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Old 04-04-2019, 06:06 PM   #1
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Middle America Ideas: Those Lesser Known Gems

We will be picking up our new 19’ Escape on July 9, and after a few short trips will be heading out on a Nine week trek from the Northwest to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan down the coast of Lake Michigan, and back via Tennessee, Flagstaff, up through NParks in California and home.

We know the obvious stops well. It’s the lesser known great places to visit as we go NE from The Badlands to Sault Ste Marie. And then from Memphis west across Oklahoma and Texas to Arizona. In addition to beautiful scenery we love interesting small cities and towns, cafes and bakeries, quirky stops that give a place its uniqueness. We avoid chain stores and restaurants whenever we can and like fairs and festivals and community celebrations.

Would love to have your suggestions and ideas.

Thanks!
Wendy
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Old 04-04-2019, 07:10 PM   #2
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Obvious?

I don't know what the "obvious" places are so I'll just go ahead and mention of few of the places we like in Upper Michigan....
- Porcupine Mountain State Park, Presque Isle Falls. There is a nice hike from the falls up river to the bridge, across the bridge, and back to L. Superior on the other side. And, the falls are spectacular. I've won a couple photo contest with pics of he falls.
- Black River Road, north from Powderhorn Mt. ski hill, Ironwood, MI. There are 5 waterfalls along the road starting about 5 mi. north of the ski hill. You have to hike a bit into them but you'll find scarcely visited falls. They're small, but interesting and peaceful. There is a county camping area where the river meets L. Superior. Don't know it's quality.
-Marquette, MI. "Anatomy of a Murder" was filmed here in 1959. Home of Northern Michigan Univ. (daughter went to school there). Home of the largest wooden dome in the world. Quaint shops downtown. Great lakefront bicycle path. And, they have a city, or county, campground right in town. Good restaurants downtown.
- Taquamenon Falls, Paradise Michigan. Great place in warm weather. You can swim in the falls, get in the falls and have the water beating on you. It's great! Also, quite photogenic.
- Edmund Fitzgerald Museum, Whitefish Bay, MI. Haven't been there but intend to go next time I'm up that way...
- Copper Harbor, MI. If you go there you've gone up the Keweenaw Peninsula. Lots of interesting little places along the way. Sparsely populated.
- Waterfall Map of Upper Michigan. If you PM me I can send you a pic of the map.
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Alger County, MI. Nice boat tour of the rocks.
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Old 04-04-2019, 07:34 PM   #3
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Thanks so much pkgman. I’d love the waterfall map! I have to figure out how to pm you! My husband is a Michigander who spent some growing up time in Marquette so I’m looking forward to seeing all those areas. It will be fall but maybe still some waterfalls. Thanks so much!
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Old 04-04-2019, 07:57 PM   #4
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For a true UP taste experience stop at Lehto's Pasties on rt 2 outside St. Ignace.
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Old 04-04-2019, 08:29 PM   #5
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Thank you! I collect bakeries! It will be on the travel spreadsheet. There will be a bakery column.

Seems like a lot of wonderful Michiganders here.

Any Wisconsin or Minnesotans?

Northern Oklahomans(?) or North Texans?
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Old 04-04-2019, 10:03 PM   #6
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Sounds like an awesome trip! I would avoid Oklahoma if possible because there are so many roads in poor condition. I40 from Fort Smith to Oklahoma City is rough and all the turnpikes are just riddled with potholes. It would add an hour or 2 to your trip but the northern Texas route has much better roads. NE Texas is scenic with many small towns, Mom and Pop restaurants, and some nice state parks. Depending on the day, there are some fun flea markets and farmer’s markets also.
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Old 04-04-2019, 11:02 PM   #7
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Actually, the pasties are not pastries (thus it's not a bakery). Pasties are like meat pies or pot pies and are quite good. I recommend topping with gravy, but you can get ketchup if you prefer.

There's a great little bakery in Mackinaw City; east of the highway to the dock entrance (but don't enter), turn left and go a half block north. I love their homestyle cinnamon bread, and the pecan rolls are great also.

X2 for the Porcupine Mountains west unit, with the walk along the river. The CG there is no-hookups IIRC, and is like parking on a lawn next to other campers, but nice enough. The Ontonagon municipal CG has some sites with water views, and a nice beach to walk along even if you don't get a waterside site. McLain SP also is nice, if you can get in (popular). M-26 from Calumet to Copper Harbor is picturesque, and there's a nice roadside park on the shore that would make a nice place for a picnic lunch. Ft. Wilkins has historic buildings, but I think the historic stuff at Fayette SP (on the L. MI shore, SW of Manistique) is more interesting. Also near Manistique, be sure to stop at Palms Book SP and see the Big Spring. Amazingly pretty and clear water; you can see fish 40' below.

