We packed up our bikes and stopped for lunch with dear friends in Ludington, on Michigan's West Coast. From there, I drove Joe a bit crazy as we drove down some curvy backroads until we got to the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
From the top of the dunes, even though the water looks like it's right there, it's actually three miles from the top of the dune to the water's edge. It's one of the most beautiful places in America, but it's also one of those places you have to see for yourself to understand the majesty and beauty of these sand dune "mountains."
Michigan runs a national advertising campaign, trying to encourage tourism with the slogan "Pure Michigan." I think this picture could absolutely be part of that advertising campaign!
From Sleeping Bear Dunes, we drove through Traverse City up to Mackinaw City, right on the very tip of the Lower Peninsula. By the time we reached our hotel for the night, we'd been on the road for 16 hours (including all our leisurely stops). It sounds like a lot of driving, but we opted for more scenic back roads and pulling over where and when we wanted, since we didn't have a set agenda. It made for a relaxing day.
I tiptoed out of our hotel room very early to capture sunrise at the top of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. And to capture the beauty of the Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas and is the largest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
Then I wised up and climbed back into bed for a few more hours' sleep before we got up and took the ferry over to Mackinac Island.
Mackinac Island is a charming island in the Straits of Mackinac, separating the Upper and Lower Peninsulas between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The island is eight miles around and no cars are allowed on the island (even the Fire Department uses horses and bicycles to respond to calls!). We took our bikes over on the ferry and spent the morning leisurely riding the island's perimeter and seeing its natural sights.
We spent the afternoon exploring Fort Mackinac, which sits just above the harbor and has the dubious distinction of the being the site of the first land "battle" during the War of 1812. (The Americans surrendered promptly without a fight, so "battle" is a bit of a stretch.) The best part was, there were minimal tourists on the island since it was the weekend after Labor Day and most families were back to school.
Even though I grew up visiting Mackinac Island, this visit was the first time I ever spent the night on the island. It was relaxing to enjoy the island's charms without hurrying to catch the ferry back to the mainland the same day. We both slept well with the cool Michigan air blowing through our windows, and we enjoyed a leisurely trip back to the mainland and down to Grand Rapids for lunch with my brothers before heading home to Chicago.
It was an absolutely fantastic weekend. We had fantastic weather, some great meals with great company, a relaxing pace, and I do believe Joe is now as in love with Pure Michigan as I am. (For vacations! We love Chicago far too much to give up living here just yet!)
Here's hoping we don't wait quite so long for another weekend away for the two of us!