It takes 11 hours (driving time) to get to Walloon Lake, Michigan from my house but it sure is worth it. When you’re in the car for that length of time you get to see a lot of strange and beautiful things. Starting out in Virginia is easy—just a quick trip around the beltway and then into Maryland. While in Maryland I saw an unusual site—a military convoy. It made me think of CBs and that convoy song that was popular when I was a kid. VA and Maryland cop count: 2

 

Convoy

Convoy

At the two-hour mark just over the Mason-Dixon line, I reached what I like to call the Las Vegas of Pennsylvania. It’s a town called Breezewood where you catch the PA turnpike. Its two hundred restaurants and gas stations compete for your attention with signs that are about fifty feet tall. And by the way, I saw the welcome sign for PA and it said it’s the “state of independence.” Not sure what that means. It used to be “the keystone state.”

So on to the PA turnpike. This gem of a highway will test your driving skills, nerves, patience, and tires. It winds around and up and down the mountains. Trucks and other cars going both too fast and too slow plus the construction barriers made me feel like I was playing that Mario Wii game with my nephew. I wouldn’t have been surprised if a giant mushroom showed up in place of a bridge. The only fun part (except the end of it) is the Allegheny Tunnel and only because it’s relatively straight and flat. Pennsylvania cop count: 4

Speaking of straight and flat, let me now introduce you to the Ohio turnpike. At first it’s a nice change of pace from PA but 2 ½ hours of it is mind-numbing. There are some really nice things about Ohio (like Put-in-Bay and Cedar Point) but you’d never know that by just driving the turnpike. And seriously Ohio, you need to get on board with EZ Pass. Ohio cop count: 5. (Unusually low for OH.)

 

Ohio turnpike

Ohio turnpike

At hour seven my windshield was plastered with bugs and I finally reached the border of Michigan. Ahhhhh, I love driving through MI. There’s just enough to make it interesting while allowing for fast, easy driving. The one big giveaway that you’ve crossed the border is the sudden appearance of FIREWORKS signs. About two hours later I reached a town called Frankenmuth. It’s Michigan’s little Bavaria. Just the name made me want to stop. There’s also a massively huge Christmas store there called Bronner’s.  

Bronner's Christmas Wonderland

Bronner's Christmas Wonderland

As I continue on I-75 past Flint and Saginaw, the birch trees start appearing and the air gets cleaner. I pass the 49th parallel and I’m almost there. I wanted to stop at the Grayling canoe festival but I was getting anxious to get to the cabin. Michigan cop count: 1

 

49th parallel

49th parallel

I finally reached Willow Loon—the place my Grandfather bought back in the 30s and my aunt owns today. It’s surrounded by woods and the water is clear and as blue as the sky. Can’t ask for too much else. Grendel is in heaven and now that the sun is up, I’m going to relax on the dock and read a good book—maybe the one titled “Sparkle Island.”

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