Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Michigan Vacation: Grand Rapids to Marquette Part 2

Part 2:  Mackinaw City to Marquette

Rates during our trip - June 2011

After our first night of sleep we start our second day by crossing the bridge (don't forget the cash for bridge fare).  

Next, it's important to me to stop at McDonalds for a cup of coffee.  For those of you that depend on drive-thru options - you won't find them in Mackinaw City and once you leave St. Ignace you will have a hard time finding one again until you get to one of the few bigger cities the Upper Peninsula has to offer.  During this trip we do not come across another McDonald's until we reach Marquette and there is only one drive-thru option in Munising (it's not friendly to my coffee loving vegetarian self).  

Later in this blog post I will refer to the approximate miles it takes to get to places.  My starting point is the McDonalds in St. Ignace on US 2 ;-)

You will find MANY picture opportunities and places of interest to stop right off US 2!  That is why many people make their stay in Mackinaw City, Mackinaw Island, and St. Ignace a full weeks vacation!  Some of these places include:  Deer Ranch, Mystery Spot, Garlyn Zoo, and the Weird Michigan Wax Museum.

Looking for a place to stay?  Silver Sands Resort offers cabins and camping on Lake Michigan.

Approximately, 13 miles from McDonalds (on US 2) you will find some nice sandy beach spots to stop at.  The road there is busy but it's a beautiful site!  Before I stopped eating meat, I liked to grab a pasty from a local restaurant and then eat it on the beach. 

This campground is about 16 miles from McDonalds.  It's right on the sandy beach!  But it offers only a few camping sites and it's near the highway.  The trees block the view of the cars but not the sound.  It's a rustic campground but still fun depending on what you are looking for.  I took the next couple of pictures partly for myself because I stayed there once and wished I would have known how to make a reservation!

About 24 miles into the trip you will come across "Cut River Bridge".  This has been newly reconstructed since I was little but I think the main feature I like is still there.  If you are up for stairs, you can walk down a cliff area to the river that leads out to Lake Michigan.  Sorry but since my kids are little yet we did not stop for a picture.  

Approximately 37 miles into the trip there is a rest area.  It is a nice one with running water ;-)  There is also a beach area.  We like to stop to give everyone a break and time to play.  

My daughter loved the little shells.

My son loved the sand.

And you can always find a picture opportunity!
From US 2 we prefer to take 77 North to Seney and then 28 West through Munising and eventually end our travels for the day in Marquette where 28 merges with 41.  Later blog posts will give you more detail of the things we like to do or see in Munising and Marquette.

As you are leaving Munising (heading West/North) you will come across this nice scenic turnout.  It's to the left just after the two lane passing area ends.  It's worth the stop!  The restrooms are large outhouses but the view is great!  It's also wheel chair and stroller accessible!

My next favorite stop is hard to explain so I took a few pictures.  It is shortly after the scenic turnout and just before you enter the town of Christmas.  It is a pull-off on Lake Superior and it is one of my favorite places to stop for "pretty rocks". 

This is the view from my car as we were approaching the area I like.

Yes - there really is a town called "Christmas"!  If you pass this sign you have already passed my "pretty rock" spot.

The view from the road into my two-track "pretty rock" spot.

Here it is!!!
And here's a picture of the rocks.  They don't look great in this picture but it's pretty in real life and so fun for kids of all ages to search for the best.

Okay - so in June the water is pretty cold but eventually your feet and legs numb so you don't notice it ;-)

We always bring buckets and some kind of water shoes for the kids.  I wear cheap flip-flops but the waves can take them off your feet pretty easily.
This is one of the rocks that we brought home.
This is what it looks like when it is broken.  I was told that there use to be a glass factory in the area.  That is why there are so many green and purple "rocks" that look beautiful when they are wet.  We can't wait to polish ours!
It was a little cloudy on the morning we stopped there but there are great views from this spot!
There is a camp ground that you will pass just before reaching this spot.  It's on the beach and think it offers full hook-up!  I stopped there once and noticed that they have bathrooms with flush toilets and I think showers.  Hard to find that in the UP!

It's fun to throw rocks!
And don't forget how much fun it is to skip rocks!
Once your legs are numb (or if you are there in the short season that the water is warm) you can really have fun!

