Cruising the southern Mitten…Michigan

After a needed short break from the road, Cruisin’ with the Careys hit the road again on July 14 this time headed west. We spent a great 4th of July holiday at the Carey camp in the Adirondack Mountains of New York then back home to Rochester for a few days to regroup, plan our initial route and send in Bubbles for some repairs. It was great to see family and friends for a short while but we were eager to hit the road again.

This blog post will be about Michigan but first in getting there we drove along I-90 making our first stop of the 2nd part of our trip in Erie, PA at the Erie Brewing Co. They had just finished building a brand new brewery that we loved and it was right next to the highway so it was easily accessible for us. After a tasting between the two of us and a growler fill we were off to our 2nd stop of the trip, Cleveland, OH to visit with one of Julie’s Maids of Honor Lindsay and her husband Wayne. We had a great relaxing time with Lindsay & Wayne and were even able to go to a U.S. Soccer match against Nicaragua at the Cleveland Browns Stadium, which they won 3-0. (Side Note – They are in the final which takes place on Wednesday ☺) After a great brunch on Sunday morning we said goodbye and hit the road for the first real destination of our cruising trip, Detroit, Michigan.

* Michigan is known as the “Mitten” state as the two peninsulas are said to resemble a pair of mittens

In the national press Detroit isn’t looked too fondly upon. They went bankrupt; vast areas of the city are all but abandoned and they even had a tainted water supply in nearby Flint. While all of this is true we really wanted to see what the Detroit of 2017 had to offer. We found a campground in nearby Ypsilanti for a few nights and after getting in late in the afternoon and resting we were eager to explore the next morning. Our first day in Detroit was spent in nearby Dearborn at the Henry Ford Museum. While driving over we did not really know what to expect. I had heard from a few friends who had been there that the museum was great. What I was not informed about was just how big the property, which the museum was on. Not only did the Ford property have the museum but it also had what was called the Greenfield Village, which is a living history museum of American innovators. The property also had a working factory on it, which you could tour.

What I really wanted to see however was the Ford Museum. This museum not only showcases cars (from the Model-T through today) but also American innovation in a lot of different forms. There was a section on airplanes, farm equipment, locomotives & train cars, factory power plants, Presidential limo’s (as well as the limo that President Kennedy was shot in) as well as a section on American made furniture. They even had the bus that Rosa Parks refused to move on and the chair that Lincoln was shot in. One of the most unique items in the museum was what was called the “Dymaxion House”. This was a pre-fab circular metal house in which hundreds were sold in the 1950’s but this is the only one still in existence. It was an amazing museum that you could spend days in. After spending the morning and most of the afternoon in it Julie and I needed to get out in the fresh air and an afternoon pick me up. We hopped back in Bubbles and headed out into Dearborn. An interesting fact in Dearborn is that it has the highest concentration of Muslims in the nation. Knowing this Julie and I went in search of some great Arabic coffee. After searching the Internet we stumbled up on Shatila, which was an Arabic pastry, coffee and ice cream restaurant. After getting coffee Julie also tried coconut kashta, which was delicious. Being there we felt like we had seen so many cultures already in such a sort time. Surrounded by French culture in Quebec City, back among the Americans for the 4th of July and now drinking Arabic coffee and hearing Arabic around us. It was a really cool experience. After our coffee we got back in Bubbles and headed back to the campsite for the night.

The next day we woke up and after a quick breakfast headed back toward Detroit, this time heading into the city. First up for the day was a stop at the city’s market, Eastern Market. If a city has a market we try to check it out, as it’s a great spot for inexpensive produce and souvenirs. We were there on a Tuesday and while generally speaking Saturday is the busiest day there was still lots of activity and produce to buy. When we got there we discovered that Eastern Market is huge. It’s also not just in one building but in multiple “sheds” or buildings spread out on the property. On this day they housed everything from vendors with produce, a health and wellness fair and a kids camp hosted by the Detroit Lions. It was around noon by the time we finished walking around the market. For lunch we headed to one of Detroit’s well-known BBQ establishments, Slows. While parking was a little hard to come by as it is in Detroit’s oldest neighborhood of Corktown it was well worth it. Julie feasted on pulled pork while I had blackened catfish. Mmm, mmmm good. Next up for the day was a walk along the waterfront park Hart Plaza. The plaza was pretty nice although it looked like it could use a little TLC. It did have great views of downtown Detroit as well as Windsor, Ontario right across the Detroit River. The river itself also was pretty nice considering it was sandwiched between two cities. It had a nice glacial blue hue to it and it was clean enough that people were jet skiing. Last up for us in Detroit was a tour called Detroit’s Rise, Fall & Renewal. It was a walking tour that showed a variety of downtown Detroit’s architecture. We were able to go into buildings ranging from the 1910’s through today. The tour even included a ride on Detroit’s monorail the Detroit People Mover. It was a great walking tour that we would recommend for anyone visiting the city.