In lower MI, unhook and drive the Tunnel of Trees (M-119) between Harbor Springs and Cross Village. Charlevoix is a touristy but pretty town. Sleeping Bear Dunes is interesting. Leelanau SP has rustic campsites tucked away in a wooded area and there's an old lighthouse. Oh, and south of the dunes, about 2 miles N of Empire, there's a great spot to swim in Bar Lake; look for Bar Lake Road. https://www.google.com/maps/place/No...!4d-86.0615435 This little lake is blocked off from L. MI by a sand bar, and the water is nice and warm in summer; but you're only a hundred yards or so from the big lake. Nice sandy beaches.

Frankfort is a nice little town. Ludington SP is very popular for good reason, it's a nice CG and one can walk along a sandy 2-track for about a mile to a lighthouse. Silver Lake SP also has a lighthouse you can drive to (south of the CG a couple miles), and at this SP you could rent a dune buggy and ride the sand dunes.
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Old 04-04-2019, 11:16 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Treblemaker View Post
Sounds like an awesome trip! I would avoid Oklahoma if possible because there are so many roads in poor condition. I40 from Fort Smith to Oklahoma City is rough and all the turnpikes are just riddled with potholes. It would add an hour or 2 to your trip but the northern Texas route has much better roads. NE Texas is scenic with many small towns, Mom and Pop restaurants, and some nice state parks. Depending on the day, there are some fun flea markets and farmer’s markets also.
I live in OK and drive the Will Rogers & Turner Turnpikes (I-44) quite often; they are kept in very good condition. I don't know where this pothole story is coming from; I-40 has been rough but much of it (not all though) has been resurfaced in the last 3-4 years.


That said, I think OK looks rather bland. But there are some things to see. If you're brave, stop in Vinita at Clanton's Cafe for a plate of Calf Fries. The "world's largest totem" is about 4-5 miles west of Foyil. In Claremore, the J.M. Davis Gun Museum has a mind-numbing assortment of firearms. Tulsa has a couple of decent museums, the Philbrook and the Gilcrease. NW of Tulsa, detour to Pawhuska if you're a fan of the Pioneer Woman (Drummond); she has a popular restaurant up there. Back along I-44, get off in Arcadia and stop at POPS, if you want to see the biggest assortment of bottled soft drinks you've ever seen in one place; also there's a round barn just west of there. OKC has a western heritage museum, and another museum with a butterfly house, plus there's the OKC bombing memorial.
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Old 04-05-2019, 12:16 AM   #9
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What a great thread! We too are planning a trip from the NW to Washington DC in the fall. My wife is a quilter so we are planning on the National Quilt Museum in KY on the way back. Seattle > Wisconsin to see friends > Upper P > Indiana > DC > Virginia > Blue Ridge Pkwy > Nashville > Quilt Museum > Home.

Following with interest!
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Old 04-05-2019, 06:52 AM   #10
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Not sure what parts of Tennessee you will be passing through, but if in Middle Tennessee, I would suggest Marcy Jo's Mealhouse and Bakery in Columbia Tn...great breakfast/lunch, and great desserts...they are famous for their cinnamon rolls and their stuffed french toast. And the owners/workers are great friends of ours.
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Old 04-05-2019, 08:11 AM   #11
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https://www.atlasobscura.com

Use the search bar to check on places along your route.
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Old 04-05-2019, 08:28 AM   #12
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I live in OK and drive the Will Rogers & Turner Turnpikes (I-44) quite often; they are kept in very good condition. I don't know where this pothole story is coming from; I-40 has been rough but much of it (not all though) has been resurfaced in the last 3-4 years.
That said, I think OK looks rather bland. But there are some things to see. If you're brave, stop in Vinita at Clanton's Cafe for a plate of Calf Fries. The "world's largest totem" is about 4-5 miles west of Foyil. In Claremore, the J.M. Davis Gun Museum has a mind-numbing assortment of firearms. Tulsa has a couple of decent museums, the Philbrook and the Gilcrease. NW of Tulsa, detour to Pawhuska if you're a fan of the Pioneer Woman (Drummond); she has a popular restaurant up there. Back along I-44, get off in Arcadia and stop at POPS, if you want to see the biggest assortment of bottled soft drinks you've ever seen in one place; also there's a round barn just west of there. OKC has a western heritage museum, and another museum with a butterfly house, plus there's the OKC bombing memorial.[/QUOTr
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Old 04-05-2019, 08:36 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Viajante View Post
https://www.atlasobscura.com

Use the search bar to check on places along your route.
Excellent source for planning
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Old 04-05-2019, 08:41 AM   #14
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Please don't be offended by my opinion of Oklahoma roads, it was not meant to be taken that way, many apologies. I travel the Cimmaron turnpike often as well as Indian Nations turnpike and I44 from Fort Smith to Checotah, then south. Although I44 is getting fixed, there are still areas that are bad (or were in Feb, when I went through). 69S past Eufala is rough but massive construction taking place there also. Narrow lanes and very rough.

