Greenfield Village, because while being family friendly, people are actually walking through history and learning. There are of course things to consider including the fact that it is a very neat and tidy version of American history – nostalgia at its best, if you will.

Across the village green towards the hardware store.

Across the village green towards the hardware store.

Weighing both sides, Greenfield Village was so much more than we expected and we would gladly return in the future.

The steeple of the Martha-Mary Church that Henry Ford built for his mother and mother-in-law.

The steeple of the Martha-Mary Church that Henry Ford built for his mother and mother-in-law.

The museum closed at 5pm, so around 2:30 we walked over, assuming we would have enough time to see everything. We were very wrong. Again, the museum was so much more than we imagined and probably the most enjoyable museum we’ve visited. The best way to describe it that it is a museum about American history, car culture, innovators, and aspects that have changed American history. It starts with the earliest mode of transportation, the horse and buggy and works up through time with trains and cars and the heyday of the car and roadside America. There are sections for farm equipment, American culture and the typical teenager’s bedroom through the decades.

Also in the museum holds the presidential limo in which J.F. Kennedy was assassinated and the actual bus in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Visitors sit in the bus and hear Rosa Parks’ voice as she described the events.  The entire museum was fascinating and we wished we had a full day to enjoy it. It’s more than a typical museum because the artifacts are cars, a diner, a motel room display, furniture, tractors, and so much more.  We will also return here.

For those budget conscious visitors, here is how we saved our money. We stayed in Milford, Michigan at Camp Dearborn, a town operated camp. Because the camp is owned by the City of Dearborn, campers are eligible to buy discounted tickets to The Henry Ford. Our combination pass cost $23 (per person) and gave us admission to the village and the museum (and parking). Normally it would cost $23 for the village and $15 for the museum ($38 total) and parking ($5). We did have to travel about 35 miles to the camp, but we felt it was very much worth it, particularly because the camp was great (see a future post).

Our recommendation: go visit.

Road Trip Report 4

I don’t know what it is about the Midwest, but I have never seen so many cool playgrounds. (I still love them.) At least every place that I’ve been living – the good playgrounds (i.e. made of metal and big enough for people over 7 years old) have been torn down and replaced with Fisher-Price type plastic (safer?) playgrounds that are not any fun once you get over 9 years old. This happened at my elementary school, the town park, and countless others. However, driving through the Midwest on these US highways, Vinny and I have spotted so many “old-school” playgrounds. I don’t know any method for dating them except by saying they are more than a couple of decades old. 

One place we stayed, Camp Dearborn in Milford, Michigan, had the best playgrounds I’ve seen in a long time. There were so many, some used more than others. There was what I would call an original baby playground, only it was all metal, just toddler sized. That one, however, was abandoned and a tad eerie. (I found that one while we were running, thus I do not have a picture.)  This one, below, I loved. Check out the long wavy slide and the bridge. 

 

Playground at Camp Dearborn.

Playground at Camp Dearborn.

Same playground, different view.

Same playground, different view.

Are there any reading materials for the history of playgrounds? I’d love to read it.