After a last night in Detroit we woke up and were ready to hit the road again. First up for the day was a stop in Ann Arbor home to the University of Michigan. As we were pretty close it only took half an hour or so to get there. Exiting the highway we were suddenly thrust into the largest college town in Michigan. As we drove towards the city we made a short pit stop at the “Big House” or Michigan Stadium. The stadium itself is huge which makes it impressive. It is the second largest stadium in the world in terms of capacity. The only stadium bigger is the national stadium of North Korea (crazy right!). Entering the town itself was a bit difficult as they were setting up for an arts fair starting the next day. Every other street it seemed was closed off and little white craft tents were popping up everywhere. We eventually found parking and took a walk around the town. The town itself was very quaint. We found it to be a bit like Burlington, VT but much larger. We eventually found the school itself and were blown away by its size. It had massive buildings, massive courtyards and huge tree lined streets. Everything about it seemed to be blown up. We wanted to explore one building and eventually stumbled upon the library. We ventured to the 2nd floor and found the reference room, which had curved ceilings that were at least two stories tall with arched doors. After leaving the library we walked back into town stopping at a few shops before hopping back into Bubbles.

Next up for the day was a stop at Michigan’s capitol of Lansing. We started visiting state capitol buildings early in the adventure back in our first state of Vermont. Capitol buildings are generally free and accessible to the general public. On occasion you even run into senators and are able to discuss matters of the state. The capitol building in Lansing didn’t disappoint. The building was 4 stories tall with a rotunda in the middle. We were able to walk into the lobbies of the house and the senate. The building was beautiful. As it was close to 5pm we decided to leave Lansing and head toward Kalamazoo and the southwest Michigan Coast.

The next morning we woke up and headed to St. Joseph’s, which is only about 30 min north of the Indiana border. On the way there we started to notice signs for wineries. Living in the Finger Lakes wine region in New York we are no strangers to visiting wineries so we thought why not; we should go. In no time at all we were in Michigan farmland with corn, apples and hop farms around us. We visited two small wineries picking up bottles as we were going to stay with friends the next two nights. We then headed north to St. Joseph’s and our initial plan was to walk around the beach town for a while. Parking close to the beach we walked out on the big sand beach and walked down to the water. After standing there for a moment we decided to abandon our plan to walk around the town and turned around, went back to the RV and put our bathing suits on. We then walked back to the beach and dove right on in. It was wonderful. Next up for the day was a short drive back to Kalamazoo to spend the night with my friend Cajsa and her boyfriend Drew. I had met Cajsa on a high school trip to Australia back in 2000 and had not seen her since 2004. We met at Cajsa’s workplace, One Well Brewing. We had dinner and drinks there (delicious!) before going downtown for more drinks before retiring for the night. It was great to see her and meet her boyfriend. There was much too much time between visits and we promised it would not take that long again.

The next morning we woke up refreshed from a good nights sleep and hit the road again. The agenda for the day was to see Michigan’s 2nd largest city, Grand Rapids. After a short 1-hour drive we arrived and were pretty excited. Grand Rapids is known as a nice town (and an excellent beer town on top of that). Getting off the highway we spotted Grand Rapids public market. We found parking and set off. Unlike Detroit’s Eastern Market Grand Rapids market was brand new. We arrived at lunchtime and entered the market. Walking around there were lunch stalls serving everything from sandwiches and sushi to pasta and tacos. We decided to go the Mexican route and ordered a pair of tamales and tacos. They were delicious. Next up on our tour of the day was the Founders Brewery. For any beer lover out there I’m sure you have not only heard of Founders but have probably have had a good number of their beers. We arrived around 2pm and the place was packed. We found seating at the bar and ordered a flight. After discussion with the bartender we decided on our top 4 and went for it (our favorite was the Redankulous – Imperial Red IPA with spicy, piney flavor and a dank aroma). We then wandered around Grand Rapids stopping in a few shops and the historic Amway Grand Plaza hotel. We then drove a short while to the Grands Rapids suburbs to visit and stay with Julie’s cousin Erick, his wife Bonita and son Aiden. We had a great time visiting with them as they took us to the New Holland Brewery for dinner (get the golumpki’s, they are amazing). After dinner Erick showed us his self made remote control lawnmower that he made as he lives on a very steep hill. It was some great engineering and if I can get the video that I took on our blog I will. We chatted the rest of the night before going to bed. It was a great night.

Next up we see Huge Sand Dunes and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan!!

Leave a Reply

Explore More Posts