I must have passed a dozen signs in the Upper Peninsula for these things called “pasties” (no, not those kind) before I finally stopped to try one for myself. It turns out a pastie (rhymes with “nasty” but is oh, so good) is a folded pastry filled with meat and vegetables. Somewhat of a tourist attraction in the U.P. these days, it was originally a convenient staple for the miners in the 19th century. Mmmm, tasty!
After my hearty lunch, I crossed over the magnificent Mackinac Bridge to spend a few days in northern Michigan. My favorite towns were easily Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Traverse City. Somehow I managed to navigate the tiny streets of Petoskey, fed two meters to park the Airstream, and played tourist for a few hours. What a cool little town! Next, it was off to Traverse City for a few nights at the KOA outside of town. I will have to go back when the cherries are in season. Thanks to a great recommendation, I stumbled upon a little dunes area near Mears on my way to the southern part of Michigan. That is a hidden gem, indeed!
The next several days were spent at Fort Custer Campground near Battle Creek. A buddy stayed with me for a few days of golfing and grilling. We found a local brewery (Arcadia Brewing Co.) that makes great ales and also offered free Wi-Fi. In fact, many of the businesses in downtown Battle Creek offered free Wi-Fi. The entire region is struggling with the economy, though. According to a local, the state of Michigan has one of the highest rates of unemployment right now, and the Battle Creek area is the highest in the state. Other than the brewery and some of the golf courses, there aren’t too many other highlights for the area. So, yeah, there is not much of a chance Battle Creek will be my final home.
Right on the cliffs of Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore definitely ranks as the most scenic–and remote–spot on my journey thus far. To get there, I drove from Chicago, up through Wisconsin (thanks for the fine amenities, Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Ray), through Cedar River, Escanaba, and Manistique in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and into the national park near Grand Marais.
Once in the park, the first 11 miles or so were a nice and easy jaunt along a paved highway. Simple, right? Then, out of nowhere, the pavement suddenly turned into a one-lane dirt road cut right through the middle of the forest. Even if I had wanted to turn around, there was simply no where to do it. I finally made it to the Hurricane River Campground and found a spot just a couple hundred feet from Lake Superior.
Let me tell you, it was worth it! A few radio stations came in, but there was no internet, no cell phone, no television; no distractions whatsoever. Other than the couple of people camping there, it was insanely isolated. There wasn’t even a ranger to take my money; it was all on the honor system. Unfortunately, much of the park is under construction in 2009, so I couldn’t get into the absolute heart of it this time. I would love to return to see more, because what I saw was absolutely incredible!Read More