Our Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken makes its first stop in the nation’s far north today with our trip to Michigan. A unique State in both dialect and geography, Michigan is a State held in proud regard by those who live there. It doesn’t matter if they are a Lower Peninsula “Looper” or an Upper Peninsula “Yooper.” Proud Michiganders, every one.
Michigan is the largest state we have visited in the Lower 48, ranking 11th in area and 10th in population. Those population/land statistics make it one of the few balanced States on the urban/rural continuum. Michigan’s largest city is Detroit. The State capital is Lansing. They are joined by Grand Rapids, Warren, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, and Flint as Michigan cities with a population greater than 100,000.
Michigan has a climate with two distinct regions. Grand Rapids and south experiences a warm climate. That means hot summers and cold winters. The northern section of the Lower Peninsula and the entire Upper Peninsula has a more severe climate. That means warm, but short summers and long, cold to very cold winters.
Hardy Germans came to America and settled most of Michigan. The far northwestern part of the State (where the mountains and forests dominate) was settled by Finnish immigrants.
The highest point in Michigan is not-quite-2000 foot Mount Arvon. It is way up north, nearly to Lake Superior. The lowest point is on the shores of Lake Erie, 541 feet above sea level. The geographic center of Michigan is located in Wexford County, about five miles north-northwest of Cadillac.
Three Great Lakes border Michigan. Lake Superior is to the northwest. Lake Erie is to the north and Lake Huron is to the northeast. Michigan is bordered by only three States. Indiana is to the south, Ohio on the east, and Wisconsin to the west. Surprisingly, in spite of Michigan’s commerce and tourism connection to Chicagoland, the state does not border Illinois
Top Four Movies Filmed in Michigan:
Gran Torino (2008)
American Pie (1999)
American Pie 2 (2001)
8 Mile (2002)
Top Airports in Michigan:
Capital Region International in Lansing serves a little more than 200,000 passengers a year. Domestic passengers are often going to Detroit. International passengers prefer Cancun, Mexico.
Gerald R. Ford International in Grand Rapids enplanes about one million passengers a year. Chicago is the most frequent destination.
Detroit Metropolitan (DTW) is the state’s major airport, serving nearly 16 million flyers a year. Atlanta is the most common destination, but Amsterdam, Netherlands is almost as popular.
Military/Politics: Roger Chaffee, Thomas Dewey, Mitt Romney, Ben Carson, and John Mitchell.
Actors: Ellen Burstyn, Eric Allan Kramer, Dave Coulier, Garrett Clayton, Page Kennedy, Kristin Bell, Crystal Reed, Taylor Lautner, Julie Harris, Gilda Radner, Danny Thomas, Steven Seagal, Tom Selleck, Terry Crews, Kenya Moore, and Lily Tomlin.
Entertainers: Madonna, Teairra Mari, Zayion McCall, Kate Upton, Dej Loaf, Ava Cota, Jordyn Jones, Iggy Pop, Mike Posner, Dick Martin, Ted Nugent, Della Reese, Diana Ross, Bob Seger, and Stevie Wonder.
Authors: Francis Ford Coppola, Nelson Algren, Edna Ferber, Rachel Renee Russell, and Ring Lardner.
Athletes: Magic Johnson, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Draymond Green, Serena Williams, and Julie Krone.
Weird and Wonderful Facts About Michigan:
Phone users in Detroit were the first to be given phone numbers. Before that, customers were connected to their party by name.
The nation’s first scheduled passenger air route was Detroit to Grand Rapids and back.
To get from Detroit to Windsor in Ontario, Canada one will travel South.
Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced Soo-Saint-Marie) was established in 1668 making it the oldest town between the Alleghenies and the Rockies.
Save for Alaska, Michigan has more shoreline than any other state in the Union. It has the largest freshwater shoreline in the world.
The Mackinac Bridge is one of the longest bridges in the world. Connecting the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, it spans five miles over the Straits of Mackinac.
The Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit manufactured the first air-conditioned car in 1939.
Let’s Take a Trip Through Michigan!
We are going to start almost as far North as you can go and still be in the United States. A little over 400 miles later we will be in the Motor City. Let’s get started.
First, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The sandstone cliffs and waterfalls which make up the area are a lovely sight. To get the most out of it, we are scheduling a boat trip. With any luck, we will get a look at the awe-inspiring Northern Lights tonight. We stay overnight at Pictured Rocks Inn and Suites for $99.
Get up, sleepyhead or I will sing “Heidly Dink Tomorrow” to you like my Dad sang to me. We have over 300 miles to complete today. Late afternoon, or early evening (you are the hardest person to wake up. Do you know that?) we will arrive in Frankenmuth.
It is Christmas 365 days a year in Frankenmuth! The sights, sounds, and spirit of Christmas completely surround you at Bronner’s. That’s the signature store in town. It is LARGE, (over 150 yards long) and overflowing with 50,000 trims and gifts.
We’re spending a night at The Marv Herzog Hotel for $90. It’s convenient if we want to spend another half day in town.
We aren’t coming to Michigan without a stop at the Henry Ford Museum. It’s in Milford, just 65 miles from Frankenmuth. The museum is a great canvas on which is painted the influence and history of the car on American culture.
The Ford Museum is about more than just cars. The chair in which President Lincoln sat when he was killed (remember, it was at Ford’s Theater) is on display. Many other amazing and awe-inspiring things are featured.
We are going to make a bold, but appropriate, statement right now. If we are visiting one museum on our trip across the country, this is the one. It isn’t the largest museum in the country, but it is plenty large. It’s our favorite.
Just 36 miles away, in the town of Dearborn, we arrive at Greenfield Village. Also, a part of the Henry Ford Museum Greenfield Village is like stepping inside an 80-acre time machine. While here we will see 80 historic structures. These include Noah Webster’s home where he wrote the original American dictionary and the courtroom where Abe Lincoln practiced law. In Greenfield Village, we can ride in a genuine Model T or “pull” glass with world-class artisans. We can watch 1867 baseball or ride a train with a 19th-century steam engine.
We will stay at Red Roof Inn Detroit – Dearborn/Greenfield Village for at least two nights. It will take care of our stop in Detroit for $70 a night.
Motown! The Motor City! It’s about fast cars and faster music. It’s where culture came and left completely changed. It is one of the great American stories. Let’s go!
The Motown Museum is one of Michigan’s most popular tourist destinations. Each year, the museum attracts thousands of visitors from across the nation and around the globe. The Dee-troit sound is what brings ‘em! If you’re lucky, a Motown legend may lead your tour. Recently, a tour was led by Martha Reeves.
Next up is the Fox Theatre. One of America’s great show venues, the Fox has been restored to its 20th Century opulence. Beautiful (and with incredible acoustics) from the lobby to the restrooms, this is the place to see a show in a place a show all its own.
Before we leave Michigan, we need to make a brief stop at Belle Isle Park. Clean and well-maintained the park is being restored to pristine luster by the State of Michigan. It is a great way to see the city and enjoy a quiet walk with someone who loves to travel with you.
We have fully enjoyed our trip to Michigan. The bracing air felt good after the heat of the South.
What? Are you cold? Really?
Okay, I’ll turn the heater up, just a little. I’m too good to you.
Next up, South Carolina.