on the road

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gadfly homepage on the road home notes on places last contact: 5/31/2010 first contact: 7/1999

MI Trip Stats (6/10):


Counties visited: 50

Best county: Mackinac Co.

Town visited most: New Buffalo

Places slept in: Gould City, Traverse City, Trout Lk., Petoskey (tent), PJ Hoffmaster SP (tent), Straits SP (tent), Christmas (tent), Albion

Most impressive town: Traverse City

Least impressive town: Monroe

Biggest town: Detroit

Most scenic area: Red Arrow Highway or US 2 along Lake Michigan

Most scenic spot: Porcupine Mts. SP, Government Mt. overlook

Three Words: lakes, sand, rugged

Lower Peninsula: first visited at New Buffalo in the night in 2000

Best Food: It's in Curtis.

Unique Food: pasties

Best Beach: Warren Dunes SP

Best Tourist Trap: Oswald's Bear Ranch


Road Trips: countless, including Lk Superior Circle (8/04), Lk Michigan Circle (3x), Toronto-Niagara Loop (4/04)


Neighboring States: IN, OH, WI, ON


Major passes: In 2002 passed through entire lower peninsula on way to vacation with Mike & Dana at Lk Milakokia. Throroughly explored eastern U.P. during this trip. In 2003 returned a few times and made another major drive across the state on way to Goulais River, ON. In spring, 2004, made an east-west pass of state on way home from Toronto. In summer hit several previously untouched areas on east coast of Lk Michigan on two separate cross-state trips, one to Trout Lk and while driving the Lk Superior Circle Tour. In 2009 crossed state south to north in the LP and then west through the UP. In2010  crossed using side streets from Sterling SP on Lake Erie to Van Buren Dunes SP on Lake Michigan.


Areas throughly explored: eastern Upper Peninsula, southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. Of all the states there are none that I have covered more ground in less time than Michigan. I am now quite familiar with the above areas and have thought of moving to Berrien County many times.


Future Plans: I have no specific plans, although I do want to try a hamburger in New Buffalo. Isle Royale is very intriguing due to its heavy moose population and complete isolation. I've seen it once from the Minnesota shore.  I need to climb the Sleeping Bear Dune. Seeing it is not enough.


Geography: The two big sections of the state correspond with the two major geographical sections I've seen. In the southern peninsula, the entire state seems to be composed of sand. Farmers must have it tough in some spots. In the north, as soon as you cross the famous Mackinac Bridge, you are met with large red and black rock that compose this copper mining area. The rivers run fast and red with tannens. I have always been fascinated with the geography here.


Heroes: In Grand Rapids, a hero seems to be native son and former president Gerald Ford. A more noticable hero for Michiganites, who have built several monuments to him along the shores of the Great Lakes is famed Jesuit explorer Jacques Marquette. He died en route near Ludington and led missions near St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie.


Traveling across the U.P.? MI-28 runs along old logging rails of the Soo Line and is faster but monotonous. US-2, nicknamed 'The Great Northern,' is beautiful and full of sights, but takes forever.


What is a 'yooper'? A strange person who lives in one of the snowiest and coldest areas in the country. They have thick accents, probably due to their isolation (and Scandinavian heritage.) They call anyone who lives south of them (which is almost everyone) 'trolls.' They eat pasties.

First Contact: I first stepped foot in Michigan in July of 1999 south of Marenisco in my father's car. I had borrowed it (some would say stole it) to take a short break from our extended family vacation on Plum Lake in Wisconsin. I meant to just get some ice cream at the corner store, but ended up driving to the border and then to lake Superior out of sheer curiosity and boredom. I felt quite free hurtling alone with my thoughts and my Richie Havens CD through the thick Northwood forest. The trip, as most of mine do, took much longer than I thought it would. The family was a bit upset and I'm not sure I ever told them where I went exactly. Sometimes people don't understand the itch I feel  to see what's just around the corner.

Gogebic Co. (7/1999)

I can't pronounce it. Marenisco. A beat-up, run-down place. Hungry-looking children roam the dirt side-streets on bikes. Seemed a bit out of touch.. probably a shadow of itself. Wakefield. A large lake sits here where the road forks. I seem to also remember a large statue of a fish. Bessemer. This old mining town sits atop a few ledges. A friend of mine has family here. Home to a thick Northwood accent, which derives from the Scandinavians that settled here. Black River Harbor. Where I first saw Lk Superior. A beautiful beach where butterflies dance in the pines and driftwood covers the rough sand. There is an interesting drawbridge leading to the water. Ironwood. The closest thing to a city in the Northwoods.

