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Monday, August 1, 2016

MAGICAL MICHIGAN


We had only really thought of visiting Detroit to see “The Henry Ford”, but now that we are here in Michigan we decide to take the long scenic tour around the coastline. And truly magical it is too.

From our casino in New Buffalo we head north. Once through the urban area we take the coastal route stopping to explore the lovely harbor towns. They all have lovely sandy public beaches, marinas, harbour walls & lighthouses. Each town has a different flavor. South Haven is Danish & Holland of course is Dutch. We walk out to many of the lighthouses. It is great to see public beaches & State Parks as much of the coastline is private. We are lucky to find a quiet spot at the boat ramp at Onekama for the night. Most places have signs up “No Camping”

Our first stop this morning is the lovely quiet beachfront town of Frankfurt – gorgeous tiny backwater with yet another lighthouse (my new favorite thing to photograph.) But as we head north the busyness increases - we are getting near another motorway. There are numerous smaller lakes surrounded by houses. Finally we reach Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park. There is an extremely popular, one way drive, through the park, with lots of stopping points for walks & views. Again we prove to be the tourist attraction! Manage to get away & climb over some dunes. There are some very steep dunes down to Lake Michigan – it doesn’t look far, but the sign warns you that it will take 2 hours, and please don’t do it. But of course plenty do, despite the warning that it will cost $2000 to be rescued.

As we now very rarely get a glimpse of the water we decide to return to the motorway and head over the massive Mackinaw Bridge to the UP (Upper Peninsula). Phew a toll of $10 for us as a motorhome. It is getting late so we head to the nearby casino & are pleased to see that it even has hookups, water & a dump station. This one is lovely & quiet.

Plan ready, we head directly north to Sault St Marie – home of the locks between Michigan & Canada. We book ourselves on to a Soo Lock Tour. The boat is pretty full, the commentary a bit stilted, lots of waiting for the lock to open – but informative & quite fun.  Next destination the famous Tahquamenon Falls, but we see the sign for the Shipwreck Museum, so head there first. It is located at Whitefish Point where there is yet another lighthouse & close by many of the shipwrecks in Lake Superior. Actually it is a very impressive museum, and we are there until closing time. Decide to stop at the State Camp area at Argus Lake for the night. Surprised to meet some more Aussies there – they are travelling in a US motorhome.

We are in no hurry to leave until the camp host drives past warning all campers that a storm is coming. So we up sticks & head to the falls. Both Lower & Upper. Do many of the walks in the rain – but the falls are worth it. A sign at the Upper Falls says that the river flow is 3,387 gallons/sec. Wow! Of course after the falls the weather improves. We continue towards the coast of Lake Superior at Deer Park. From here we are on dirt roads to the pretty seaside town of Grand Marais. Then back in to traffic on the scenic drive to Munising in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Of course there are heaps of walks, especially to waterfalls. This area of Michigan is just popping with them. Only a few roads go out to the lakeshore, but apparently the best way to see the famous Pictured Rocks is by boat. At Munising there is a boat trip and we are hoping to get on a trip today. We arrive at 4pm and fortunately get onto a trip at 6pm. (they keep going until 9pm). But 6pm is perfect light for seeing these amazing cliffs – just awesome. Many of the colours look as if someone just got a paintbrush & did lots of long strokes.

Before the trip we had time to suss out a camp spot on a beach just out of town. While we are exploring a guy stops us – he had been to Aussie during the Vietnam War & was treated so well he wanted to thank Aussies as a whole. He gave John $50 before heading off. We are really surprised, and then decide to use it in the community – so after our cruise we go to a restaurant/pub, recommended by the locals, in the tiny town of Christmas. Then back to our pretty beach for the night.

Well we could keep following the coastline, but decide it is time to head towards Pennsylvania (we have a booking a Pocono – more of that later). So we head south to follow the coast of Lake Michigan back to the Mackinaw Bridge. Can’t resist stopping at the beach for a swim in the surf. Yes surf in fresh water – a first for us.

Back across our $10 bridge & continue following the coastline of Lake Huron towards Detroit. Again there are 1,000’s of beach houses. There are also heaps of old style cottage accommodations. We stop at a pretty spot beside the beach – would be great place to stop – but still a bit early (besides which there are some nasty bitey flies) Finally find a pull over for the night.

