We just returned from an incredibly enjoyable week-long trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I have to say, though, it wasn’t long enough and there are more things left on our list to do and see than there are checked off.
Of course, that just means we have to go back. And we’re already planning it for next year. And you DO have to plan in advance – our reservations for this trip were made back in March and they were already almost booked up in the area.
While the reason for the trip was work-related, there was plenty of room for relaxation, sight-seeing, and even a college tour.
The trip started on a Tuesday morning like most trips in our family – I’m usually complaining about how I hate vacations, how they are so much work (after packing for three kids and myself, loading the car, making sure nothing is forgotten), and how they just aren’t worth it because I’m already exhausted and we haven’t even pulled out of the driveway. I may have said something about how I won’t enjoy any of it. I don’t really remember my exact words now, but you get the idea.
Remember that I said these things, because later on, my husband makes me eat my words.
We were late getting on the road (of course) and we were facing a 16-hour road trip – so time was of the essence! We knew we weren’t going to make the entire trip in one shot, so our goal for the first part of the trip was Grayling, Michigan. We wanted to stop just short of the Mackinac Bridge so we could go over the bridge during the day and enjoy the view.
We had to stop in West Virginia for bathrooms (it wasn’t our only stop, I just bring this one up because it was the worst experience I’ve ever had). You know how you have a choice of bathroom stops and you start ranking them in order of possible cleanliness? I mean, if you have kids, this is even MORE important, because they touch everything. Even when you tell them not to.
Anyway, we got off on an exit in West Virginia and it was in the middle of nowhere – so a very small town – because that’s when one of my children suddenly had to go to the bathroom and it was critical.
We had four choices: a gas station, a Kroger grocery store, a smaller gas station, and a third gas station. I immediately said, “Gas station bathrooms are risky – let’s try the Kroger and we can get snacks, too.” We all agreed this was a good bet.
We were wrong.
We walked to the back of the store and before I even got to the bathroom door, just outside the hallway that leads to the bathrooms was a long trail of toilet paper on the floor. Alarms should have been going off in my head at this time, but I’m apparently having a hopeful moment (rare for me) and keep walking.
We enter the bathroom and the floor is wet.
Am I the only one who wonders: Why is the floor wet? What is it actually wet with?
We peek in the first stall: gross. We peek in the second stall: also gross. We peek in the third and final stall: I can’t even describe what I saw there.
I was now wondering what kind of town this was and what kind of people lived there.
We leave immediately.
After one gas station’s bathrooms being out of order, and the other one looking rather sketchy from the outside, we ended up at the first gas station that we had to drive past to get to Kroger. SO MUCH TIME WASTED. Oh, and the bathroom was clean (at least the women’s side was).
We rolled into Grayling just after midnight. We probably would have arrived sooner if we didn’t waste so much time finding bathrooms.
Day 1: Grayling to Marquette
We woke up the next morning and started loading up the car to get back on the road and start enjoying the scenery. Donald mentioned that the hotel has a payphone on the wall out near the lobby. I get excited – because just a few days ago I was telling my oldest (Donny) how I miss the days of payphones and how we all lived just fine without cell phones. Yes, I’m anti-cell phone.
So, we HAD to go out and see the pay phone and see if it actually worked.
No dial tone. That’s when I noticed this:
Yeah, only 25¢ for a call. That should have been my clue.
I still appreciated it being there for nostalgia reasons.
On our way out of Grayling, Bobby was very excited to see a real military tank on display.
And then we were off to cross the Mackinac Bridge.
After crossing the Mackinac Bridge, we stopped in St. Ignace for lunch. I was instantly in love with this waterfront town. I thought I loved Southport, NC, but Southport immediately took a backseat to St. Ignace.
French explorer and priest, Jacques Marquette, founded the St. Ignace Mission there in 1671 and was buried there after his death. He named it for St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit religious order.
We had lunch at The Gangplank in St. Ignace, where there is outdoor seating and views of Lake Huron (and ferries going back and forth). Their portobello sandwich, by the way, was AMAZING.
Now, I’m originally from the Midwest (born in Michigan, lived in Indiana for a bit before my family moved to Florida) and while I’ve lived in the South for most of my life, I’m not a Southerner. I talk like a Midwesterner and it’s very noticeable to people in Western NC that I’m NOT from this area…because of how I talk. So, when we arrived in St. Ignace and I’m sitting at the table, listening to everyone talk, and then talk to the waitress, there is such a feeling of being home and this-is-where-I-belong just because everyone talks and sounds just like me.
Even better: I didn’t have to specify unsweet tea when I ordered tea. I just said: “I’d like a tea, please.” The waitress only replied with “hot tea or iced tea”? You know why? Because they don’t assume you want sweet tea. In the South, if I don’t specify that I want an unsweet tea, they bring me syrup in a glass with ice. That’s what it tastes like.
Bobby and Abby were mostly excited about not having a kid cup at the table and thought their Viking mugs (as they called them) were pretty cool.
On the way to that evening’s final destination, we admired the beautiful beaches on the shore of Lake Michigan. The water was turquoise! It was so clean and beautiful!