Berrien Co. (3/2000)

Michiana. Grand Beach. New Buffalo. This is where Chicagoland ends. I love this little place where the inviting Red Arrow Hwy begins its trek north through wood and vineyard. Home to a nice open-air fruit stand where you can buy fresh fruit like in the old days of Chicago. Harbert. Berrien Spgs. Bridgman. One of many towns among the woods along the Red Arrow on the east shore of Lk Michigan. Dotted with antique stores and harbors. Warren Dunes SP. Probably my favorite state park in the U.S. Woods give way to the lake and the road bends to reveal a huge dune of bare sand and an even bigger beach. I love swimming in the clean water and come often. The camping area is a lonely place with grassy dunes that play with the sunlight. Sawyer. Smart, small town near the dunes. Stevensville. End of the Red Arrow Hwy. Suburb filled with fast food. St. Joseph. The good-looking twin to Benton Harbor. Silver Beach and Lion Beach stand at the harbor of the historically significant St. Joe River. Town is elevated above beach and filled with upscale houses and boutique shops. Lighthouse and parking area south of city are wonderful places to see the sun set over the lake. Benton Harbor. This medium-sized city seems to be in competition with its more wealthy neighbor on the south side of the St. Joe River. Like other Great Lake industrial towns, it is in decline and main street is a near ghost town. Recently the sight of some rioting and discontent. Hagar Shores. Riverside. Paw Paw Lk. A lake surrounded by old resort slash farming town. Coloma. A farming town with a perfect main street. Three Oaks.

Ontonagon Co. (7/2000)

Large expanses of pine and birch between towns. Merriweather & Bergland. The large and pristine Lake Gogebic lies south of these Northwoods towns. Home to unique water fowl.  White Pine. Hard to get to place. Silver City. Entry point to Porkies. Ice cream stand here. Porcupine Mts. SP. The Porkies are home to some impressive and secluded places, including Government Mt. and the mist covered Lake of the Clouds high above the surrounding landscape. An overlook here is heaven on earth. A lonely semi-paved road wraps around the south edge of the park toward the powerful waterfalls of the Presque Isle River. Unspoiled, rocky Superior shore is home here to many waterfowl.

Van Buren Co. (8/2000)

The way to see this county is along the Blue Star Hwy that runs through the lush woods of the east shore of Lk Michigan. Good fall colors drive. Covert. Van Buren SP. A place I come to often to see the dramatic, grass-covered dunes that hide the beach from the woods. Once here while a storm was passing over the lake throwing lightning in every direction. More secluded than Warren Dunes, but some industrial activity nearby makes Warren more attractive. Southhaven. An attractive, upscale Midwest town with a perfect main street. Paw Paw. Bangor.

Allegan Co. (2001)

Saugatuck. A nudist colony headquartered here, I believe. Many people vacation here who are richer than me. Graafschap.

Ottawa Co. (2001)

Holland. Small city situated inland fro Lk Michigan. Home to the famed Tulip Time Festival in spring. The streets are lined with tulips and every house seems to participate with their own display. Worth taking a look even if you don't like tulips particularly. A park nearby is anchored by windmill. A city where sized wooden shoes can be purchased. Proud of its history as a Dutch settlement point in Midwest and a vibrant industrial point.  Zeeland. Pt Sheldon. Grand Haven. Small city at the wide mouth of the Grand River. Road is built up between Muskegon and Holland with tiny but busy industrial suburbs.

Kent Co. (2001)

Grand Rapids. Pleasant and clean residential city on Grand River among hills. Home to Gerald Ford and Grand Valley University. Actually has a skyline. Wyoming. Stopped in suburb once for groceries. Comstock Pk. Kent City.

Montcalm Co. (2001)

Passed through farming towns and hills. Howard City.

Mecosta Co. (2001)

Big Rapids. College town in the woods and hills.

Osceola Co. (2001)

Passed through many times along scenic woods and hills of US-131.

Wexford Co. (2001)

Cadillac. Large town on Lk Mitchell. Not much to say, only passed. Manton. Mesick. Buckley. Sherman.

Grand Traverse Co. (2001)

Lk Fife. Tiny railroad town. Kingsley. Traverse City. Small port city that claims to be the cherry capital of the world. While I am not sure if this is true, I do know that it is home to a nice little zoo and a great place to walk along the harbor. Boats fill the Traverse Bay and people fill the active downtown. There is a restaurant with a moose head here that was memorable except for its name. Here during the Mackinac boat race so the town was full of anticipation and rich wives of yachters. Acme.

Kalkaska Co. (2001)

Kalkaska. Railroad town I have passed many times.