A stop at Pinconning for some of their famous cheese (and pretty good it is too) and some pasties for lunch. Years ago many Welsh settled here bringing their favorite recipes with them. Then on through the very historic Bay City. There are rows & rows of lovely, huge old homes & some huge churches. In its heyday this was an amazing city.  Finally on through more farms – sugar beet is a big crop here. No we didn’t work it out ourselves – there is a huge sugar beet mill here!

At Bay City we stop at the packed public beach for a swim. No surprise, as it is gorgeous hot Saturday. Finally pull ourselves out of our deck chairs & carry on. Of courses there is very little public access to the beach. If you have a house on the beach you also own the beach in front. We see another public beach at Port Austin & decide to stay here for the night. It is a very popular spot on a Saturday evening. They come to swim, then to wander down the long jetty & then to watch the sunset over the water. Again GR2 is one of the tourist attractions. We can’t hide on the beach all evening, so we have to claim ownership & chat to everyone. (Well John does anyway). Thus a very late dinner. Fortunately the night is pretty quiet.

Wake to a gray day. More beaches, although they are getting reedier, and lots more farming. Finally in to the outer suburbs of Detroit. Sunday is always a good day to drive in to a city as there is much less traffic & hopefully more carparks. The downside is that it can seem rather dead. Anyway after all the dire warnings from locals last night, we hunt down a carpark with a person actually there just to be on the safe side. Then head to the People Mover – a raised 3 mile transit loop (apparently dubbed The People Mugger by the locals!) At only 75c each it is a great way to see the inner city. We can keep going round and round, but we get off to explore the waterfront with its view of Canada across the river, lots of amazing statues & 100s of carparks. Old buildings that have been demolished are now used as carparks – no one wants to rebuild.

We want to stay in Detroit to do Fords Factory Tour tomorrow (it’s closed on Sundays.) John has found (on his app) a guy who lets people camp in his front yard. But we can’t find it, instead finding some empty land beside a nearby house. Ask if we can stay. No worries – it isn’t his land anyway so he doesn’t care. It proves to be a great spot. Flat & grassy, and to any passerby’s it looks as if we are staying with these people, who we actually never see!

So Monday morning we head to the massive Ford factory area at Dearborn. By 9.20 we are on the first factory tour to The Rouge. Our tickets include all 3 attractions – The Rouge, The Henry Ford (which is the museum) and Greenfield (which is a huge village full of old buildings). Optimistically we plan to “do” all 3 today. Well it is not to be, the factory tour takes us until lunchtime – sorry no photos allowed. It is impressive – nowadays they are making F150’s rather than Model–T’s. Actually I would prefer a Model–T at the original cost of $600. After coffee we head in to the museum – and wow it is pretty impressive.

When it closes at 5pm we still haven’t really finished it. Hmm what are we going to do? Stay in the RV carpark is what. There are no signs saying we can’t! At 12.45 a Ford security vehicle drives around us very slowly (I can see him as all our windows are open because of the heat.) But he doesn’t bother us at all. Now I can sleep peacefully!

The Greenfield section is massive too. Heaps of old houses & workshops. Love the Model Ts driving around with paying passengers. What can I say – Edison’s workshops, Edison’s first power station, Fords first workshop, steam trains & roundhouse, slave cottages & plantation home… the list goes on. There are people in costume everywhere, and narrators at many of the places making sure we know the story of each. An amazing place – but way too much to absorb in one visit. Would be great to bring the Grandkids back here.

Later that day we head off, again on the motorways. Destination Ohio. After filling up with cheap diesel (Gasbuddy again!) we head to the coastline. At Sandusky we follow the peninsula to see Cedar Point. We have been reliably informed that the main tourist attraction in Ohio is the rollercoaster’s, and Cedar Point has the most. Needless to say I only want a photo. The carpark is packed. We leave to continue following the coastline, finding a spot at the public beach at Vermillion for the night. We can watch the sunset over the water & the rollercoaster’s at Cedar Point light up.

Coming soon: NASACAR Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway

See y’all soon.

 

 

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