I had that dumb Kid Rock song stuck in my head, yet again. As the date of our road trip crept closer, it seemed to pop up with increasing frequency. It was summer of 2010 and I had just quit my first teaching job to move up to New York in the fall. While I was enjoying my last few months at home, my mom had been planning an epic two-week road trip around northern Michigan. At one point, she had been second-guessing her choice of destination ("I may have gone overboard - we could have gone overseas for all the planning this trip involves and what it's costing"), but in the end, it turned out to be one of our favorite family trips ever.
The drive from our little corner of Virginia to Michigan was surprisingly short. Michigan had always felt far away to me, but in reality, the trip didn't take much longer than driving to NYC - six and a half hours. As we got closer to Ann Arbor, we realized that we might be able to make it to the hotel in time to see the US men's team play Ghana in the World Cup. We arrived moments after kick off. After a well-fought but disappointing game, we headed over to Zingerman's Deli.
Having stuffed ourselves with pastrami, we drove around the cute college town. The University of Michigan has the largest stadium in the United States, able to hold 115,000 spectators. Michigan Stadium itself has a fairly low profile, being built in a "hole", but as we drove around it - and kept driving, and kept driving - it became apparent how huge it really is.
The next morning, we started out early from Ann Arbor, taking route 23 north. Near Flint, Interstate 75 joins up with 23 for a while - needless to say, this stretch of road isn't very interesting or scenic. But a little ways beyond Bay City, the two roads split again and 23 curves out to the coast.
Despite the gray and drizzly weather, we stopped at Wilson's Cheese Shoppe in Piconning to pick up some treats for a picnic lunch. We ate at Tawas Point State Park, another 30 minutes up the road. I collected an amazing assortment of rocks along the beach. We also visited our first lighthouse of the trip - Michigan has more lighthouses than any other state, clocking in at over 115 of them.
Our second lighthouse was at Sturgeon Point. For a small donation, you can go through the lighthouse keeper's living quarters. There's even a small school house adjoining the site, all kitted out in period furnishings and supplies.
We stopped at Presque Isle as well, and saw the new and old lighthouses there. The old one is supposed to be haunted. The gloomy weather certainly helped encourage a slightly eerie feeling.
By mid-afternoon, we'd arrived at the top of the mitten - Mackinaw City. We checked in at the ferry that would take us across to Mackinac Island, where we'd be spending the next couple of days.