Day 2: We Are Outdoorsy! Well, Kind of.

Things I will remember from our first full day of the trip:

Breakfast Pigtails

Breakfast at Java Joe’s. We sat on the patio and perused the exceptionally large newspaper/menu. Shane had a candy pancake – literally a pancake with candy. Reese’s Pieces, to be specific. One pancake plus one slice of coconut French toast. I coveted his sweets, but stuck with an omelette. While we waited for our food, we struck up a conversation with two couples who rolled up with impressive KTM touring bikes. Maybe that’ll be us someday.

Sunshine

A short walk by the water after breakfast after trying to pick up smoked fish and pasties. It was too warm a day to consider having smoked fish in the car, and we’d find ample pasty options later.

Paul and Blue

Mimicking Babe the Blue Ox and then climbing allllll the way up to the top of Castle Rock. I was terrified by the little walkway, but the views were worth it.

The View from Castle Rock

The View from Castle Rock

And then a trip back to the lakefront. We’d considered spending part of the day in Mackinaw City, but decided to press on after ogling the bridge and a very shiny motorcycle.

Mackinac Bridge

Motorcycle Lust

The Java Joe’s newspaper recommended several daytrips, including the Mystery Spot, which we bypassed, and the Big Spring, which was worth the brief detour. Impossibly clear water, clear enough to see rocks and fish all the way to the bottom.

Big Spring

Big Spring

A lunch stop in Escanaba – pasties at Dobber’s. I’m glad we tried them, though I see no need to eat them again. Shane had beef with beef gravy, I had chicken with chicken gravy. The pastry was the best part.

Dobber's Pasties

Photo by NCReedplayer

I almost don’t want to tell you about our attempts at hiking. I wanted to do more than just drive, so we looked on the map and found a fairly remote trail not far out of our way. We drove down gravel roads, then dirt roads. After 10 minutes without seeing any other signs of life, we turned off into a park. We located the trail. We looked at each other anxiously. We wrote a note and left it on the dashboard just in case we disappeared in the wilderness. We got out of the car and were IMMEDIATELY ASSAULTED BY A SWARM OF MOSQUITOS REMINISCENT OF THE BIRDS. We frantically applied bug spray, then retreated to the car, laughing at the futility of our attempts.

An hour reading by the lake in Marinette (or maybe Menominee).

DMC-FZ7 004

Photo by Frank McPherson

A detour to find a giant mouse. We found one, but not the one we were after.

Cow friend

Cow menace

Cool Giant Mouse U Guys

And a stop by a historical marker before setting up camp in Oconto.

Historical Marker

Maybe we’re getting the hang of this road trip thing after all.

Day 1: Novice Roadtrippers

I might have mentioned before that we’re not good at road tripping. Which is to say: we don’t enjoy driving. Long drives almost always mean traffic, construction, excessive junk food, and, if we’re visiting my family, terrible weather. Seriously, it storms almost every time we drive west. So when I suggested that instead of going to Portland – our proposed vacation destination – that we take a road trip somewhere, you need to realize that we were going out on a serious limb.

After some discussion, we settled on a plan: camping in Wisconsin, followed by a few days in Madison or Chicago or both. And instead of taking awful 94 through awful Chicago traffic, we’d go the long way ’round Lake Michigan – north to the tip of the Mitten, over into the UP, and then south along the Wisconsin side of the lake. We resolved to avoid the interstate whenever possible, and to stop wherever suited our fancy: historical markers, dive-y restaurants, intriguing attractions. I was in charge of researching accommodations, while Shane looked into places to eat, helpfully plotting them out by number of hours along that day’s drive.

And so we set off, heading due north on 75 on a beautiful day. First stop? The Cheesehouse – or, more properly, Pinconning Cheese Co.

The Cheesehouse

The Cheesehouse

We both love cheese, as you well know, but weren’t expecting much from this roadside attraction. Which is to say that we found lots of uninspiring cheese, a few tasty cheese spreads, and an impressive array of meat sticks that Shane snacked on for the next few days. Our total came in below the $5 credit card limit, so we also got a giant pickle that literally had to be held with two hands and made the car smell like dill and garlic.

Our first true road meal came at Spike’s Keg O Nails in Grayling, MI:

Spike's Keg O Nails

Spike’s has been operating in this location since the day after Prohibition was repealed. The menu explained the history of the bar, which has had five owners in its 78 year history. It’s exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find in a smallish town, and exactly the sort of ambiance you’d hope for on a Friday night: lots of townies eating fried fish and drinking cheap beer around small tables.

First Vacation Beers

Who were we to question a good thing? The fried fish was fantastic: crisp batter and flaky tender white fish accompanied by the typical Midwest sides: cole slaw, choice of potato (fries), and a dinner roll. We skipped the roll and split a salad, and were totally pleased with our $15 dinner.

Not wanting to jump right back into the car, we took a walk around downtown Grayling, where we tamed a ferocious beast, sat by the river, and generally started to ease into vacation mode.

Au Sable River

Post-Prandial

We still had a few hours left in our drive, however, so it was back in the car and due north for us, stopping only for a Whippy Dip detour:

Whippy Dip

First Vacation Ice Cream

and a scenic overlook:

If You Seek A Pleasant Peninsula

A Pleasant Peninsula indeed.