For 4 years, going to and from college has been my summer vacation.
I mean, we’re not rich people by any means, so there hasn’t been much money to throw around anyway, especially not on extravagant trips. Which is fine–I’ve done my fair share (or more) of traveling out of the country and around the United States through school programs, so it’s not a big deal. This just means that when my Mom arranged our trips back and forth to the U.P., we usually turned it into a mini vacation. This post technically isn’t about anything that happened to me AT school, but I think I’ve got a lot of good memories of the journey, so that qualifies.
Keep in mind that this includes 8 trips, 12-hour drives each way, back and forth from Ohio to Michigan and back. That’s a long time! If we were crazy people, or in a huge hurry, we could probably make it in a day. (That’s totally doable.) However, we like to take our time, so we often split it up into 2 parts. Depending on how my mom (the designated driver) feels, we might drive all the way to the bridge and stay the night, or stop in Gaylord as our half-way. (I really like their shopping mall.)
One of the things that we often do is stop in Frankenmuth. If you’ve never been there, Google it–it’s referred to as Michigan’s Little Bavaria. There’s lots of quaint, colorful little shops, including this enormous Christmas store–the world’s largest–that I insist on stopping at at least once a year. Seriously, that place is insane. And for someone like me, who loves Christmas and its atmosphere, I can never get enough. They sell nativity sets, little Christmas town bits, decorations, fake trees, a lifetime supply of Christmas tree ornaments in any sort of decorating scheme you might want… (Pink? Fisherman? Bahama? Dogs? THEY HAVE IT.) Let’s just say that it’s a pretty huge, crazy, magical place.
Also in Frankenmuth is a restaurant called Zehnder’s. They serve family-style chicken dinners, with multiple courses (which absolutely tickles me, as someone who usually microwaves something and sits on the couch to eat it all in one go,) which are all incredibly delicious and not even that expensive, considering. My advice? If you decide to go, go for dinner and don’t eat the rest of the day–you won’t regret it.
Of course there is Mackinac Island along our little route. Last year (or the year before, who can remember?) we finally budgeted a day to go experience that, and it was awesome. In case you’re not familiar, Mackinac Island is home to the Grand Hotel (think the hotel from The Shining, except minus the axe murdering and blood and Jack Nicholson and stuff.) They also don’t allow motor vehicles, except for like, one ambulance–to get around you either walk, ride a bike, or get a horse-drawn carriage. Mackinac is also home to about 50 billion fudge shops, which is pretty impressive for an island that isn’t even that big. We biked around the whole thing in only a couple of hours, and that was with taking time out for fried pickles, and building little rock-forts along the beach. (It’s a thing.)
The Grand Hotel itself is pretty sweet. We didn’t stay there, because it’s hella-expensive, but we wandered around it during visiting hours. (After a certain time it’s guests only, and they have to dress formally for the evening. SERIOUSLY. COOL.) We had high tea in one of the open rooms, fancy bar food in this swanky cocktail lounge, and generally marveled at its bygone-era tacky decorating. Not to be missed by anyone planning a trip to Michigan.
Although not every trip has something as exciting as a daylong-excursion to an island, we have done other fun things. We always pass this ‘Mystery Spot,’ and once my mom finally pulled over and let me go through. It was just this weird place that they have set up, where you can stand on the edges of tables and not fall off–that kind of thing. BUT, they also had ziplining there! So my aunt (who was along for the ride) and I both decided to do that. The first one was scary as all get out–you’re basically throwing yourself off into mid-air, hoping that the harness will catch you and you won’t go plummeting–but once I had forced my aunt off, both of us found the experience incredibly exhilarating. I’d never done it before, and now I would love to do it again in the future. (My mom was invited, but she would never–she’s scared of heights.)
SO, anyway. As you can see, I’ve gotten to do a lot of fun things back-and-forth to college over the years. Made a lot of great memories. Even more than I can possibly write down without boring everyone. 😉 It’s a good time, and a great bonding experience with my various family members.