At the last minute we decided to take a small road trip to our neighboring state of Michigan. Unlike many of our trips, this one started on a Saturday morning and ended with a return home Sunday night. We got up early and left before 8:00. Our first stop was the city of St. Joseph. It would take about 3.5 hours to go “around” Lake Michigan via Chicago and northwestern Indiana. We hit no new counties on the way. But we did meet up for lunch with some old friends in St. Joseph (Berrien County). Silver Beech Pizza is the top-rated restaurant in town. And it’s worth the hype – and the one-hour wait.
After lunch we headed north, basically hovering aside Lake Michigan. My entire life has been spent living within five miles of the Great Lake – but on the Wisconsin side. How odd it was to drive north knowing the lake was on my left. Once we hit Muskegon we ventured northeast on HWY 120. And from there we were in the middle of nowhere for a couple of hours. There were two separate “four corner” areas where four counties come together at a point. For the sake of efficiency (and time) we tailored our route to get as close to these areas as possible. So we saw some of the hidden back roads (and dirt roads) that Michigan has to offer. It wasn’t until we hit Traverse City that we felt we were back in civilization. Such is the life of county collecting. And we loved every minute of it.
By the time we’d arrived in Traverse City we’d picked up Van Buren, Allegan, Ottawa, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Lake, Mason, Wexford, Manistee, Benzie and Grand Traverse Counties. As the West Arm of Grant Traverse Bay opened up we took a left turn, drove about a mile to the Leelanau County border, turned around and headed back east - passing by a fair as we went.
Our hotel was in Houghton Lake. And our eastern route on HWY 72 took us into Kalkaska County. Instead of heading directly to our hotel thought we went northeast to pick up both Antrim and Charlevoix Counties. From there we headed directly south to our hotel, picking up Otsego, Crawford and Roscommon Counties along the way.
As we exited the highway with our hotel literally in sight to the left, we instead turned right. About two miles down the road we hit Missaukee County as the sun was nearly done setting. With 20 new counties on the day, our hotel rest was well-earned. We ended up spending the night at the American Inn and Suites, Houghton Lake.
On Sunday morning we headed out a little after 9:00. Heading south on HWY 127. Clare County became our first new county of the day. After turning west on HWY 10 we hit a milestone about 15 miles down the road. Osceola County became the 1000th county we’ve visited as a couple. Only 2142 to go!
We turned south and hit Mecosta, Isabella, Montcalm, Gratiot and Clinton Counties. At this point we decided to add a couple of bonus counties to our route. We have a future trip planned for the eastern portion of Michigan. And we could knock off about an hour of that trip if we spent about 45 minutes extra on this one. It was a no-brainer. So we continued west, picking up both Shiawassee and Saginaw Counties. After that we put home in the GPS. Our trip back hit both Ionia and Kent Counties – are last new counties of the trip.
Kent County is also where we stopped for lunch – Red Robin Restaurant in Kentwood, a Grand Rapids suburb. Lastly we headed to downtown Grand Rapids to the Gerald Ford Museum and gravesite. We didn’t have time to go in. But the grounds were lovely.
All in all we hit 31 new counties on this impromptu trip. What’s next? The annual summer week-long road trip with our kids starts this coming weekend. I believe that one features 18 states, several independent cities, a district and even a foreign country. Stay tuned!
NEW COUNTIES - 31
TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2015 - 247
ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1009