The day started at 10:26 as I drove west to Toledo. By 11:30 we had reached the stadium of the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. We purchased a pennant and hat, as well as a foam hat shaped like a hot dog. Expect this wonderful hat at this year's BrickFair.
We ate lunch in Toledo across from the stadium at a place called Tony Packo's, which, we learned, has multiple locations in Toledo and is legendary in the city. It originally started as a Hungarian diner and rose to fame partially due to a number of mentions it received in various episodes of M*A*S*H. When we went there, our newness must have been noticed, as we were guided through the best of the menu by the lady at their gift shop. We ordered hot dogs (original Hungarian), "sweet-hot" pickles, chicken paprikash, chili, and some fried pickles served with ranch and spicy ketchup.
I am neither a hot dog person nor a chili person, but I thought the chili dog was one of the best things ever, only to be outdone by the fried pickles.
While most of the decor was centered around Mud Hens history, they have a peculiar tradition of getting celebrities that visit Toledo to sign hot dog buns. It started with Burt Reynolds and now includes hot dogs signed by politicians, TV personalities, celebrities, and Bob Costas.
At 1:00 we were in Michigan (state #5 thus far). My dad saw a brochure at the welcome center for a 45-minute flight in a B-17. (Being a massive WWII buff, this got him very tingly inside.) After realizing that the price of doing so would be well over 1,200 dollars, my mom and I successfully talked him down from the proverbial ledge.
We went through Ann Arbor and proceeded to work our way towards Lansing for the second minor league field of the day. Their single-A team is known as the Lugnuts, and their whimsically bizarre hat features a dizzy and anthropomorphized lugnut. (It's one of the top-selling minor league hats). We purchased their pennant and talked with the sales guy, who was highly knowledgeable about teams, affiliates, and even independent league teams.
Around 3:30 we left Lansing northbound on US-127, and got pretty cheap gas a little ways up the road. The station was not only packed, but its clientele consisted of rednecks.
Yes, you read that right - rednecks. Apparently, the more north you go, the farther south you get.
Because of the number of kamikaze bugs that have splattered themselves against our windshield and the ineffectiveness of our previously successful tactics against them, we began wiping off the windshield with barely wet wiper-things. In anticipation of this very situation, mom took her windshield cleaning game to the next level by pouring a bottle of hotel shampoo on the car. Smart.
(The rednecks didn't like it, but who cares what they think. We're immune to haters.)
One minor league team to go: the Great Lakes Loons in Midland. Around 4:30, my dad got their phone number and called, but, even though they had a home game that night, they do not open the gift shop to sell souvenirs during games. Dumb.
At 6:12, we crossed over the 45th parallel, which is the exact halfway line between the north pole and the equator. This was announced with a sign, although we all got pretty excited about this milestone. (We've been north of this line before, obviously, but this is the first time there's been a sign.)
Over 900 miles traveled and the scenery isn't all that much different than North Carolina, with the only difference being the sheer desolation of the area which reminded me of Nevada. We encountered many tree species and about three hundred different specimens of roadkill. Live animals were less abundant, but we did see spot both elk and deer.
Around 6:30 we crossed the picturesque Indian River and saw more interesting (and flatter!) terrain, complete with the occasional marshy area. After rounding a turn on Interstate 75 we saw the spires of the famous Mackinac Bridge. We arrived at our hotel just a few minutes past 7:00.
But this arrival did not conclude the day's adventures. After driving about 500 miles, I was totally worn out and the hot dog, while filling, did not last me seven hours. We walked from the hotel to a small fish camp-style restaurant called Darrow's. The whitefish and the walleye were excellent, the onion rings flaky, the salads crisp, and the desserts delightful. All we got was, of course, indiscriminately devoured. (The chocolate peanut butter pie was like Reese's cups mixed with Girl Scout cookies.)
It was only a short walk from the restaurant to Mackinac Bridge, which we walked towards and then underneath. We couldn't get into the reconstructed Fort Michilimackinac (easier to say three times fast than it looks), but our main interest was accessing Lake Huron down at the beach.
But we had a battle to wage to get there, and, though beaten, we persevered to touch Huron's frigid waters.
I'm talking, of course, about being ambushed by a swarm of ten thousand midges, annoying fly-like creatures which literally flew everywhere. I had to pull my hood well over my face and shuffle down the rocky beach to the lake. After reaching the lake we trudged back through the midges, which, disheartened by the fact we reached the lake, redoubled their efforts and tried to eat us. One impaled itself under my left eye and I believe I inadvertently swallowed another, though they are not poisonous. (I got a good look at one that landed on my finger, and I don't even think they bite.)
We've decided against going to Mackinac Island due to monetary and time constraints, plus the realization that it mainly consists of hotels, restaurants, and gift shops, and the ferry times are staggered so as to encourage you to spend lots of money getting food and trinkets. If we'd had another day to spend here, we'd probably go over there, but as it is I don't feel too bad about skipping it.
Tomorrow: Michigan's upper peninsula and Lake Superior, the only Great Lake we haven't seen on any of trip. We're going to try and make it down as far as Green Bay.