The Great American Road Trip II - 3 - Duck and Cover
The day began in Mackinaw City at around seven o'clock in the morning. We hadn't planned on getting such an early start, but the northern latitude of the city meant more daylight hours and earlier waking. We checked out, gassed up, and began the day crossing the epic Mackinac Bridge.
It's a gigantic bridge. There's nothing special about it other than that it's just massive. You think it's going to start dipping down to the other side but it just keeps on going. Of course, we made it to the upper peninsula with no issue and hit highway 123 en route to Lake Superior, the only Great Lake we have not seen on any road trip.
We saw deer eating, incredibly straight roads, lots and lots of trees, and what may or may not have been a black bear bounding across the road. By 9:09 it was 52 degrees, and we saw very skinny trees. We were bound for Lake Superior, and the closest point to us was Whitefish Bay, mentioned in Gordon Lightfoot's ballad "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." It was creepy listening to the song as we caught glimpses of Superior beyond the trees.
After our Superior sighting, we had our sights set on Tahquamenon (rhymes with "phenomenon") Falls State Park. The park is divided into the lower and upper falls, which we visited in that order. The lower falls featured a couple of waterfalls around a small island and did not have many visitors. The water that feeds the falls is colored by tannins, leaving it a rich brown-orange hue. When the water stops, the tannins congeal on top to create a white foam that flows by and looks not unlike snow-colored lava. I poked my finger in it and it came out covered in brown silt.
By 10:10 we were on the way to the upper falls, which is much more picturesque. In terms of sheer volume, the upper Tahquamenon falls is the second-largest waterfall east of the Mississippi. (The first is, of course, Niagara Falls.) This water is also colored orange-brown. You can walk out on a wooden deck almost right up to the waterfall down 94 steps, with the ominous sign "94 Steps to Brink." My dad, of course, rubbed his nascent beard on it.
(Side note: Michigan drivers often fly past you on two-lane roads going seventy miles an hour, then get right in front of you going ever so slightly slower than the posted speed limit. In addition to the terms "California roll" and "Texas turn" coined on other trips, I think I'm going to add "Michigan pass" to the lexicon.)
Around 11:00 we were back on route 123 bound for Newberry. We passed swampy areas and turned onto routes 28 and 117 through farmland and pastures ready to plant crops. (Just last Saturday, we were informed, the U.P. got snowed on.) Before noon, we were heading west on US 2.
The scenery, while pretty, was nothing that we hadn't seen before, but was markedly different from what I expected from the U.P. We'd gone back down and skirted along the edge of Lake Michigan and made bad puns.
We saw old road signs in Escanaba after crossing the Rapid River and got lunch at a Culver's, which, being a more local chain, I have never been to (though I hear there's one in Charlotte). My dad got a peanut-butter-and-chocolate milkshake as dessert and looked like a little kid when sipping on it.
(Somewhere in here we unknowingly crossed over into Central time. This is the first time I've crossed over time zone borders and not seen a sign - perhaps because we did not cross on a major road.)
We entered Wisconsin just south of Menominee - the southernmost town in the U.P. - at a town called Marinette. Our route to Wausau took us through secondary roads and a ton of cute downtown areas evocative of Norman Rockwell. The landscape was lumpy; what you see on dairy products is not unrealistic or romanticized. (It does, however, smell incredibly bad.)
Passing Shawano Lake, we took route 29 west. Barns along the road have diamond-shaped designs on their massive silos almost like pieces of a Paul Bunyan-sized quilt.
By 4:18 we had gone 1300 miles and saw large hills in the distance towards Wausau. The rain, which had been drizzling for hours, began to come down steadier as we pulled off the road to our hotel.
We got food at a local chain called Hudson's, which is kind of like Applebee's with a car theme. We tried cheese curds and liked them. My dad put an orange rubber duck that came with the hotel room on top of an old gas pump which was inside the restaurant. We have named this duck Yoder, after the surname ever-present in Amish country, and will take pictures of Yoder everywhere we go from here on out.
Tomorrow: a shorter driving day as we work our way to Minneapolis, where we're due to stay for a few days.