I have family in Enid and OKC. We have changed our route to visit family in Texas the past several months because the roads and ramps were worse pulling a camper than going through Arkansas, SE OKlahoma, and into NE Texas. Once construction is completed we will probably start going back through my home state again.

Your places to see are all awesome, spent much of my childhood visiting those.
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Old 04-05-2019, 04:21 PM   #15
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Wow. So much great info! Thank you all. Re Tennessee we will be doing Nashville to Memphis and of course Graceland. Oklahoma - I 40 is a long road, must be some good and some rough. I like the adjective “bland”! And thanks for the specific bakeries. I am on it. Pasties and Pastries, I’m an equal opportunity customer.

Thanks for the specific campground info in both UP and lower. We are going with dual batteries and solar and hope that frees us up for no hookups.

Arniesea - hey NW neighbor maybe your Wisconsin friend has some trip ideas for back roads and comfy cafes?
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Old 04-05-2019, 05:22 PM   #16
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- Another vote for Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore in lower MI. There are campgrounds with and without hookups, but the one without is pretty shady, not good for charging batteries.

- Palo Duro State Park near Amarillo, TX. I've visited the park but haven't camped there. Sounds like that area will be on your route.

- If so, then visit Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument northeast of Amarillo. There I discovered that thousands of years ago there was a trading network that covered the whole country. I had no idea.

You will find camping with solar and batteries to be an educational experience. It works (I'm doing it right now) but you have to keep an eye on things. Enjoy your trip!
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Old 04-05-2019, 06:26 PM   #17
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What is your route through California?
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Old 04-05-2019, 07:07 PM   #18
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I also recommend the bombing site in OKC. If you don’t want to go inside and see all the exhibits, the outdoor “chairs” installation is beautiful and moving. Also in OK somewhere the Wilders’ homestead house is pretty much intact if either of you is a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. An hr or so would suffice. In nm white sands is a cool place for a drive through, and there’s a space museum in nm also. The desert museum in Tucson is an outdoor botanical marvel. Also suguaro (sp?) np is cool. I'd go from wherever you’re camped w/out trailer for that one. Oh one more. I think in nm the Amerind Museum. Quite A few cool places I found looking at the AAA tour books for each state so if you have access, highly recommended. Info on hours, amt of time to allow, cost, etc. I hope you have a wonderful trip.
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Old 04-05-2019, 07:17 PM   #19
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If you like museums, you might consider the following:
Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village, Dearborn MI (suburb of Detroit)
RV & Motorhome Museum, Elkhart IN RV/MH Hall of Fame - Museum - Library - Conference Center
In OK, the Daryl Starbird Custom & Rod Museum, Afton OK Darrryl Starbird -Hall of Fame Museum Tour
Also, a guy named Mike Fuller in Inola OK put together a nice collection of antique autos and gas station/pump memorabilia, free admission but call ahead (it's a one-man show and Mike has to be around to open up) Mike Fuller's Auto & Gas Museum
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Old 04-07-2019, 07:42 PM   #20
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More thanks, hopes for Wisconsin and Minnesota and info

Hi Hilola
Our California route is the end of our trip. We are going to Joshua Tree for sure, and then either to Death Valley or Yosemite. Went to Yosemite in July of 2017 and it was a nightmare of traffic and crowds, and we were camped way outside. If we can get reservations in the park, we will go there, and save DV for a week in the spring - I hope! We will visit friends outside San Fran, and head home to Oregon. Very open to suggestions between those places!

Love museums and have the AAA books as back ups. But only a few a week!

PKGman51 - thank you again for the waterfalls map. If you love waterfalls, you need to come to the Pacific North West, the Columbia Gorge especially. A-Mazing

Wisconsin and Minnesota - Where are you? We will probably stop at Pipestone, and then head North West - on some - to be determined - fascinating route.

This is a great resource and you are all so generous to offer your time and expertise - Thank you!
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