Picture opportunity in the town of Christmas.
Christmas also has a casino but I have never been in the area at night so I haven't stopped there.  

This is pretty much the last stop we make until we reach Marquette which is another post I will be sharing soon.  Are there any sites or stops that you like to make in Upper Michigan that you would like to share?

Sauteed Corn & Snow Peas

I love the taste that ginger and fresh lime add to this side dish!


1 (16 oz) package frozen corn
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh ginger (reduce if powdered ginger)
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
8 ounces snow peas, trimmed and cut diagonal in to 1/2 inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon lime juice or 1 fresh lime
Salt and pepper to taste


Melt butter in medium sauce pan.  Add ginger and onion, cook until almost soft (2-3 minutes).  Add corn and snow peas and cook until just tender, stirring often (5-6 minutes).  Stir in lime juice (or squeeze fresh lime on at time of serving).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Michigan Vacation: Grand Rapids to Marquette Part 1

Part 1:  Grand Rapids to Mackinaw City

My family and I travel to Marquette once every year to visit with other family.  My dad is from Marquette so a bunch of us get together in June to remember him and explore Pictured Rocks National Park where he worked for many years.  We like to make all of our stops on the way up so we break our travel time there into at least 2 days.  It also helps when you have little ones who don't like to sit in the car for a long time!

There isn't a lot that we stop to see in lower Michigan but we do have a "regular plan" to get to the bridge.  Usually it consists of stopping in Gaylord (exit 282 - the 2nd Gaylord exit when heading North on 75) for gas and food.  Normally I arrive in Gaylord with about a 1/2 tank of gas but it's nice to fill up there since the prices are higher in Mackinaw and there aren't many places to get gas in Upper Michigan (the UP - for Upper Peninsula).

In the Cheboygan area there is a rest area with a scenic view.  It's would be nice in the fall to see all the beautiful colors but we don't generally stop there in June because it just looks out at a bunch of trees...

Of course a stop has to be made at Sea Shell City (exit 326 if traveling via 75)!  Many have seen the signs for the "Giant Man Eating Clam" but not all have stopped.  My dad took me there as a kid to buy me a shell necklace.  So, every year we stop to explore the store.  It's also a great break from the car since they have a big pirate ship play set.

Picture Opportunities inside (wooden pirate statue)!

Spoiler Alert - this is the "Giant Man Eating Clam"
After leaving Sea Shell City, the next fun adventure for the kids is to keep an eye out for the Mackinac Bridge.  I always loved looking over the trees after every hill to see if I could catch a glimpse of it yet!

We end our travels for day one in Mackinaw City.  I choose to stay on this side of the bridge because I haven't found a good spot for beach access on the other side.  We exit at James St (Exit 339 and the last one before the bridge).  This will take you to the entrance for the famous fort.  

We take a right to get to our hotel.  The one of choice so far is this Super 8.  It is directly across from the beach/park area and walking distance to most everything else we do during this short visit.  

The kids are now big enough to carry their own luggage so that helps :)

The park/beach area

The beach is rocky and not that clean....   But it's still fun for kids and a great picture opportunity!  And don't be afraid to ask someone to take a family picture for you.  I take plenty for other tourists to help them capture that moment.

Before the night is over we always make a stop at our favorite shop for fudge, taffy, ice cream and anything else the kids talk us into.  This shop is located across the street from the fort.  

Stay tuned for the rest of our travels in part 2!

We plan to take the kids to Mackinaw Island next year but they have not visited there yet.  We have also not taken them to the fort yet.

Do you have any favorites for this trip?  I'd love to hear what I am missing!

Bean Salad

A summer-time favorite that a friend once shared with me!

Ingredients & Directions:

1 can black-eyed peas
1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
1 can white corn

Drain and rinse the above ingredients and put into mixing bowl.

1/2 cup chopped green pepper*
1/2 cup chopped red pepper*
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped celery

Add the chopped vegetables to the bean/corn mixture.

In a sauce pan heat the following ingredients to a boil.

1 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar (or splenda)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
garlic salt to taste

Pour warm dressing over beans and vegetables and stir.  Place in refrigerator and chill for at least a couple of hours.  Before serving, stir again and then drain most of the dressing off.

*I don't always like peppers so I often add extra celery and onion instead.