Great Lakes Road Trip: Kismet on the Open Road
Kismet: Fate; a predetermined or unavoidable destiny. To me, kismet is free will on the open road. Following the tug of the steering wheel as the off-center alignment brings you where you normally wouldn’t have time or patience to go. We just spent 16 days and 1921.9 miles on a Great Lakes Road Trip exploring eastern Wisconsin and northern, lower Michigan. Some of our trip was planned, some wasn’t. Here are our kismet moments, in no particular rank or order:
If you ever visit downtown Sheboygan, Wisconsin, first look for Norman Rockwell and then try and park downwind from Field to Fork bakery and grocery on 8th Street. Let your nose guide you in to a lovely place that both supports the local economy and encourages global sustainability. A pleasant surprise and our newest favorite place to eat, Field to Fork was friendly, worldly, and kid-friendly. Here the boys are pretending to defend the “cheese cave” against the bad guys. Inspired by a dance club in Italy, imagine tropical fish as seen through a glass floor with the tide rolling in. A Wisconsin girl at heart, try fried queso blanco if you want a little cheese inspiration with your morning coffee.
Goodale’s Bakery just off of the main drag in Grayling, Michigan is not the most likely of tourist destinations. Desperate for coffee and adult conversation, we stumbled into the bakery somewhat by accident. A favorite venue for local residents for miles around, Goodale’s Bakery is now on or “must visit” list for next summer (and the summer after, and so on). Here is a photo of Owen post messiest donut in the entire display case. We stocked up on fresh-baked breads and cookies to freeze at the cabin and keep within snacking distance. Not operating at a particularly big city tempo, we chatted and “watched” people as we waited for our order.
If you have (1) a motorcycle or (2) a favorite music CD, please bring either (or both) to the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Highway 119 between Harbor Springs and Good Hart, Michigan. Without a care in the world, we snaked along the bluffs of Lake Michigan, into and out of fields, forest, passing dream homes along the way. Motorcyclists and convertable owners looked content on a summer day fit for open windows and napping kids.
We stopped at the Thorne Swift Nature Preserve at the Lower Shore Drive turn off. A short (perfect distance) hike to the rocky shores of Lake Michigan, we skipped stones, scampered on the big rocks, and tormented the resident biologist with incessant questions. Making a mental note to avoid the drive with trailer in pull or teenage driver, Tunnel of Trees was worth the wanderlust.
Unprepared to encounter such a kid-friendly find in Gaylord, Michigan, the Gaylord Discovery Center is a gem of a find. Inexpensive by big city standards, we purchased a non-expiring 10 visit punch pass for $40. Planning to return next summer, we can’t wait to bring our cousins to the giant indoor sand pit,human gerbil maze, PVC water tubes, craft table, and age-appropriate play areas (including miniature drum sets the boys still talk about). Open for tired parents, birthday parties, and the weary traveler looking to tire kids without chicken nuggets, plug the Gaylord Discovery Center into your GPS and put kismet on autopilot!
Expert Guides: iPhone and Print Format
If you’re looking for even more suggestions on your next trip to Michigan, meet my new friend and fellow iPhone app author, Matt Forster. Author of the print guide book, Backroads & Byways of Michigan, Matt knows more about the Petoskey State than any other person I know. Here’s more about both projects:
Looking to explore Michigan’s Grand Traverse region? This new travel app covers it all. Up North! Grand Traverse will guide you to the best places to take the kids swimming or hiking or fishing; where to sleep, bed & breakfasts, quiet lakeside inns, excellent campgrounds; where to eat and how much you’ll spend; the best farm markets, specialty foods, and great local snacks. For less than you would spend on a local map, this travel app has close to 200 entries and 500 photos and never goes out of date (upgrades are free)!
As a Michigan native, Matt has camped, hiked, canoed, biked, swum, antiqued, art galleried, toured, or simply explored nearly every corner of the state. In Backroads & Byways of Michigan, he offers 12 routes to discover the best the state has to offer. From the exploring the secret urban adventures of Detroit, to the mining history of the UP’s Keweenaw Peninsula, and everywhere in between, there is something new to discover with every turn of the page. Telling the story of each region, chapters also offer suggestions for lodging and dining and places you must visit.