Antrim Co. (2001)

Antrim. Alba. Mancelona. Another railroad town along US-131. Elk Rapids. Beautiful drive along US-31 through this near-island town and northward through the woods. Torch Lk. A bigger near- island town along Traverse Bay. Eastport. Elmira.

Otsego Co. (2001)

Gaylord. This large town is filled with golf courses so I usually just pass through.

Cheboygan Co. (2001)

They spell their county correctly, unlike the cheese-heads. Woods and pockets of wild savannah and large lakes. Wolverine.

Emmet Co. (2001)

Mackinaw City. Jumping off point to Mackinac for those who aren't me. Mostly a tourist trap. The Mackinac Bridge is an awesome site when it first becomes apparent. One of the biggest (man-made) things I have ever seen. Winds whip along the Straits as you pass the flat Lower Peninsula for the rocky Upper Peninsula high above the waves of Lake Huron. Burt Lk. Petoskey SP. Camped here once after enjoying a night on the beach. We looked for the fossils called petoskey stones that Lake Michigan spits up here and feel we found a few, but they still need to be polished. Bay View. Petoskey. The rock is named for this town named for an Indian chief. Follow?  

Mackinac Co. (2001)

St. Ignace. The gateway to the rocky Northwoods of the Yoopers. The French mission of Marquette was here and there is a monument to it where I reverently paid my respects to the brave explorer whose bones are missing. The town, itself, is a tiny strip of tourist traps and ferry docks. The last decent grocery store for miles. I saw turkeys walking the streets once. Mackinac Island. When you find out it is translated 'great turtle', it is not surprising. It looks like a turtle from far away. Only accessible by ferry and a step back in time to the Victorian Midwest. Kite-flying, b&b's, a carnival of a main drag surround the docks on the south. We rode a bike around the island and discovered the place where the Brits invaded in 1812 on a lonely, wooded beach. A great escape. Brevort. US-2 along Lake Michigan is memorable. Grassy beaches with rocky shores on the south side of the road and the hills and rocky birch and pine forest to the north. Perfect. Epoufette. Rexton. Garnet. The center of some isolated, former lumber towns in the woods that have seen better days. Gilchrist. Naubinway. Engadine. Pastures and small farms in the woods. Gould City. A bar and a gas station surrounded by swampy woods. Doesn't sound like much, but nearby Lk Milakokia was once home for a week. Curtis. A portage between the Manistique lakes. The drag cuts through handsome shoreline town. get your fill of yooper ice cream and food here. Pt Patterson. A wild place where the road runs right into Lake Michigan.

Schoolcraft Co. (2001)

Blaney Pk. The only gas for miles at this fork in the road. Germfask. An old lumber town with a handsome main drag. Seney. Seney NWR. I was here during a light summer rain. The swamps and tiny ponds are filled with huge cranes and beavers roam to and fro hard at work. The songs of birds and frogs fill the grass. Gulliver. Manistique. Island town is home to an Indian casino. Thompson. Cooks. Palms Book SP. Site of the wonderous Kitchitikipi spring. A perfectly, clean deep spring that feeds large Indian Lake is a constant temperature. Its chemistry has preserved trees that fell around it and fish bones fill the floor. The water glows in the sun an eerie greenish-blue. A contraption was built so people could see God at work beneath the water. The water constantly pushing up from the ground creates violent clouds of sand where huge carp hang out. Never miss it.

Luce Co. (2001)

McMillan. Newberry. Lonely roads in every direction surround this small town. Stores for fresh supplies here. Oswald's Bear Ranch is an interesting spot north of the town. Here, naturalist Dean Oswald has been taking care of bears on his property and invited visitors to see them in very natural habitats, but the cubs are the best part. (Once Sam was invited in to pet them. Having never touched a bear myself, I am very impressed with Sam's accomplishment.) The bears here are huge and worth seeing many times. They change every year. MI-123 rides north through deep, untouched woods.

Chippewa Co. (2001)

Tahquemenon SP. This popular park is home to the falls of the same name that, I think, were mentioned in that Hiawatha poem. Anyhow, they are an impressive sight, but the crowds are kind of annoying as are the horseflies all over the place. Paradise. A pleasant crossroads oasis on Lk Superior, home to blueberry festival. Whitefish Point. A wind-swept beach that has become a ship graveyard. A maritime museum with Edmund Fitzgerald artifacts and a historic lighthouse are prominent features. I also appreciate the chart of reported bird sightings nearby. Strongs. A ghost town along the old logging rails. Sault Ste. Marie. American side of a Canadian city. Site of another ancient Marquette mission and filled with history. The best spot to see the Soo Locks hard at work carrying boats. The Army has a small base here to keep an eye on those shifty canucks. Nice restaurants. The St. Mary Rapids gush with the pressure of all the waters of Lake Superior pushing through on its journey to the ocean. Customs has been tightened lately. Trout Lk. A small town along the logging rails in seemingly the middle of nowhere. I stayed here for a week in a bat-infested cabin and loved every minute. Rudyard.

