michigan road trips

A Trip Around the Thumb

Lake Huron

My daughter has always loved taking road trips. But these excursions are no ordinary road trips, and after many years of trial and error they have become heavily regulated. These rules of travel may no longer be discussed or acknowledged, but they still, in fact, do exist:

* Expressways and highways must be avoided at all costs (except to travel to the area where you want to begin the road trip);

* one can have a destination, but the route should not be planned, and spontaneity is encouraged;

*one must always try to traverse through tiny towns whenever possible (extra points if the town is actually a village);

*straight-line travel is discouraged; and

*the driver of the vehicle must obey the directions of the navigator and be on the ready to change course should she discover that a dirt-road option exists during their journey.

Before we left Michigan, which was almost ten years ago, my daughter’s preferred road trip was to journey through the Waterloo Recreation Area near Chelsea. She always marveled at the “tree tunnels,” and I had to agree that the drive through this beautiful area was impressive.

When we moved to northwest North Carolina, I marveled at the imposing mountains, but I refused to drive during these excursions because many times the edge of the road led to a steep drop. My husband became the chauffeur, and we would travel off the beaten path to Collettsville, Wilkesboro and Blowing Rock. One time we decided to take a drive on winding Brown Mountain Beach Road, which runs above Wilson Creek west of Collettsville, and we stopped for a time at the Deerhorn Swimming Hole.

Less than a year later we were living in Knoxville, Illinois, and from the moment we arrived I felt that we had entered another dimension. The altitude was much closer to zero for one thing, and corn and soybean farms stretched as far as the eye could see. Our road trips consisted of predetermined excursions to Peoria and the Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island, Moline and East Moline in Illinois).rock-island-canva

Our three years in Goodlettsville/Nashville was void of road trips, and my only explanation for this oversight is that my daughter was busy with school and working at the Nashville Sounds First Tennessee Park (which is now called First Horizon Park).

So, when we finally settled in Florida, north/south excursions were made via the congested Tamiami Trail, the main artery of transport (besides I-75). Once you travel south and reach Estero, the land east of I-75 is mostly residential, and east of that is the 28,000-acre CREW Wildlife and Environmental Area and is part of the larger 60,000-acre Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed and, thus, off-limits to back-road travel. North Fort Myers (towards Punta Gorda) offered the closest to our familiar mode of back-road travel, but we rarely trekked that far north, and during one of the few times we did, a mountain lion crossed our path thirty yards ahead.

Since we returned to Michigan just over a year ago, my daughter, ever the committed road-trip devotee, has expressed a renewed interest in the diversion, and my husband has resumed his position as driver. Their most recent journey, a trek around part of the “thumb,” was made this last weekend and became a sort of history lesson for my daughter:michigan map 3

On September 5, 1881, a fired burned over a million acres and killed 282 people in Sanilac, Lapeer, Tuscola and Huron counties in the thumb area of Michigan. The effects were seen and experienced to the east, all the way to New England, and it left almost 15,000 homeless. This site is a great read on post-logging fires in Michigan.

I asked my daughter to type out their course, and to do so she had to consult Google’s street view. The result is a page and a half of left and right turns, and I am in awe that she can remember each one (my husband remembers, also). I decided to trace the route on a map, but the map is not as detailed as I would like, so I was unable to mark each turn. Despite the limitations, it is a fairly accurate depiction of the path they took.Image by kathleenjae.com

When I asked my daughter why she likes to take these road trips, she smiled and told me she loves the peacefulness of the journey (nowhere in particular to go, I suppose) and the promise of new places to see. When asked, my husband simply replies that he gets to spend time with his daughter.

Could there be a more brilliant answer? I think not.

Feature Image by csbonawitz from Pixabay 

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