Thursday, August 25, 2016

On the Road in Water Wonderland

At the Menominee Marina

Dear George,
Michigan is such a great state.  Along with the thousands of highway miles through untouched pine and cedar forests, residents and visitors continually find themselves next-door to  sizeable, gorgeous bodies of water.  In addition to 2,400 miles of shoreline on four of the five Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie), the state has over 11,000 inland lakes and 300 rivers.  Katja and I were reminded of this once again on our recent trip to a family gathering in Menominee, followed by camping across the U.P. and then several days down the Lake Michigan coast. 

We left Cincinnati on Tuesday, Aug. 9, drove up through Chicago, and stopped for a visit at the Packer Hall of Fame at Green Bay.  Katja and I got married just a few months before the Packers won their first NFL Championship under Vince Lombardi, and my parents took us to several games at Lambeau Field during the Packer's early Super Bowl years.  Being surrounded by all that legendary history brought tears to our eyes.  

Panorama in the Packers Hall of Fame

We arrived in Menominee on Wednesday afternoon and went directly to our family Farm in Birch Creek where our New Orleans, Seattle, and Detroit-based  group had already arrived (J & K, L, V; Greg; Jennifer & Win, Vincent, Ingrid; Jessica & her twin babes, Peter & Maya; as well as my cousins Ann and John who live in the twin cities).  After an evening of revelry, we joined our long-time friends, Bob and Lois A., at their wonderful house on the Green Bay shore where we would be staying.  Bob and Lois are gracious hosts, and we relished the opportunity to spend time with them. 

Farm was looking its best

V with a frog on her nose

Green Bay from the A's front yard

Menominee, as always, was a treat.  We visited Henes Park, the marina, the First Street historical district, the library and historical museum, all the local thrift shops, Friday-Saturday yard sales, and various shops and restaurants in the twin cities.  I abandoned my diet and enjoyed various delicacies at Berg's Landing (whitefish), Schloegel's (still more whitefish), Jozwiak's (two Wabashes), the Rail House Restaurant (Friday night fish fry), Culvers (repeat visits), the Downtown Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop, and The Wild North in Birch Creek ($1.25 cheeseburgers).  The highlight of our Menominee stay was a family trip to the DeYoung Family Zoo at Wallace in Menominee County, home to the largest number of big cats of any zoo in the Midwest.  

Zookeeper Carrie cuddles with a lion

V helps zookeeper Bud drive while L enjoys being a passenger

After sad goodbyes on Monday, we drove north to Munising, got a campground site along the Lake Superior shore, and enjoyed the Pictured Rocks sunset boat cruise.  The Pictured Rocks are among the U.P.'s most splendid tourist attractions.   There are fifteen miles of sandstone cliffs along the Lake Superior shore, up to 200 feet high and dating back 500 million years.  The cliff's elaborate multi-color designs result from iron, manganese, copper, and other minerals in the groundwater creating streaks down the face of the stone.  

Indian Head, Pictured Rocks

One of the cliff's many caves

On Tuesday we travelled to St. Ignace, got a two-night camping spot at the woodsy Straits State Park campground, and took a 3-hour boatride through the Soo Locks at Sault Ste. Marie.  Years ago we watched the locks traffic from an observation platform, but we'd never actually gone through them ourselves.  The locks, originally constructed in 1855, were built at the St. Mary River rapids which result from a 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  Ten thousand ships pass through the locks each year, and the 1,200-foot Poe Lock accommodates ocean-going super-freighters.    

On the dock for the Soo Boat Tour

Heading into the westbound lock

Thursday we crossed the Mackinac Bridge to the Lower Peninsula.  Five miles long, the Mackinac is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the third longest in the world.  The bridge cost about $2 billion in today's dollars, five workmen died in its construction, 150 million vehicles had crossed the bridge by September 2009, high winds can cause it to sway up to 35 feet from its resting position, and it takes seven years to paint the bridge (as soon as it’s finished, they begin all over again).  The Straits are 250 feet deep at the bridge's center, and its towers rise 552 feet above water level.  We get nervous and excited each time we cross.

The Mackinac Bridge from our campground at St. Ignace

Lower Peninsula resort towns along the Lake Michigan coast are more fancy and upscale than the U.P.’s.  On Thursday we drove through Traverse City, then stopped in Petoskey (visiting the harbor and the historical museum) and Charlevoix (downtown sidewalk sales where I bought a Charlevoix hoodie for $7), before camping at Manistee and seeing "Captain Fantastic" at the old-timey Vogue Theater.  Friday we continued down the coast -- Ludington (the Lake Michigan dunes), Pentwater (antiques and art galleries), Muskegon (the Muskegon Art Museum, a small gem), and Grand Haven (art galleries and more sidewalk sales).  At Grand Haven we camped among the Norway pines at P.J. Hoffmeister State Park.  

The harbor at Petoskey

The waterway to Lake Michigan at Charlevoix 

The Grand River, Manistee 

The Lake Michigan shoreline, Ludington

Katja relaxes at P.J. Hoffmeister State Park, Grand Haven 

We'd planned to head east toward Ann Arbor on Saturday, but a severe weather forecast shortened our trip, and we headed directly south toward Cincinnati.  Heavy winds and rains, as well as tornado warnings, made driving hazardous in Indiana, and we settled for a motel room north of Indianapolis.  Katja was happy with our newfound luxury, and I enjoyed getting a good night's sleep too.  Before we knew it, we were back home, just in time to watch Andy Murray vs. Marin Cilic in the Western & Southern Open men’s final.  

Here are some things that I take away from our two weeks on the road: 

·       We are lucky to still have a U.P. family property for annual gatherings (and my parents would be pleased and proud).
·       The little children make one optimistic about life and the future. 
·       Home towns arouse more memories than one can possibly assimilate. 
·       The air is much clearer in the Northland. 
·       Culver's has the best soft serve sundaes in the world (and good butter burgers too). 
·       The forest lowers one’s blood pressure.
·       I'm proud of Katja for being a good camper. 
·       It's possible to survive without immediate access to TV and the computer. 
·       I'm happy that I could still drive 2000 miles, annoyed that I took wrong turns a couple of times.
·       I wish we would see our family members (spread across the continent) more often than we do.

1 comment:

  1. In the religion of my childhood, envy was one of the seven capital sins. There is no doubt that my soul is in jeopardy since I unabashedly envy your whole trip - especially the time at Farm! Thanks for sharing such a wonderful report! Sorry about the hearing aid.