Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer road trip, part two: The drive and the cottage on the lake

The old saying goes that road trips are more about the journey than the destination.
In truth, both are important. On my family’s recent seven-day road trip adventure, we drove 1,652 miles and visited six states and one Canadian province.
The route we drove took us through Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, New York and Ontario. Basically we took a wide loop around Lake Erie.
I did all the driving so I got to enjoy the scenery while my wife read books and my two kids played video games.
What follows are some random observations from my loop across the eastern Midwest U.S. and southern Ontario, Canada.
On our trip we passed by a number of places that would have made interesting stops if we had more time. In Pennsylvania alone there was the Flight 93 Memorial in Stoystown; the Zippo Case visitor center, home of the Zippo lighter, in Bradford; and the Penn-Brad Oil Museum, also in Bradford.
I also could have extended my hall of fame tour with a stop at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary’s, Ontario.
We drove through two national forests: the Manistee National Forest in western Michigan and the Alleghany National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania.
We visited the Kinzua Sky Walk at Kinzua Bridge State Park in Mt. Jewett, Pa. It’s located near the Allegheny National Forest. The skywalk was built on what remains of the Kinzua Viaduct. The viaduct was the highest and longest railroad bridge in the world before much of it was destroyed by a tornado in 2003.

We stayed three days at a rented cottage on Big Star Lake in Baldwin, Mich., located in the Manistee National Forest. The lake is spring-fed and the water super clear. We went boating, fishing and swimming during our stay. We saw loons and an eagle diving for fish on the lake. The sunsets were spectacular.
The Manistee National Forest is largely sandy terrain covered with trees and dotted with wetlands. We took several hikes through the mostly piney woods and enjoyed the natural beauty. We saw quite a few monarch butterflies and milkweed plants. I also spotted a blue-tailed skink and a few toads.
Big Star Lake is located in Lake County, Mich., reportedly the poorest county in the state. We saw lots of abandoned businesses and homes in little towns nearby, especially Idlewild, Mich.

As the sole driver on the trip, I enjoyed seeing all the large factories along the highways. We passed by the General Motors factory in Youngstown, Ohio, where it currently makes the Chevrolet Cruze and the GM plant in Flint, Michigan, where it makes trucks. Other big factories along our interstate route made automotive parts.
We drove by the Duck Tape headquarters in Avon, Ohio, and the Dow Corning plant in Midland, Mich., the birthplace of Dow Corning.
We also saw the Brockway Glass factory in Brockway, Pa. The bottle-making plant is owned by Owens-Illinois. My first newspaper reporting job was in Streator, Ill., site of another O-I glass bottle factory.
Our drive also took us through the oil town of Bradford, Pa., site of the American Refining Group.
Lots of minor league baseball stadiums were spotted on our travels. Teams included the Altoona Curve, a AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, in Altoona, Pa.; the West Michigan Whitecaps, a single A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, in Comstock Park, Mich.; and the Lake Erie Crushers, part of the Frontier League, in Avon, Ohio.
Other interesting sites along the way were the giant wind turbines in Middlesex County, Ontario. There are scores of them, making for an impressive sight.
On the way into Michigan, we kept seeing road signs for Beef Jerky Unlimited in Luna, Mich. The retail shop’s advertisements said “We are not a gas station.” We found that humorous.
After checking online we discovered that there are competing beefy jerky shops there and one does have a gas station. Maybe they should have just said, “We’re the one without the gas station.”
Our trip also took us into Pittsburgh, with its great architecture and scenic waterfront, and Cleveland, which has a surprisingly nice downtown area.

Up next: Niagara Falls.

Sunset over Big Star Lake in Baldwin, Mich.;
Daytime on Big Star Lake in late July;
Another shot of Big Star Lake;
Wind turbines in Middlesex County, Ontario.

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