Alger Co. (2001)

Shingleton. Munising. Surrounds a bay that has a couple sunken ships in it. Town still has a lumber feel to it probably because of the paper mill. Compact and rustic main street that wraps around the picturesque harbor. Pictured Rocks NL. The site of the tall Munising Falls. Took a boat tour of the weathered rocks filled with formations and crevices, only interrupted here and there by tiny sand dunes. Grand Island NRA. A large island once owned by the Astor Fur Company. Christmas.

Delta Co. (2001)

Garden Corners. Gateway to farmland of the Garden Peninsula. Ensign. Rapid River. Kipling. Gladstone. Built up suburb of Escanaba on Bay de Noc. Escanaba. Large Lk Michigan port town in an area where agriculture overlaps the U.P. wilderness. Ford River. The beginning of a nice drive along the wooded Michigan shoreline along MI-35. Hiawatha NF. Thick woodland of birch and pine preserved mainly for logging.

Menominee Co. (2001)

Wells SP. The last stand for the Northwoods along the Michigan shore. Good place to rest. Menominee. Industrial port town on Green Bay. Sister to larger Marinette, WI.

Wayne Co. (2004)

Detroit. Drove around downtown for a few minutes after passing through customs. The skyline is a welcome sight after traveling through Ontario. Left town... maybe because of its bad rep in Chicago.

Washtenaw Co. (2004)

Passed through farmland on the way home from Toronto. Ann Arbor.

Jackson Co. (2004)

Passed through farmland on the way home from Toronto. Jackson. Brooklyn.

Calhoun Co. (2004)

Passed through farmland on the way home from Toronto. Battle Creek.

Kalamazoo Co. (2004)

Passed through farmland on the way home from Toronto. Kalamazoo.

Charlevoix Co. (2004)

Bayshore. Charlevoix. A beautiful resort town on Lake Michigan with some mean traffic jams. Probably good fishing.

Leelanau Co. (8/2004)

A very green county. Greilickville. MI-72 west of town is a great drive through forests and farms. Empire. Glen Haven. Glen Arbor. Actually arrived at this town to see where a t-shirt with a bearded man Sam bought in Chicago had come from. It was an upscale tourist town between Lake Michigan and Glen Lake. I remember the town seeming green from the sun shining through the maple leaves all around. Sleeping Bear NL. Site of huge dunes and impressive, healthy forests along Lk Michigan. I wanted to climb dunes, but had to go home.

Benzie Co. (2004)

Frankfort. Forests abound here on the wild shoreline town between two lakes. Elberta.

Manistee Co. (2004)

Passed through, hugging Lk Michigan on the way home from Petoskey. Manistee. Arcadia. Onekama. Oak Hill.

Mason Co. (2004)

Ludington. Site of Marquette's death. The wooded road becomes highway south of here. US-10 ferry to Manitowoc, WI.

Oceana Co. (2004)

Passed through, hugging Lk Michigan on the way home from Petoskey.

Muskegon Co. (2004)

Muskegon. A classic Great Lakes, industrial city begins here and stretches more or less all the way to Holland. The built-up area made me nervous that all the nature of Michigan is doomed to be eaten up by it. PJ Hoffmaster SP. Norton Shores.

Eaton Co. (7/2007)

Lansing. East Lansing. Coming soon!

Clinton Co. (7/2007)

Coming soon!

Shiwassee Co. (7/2007)

Coming soon!

Genesee Co. (7/2007)

Coming soon! Flint.

Lapeer Co. (7/2007)

Coming soon!

Saint Clair Co. (7/2007)

Coming soon! Port Huron.

Marquette Co. (7/2009)

Coming soon! Marquette. Ishpeming.

Baraga Co. (7/2009)

Coming soon!

Houghton Co. (7/2009)

Coming soon!

Iron Co. (8/2009)

Coming soon!

Dickinson Co. (8/2009)

Coming soon!

Cass Co. (5/2010)

Coming soon!

Monroe Co. (5/2010)

Coming soon! Very scenic drive along Custer Drive. Monroe. Sterling SP. Dundee.

Lewanee Co. (5/2010)

Coming soon! Very scenic drive along Monroe Road. Tecumseh. Sterling SP. Dundee.






The Tahquemenon Falls west of Paradise. (2001)

A cannon pointed into Lake Huron marks the site where the British invaded Mackinac Island in 1812. (2001)