Our vacation finally arrived, and boy were we ready for it! We decided to take a road trip and visit my brother and sister-in-law in Michigan. Though a long drive, we felt it was a better option than flying. Figuring that an entire day would be used up by flying, and then needing to rent a car once there, we felt driving was easier. Also, since we were driving, it freed us up to visit other locations, and see sights we wouldn’t normally be able to.
Since we would be passing so close to Memphis, TN, home of Elvis Presley and Graceland, we planned to head out super-early on the first day of our vacation in order to spend an afternoon in Memphis. We left at 3:55am on July 1st, arriving in Memphis some 10 hours later.
In Memphis, we took a tour of Graceland. I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but Jenny is. Nevertheless, it was still quite interesting. The audio tour provided a lot of information about Elvis that fans might already know, but that I did not.
The ‘mansion’ is actually a lot smaller than I expected, and is smaller in person than the photos would indicate. No flash photography was allowed, so some of the pictures didn’t turn out as well as I might have hoped, but better than I expected.
Jenny thoroughly enjoyed herself, which was really the point. She was really excited to be there, and it was fun to watch her acting like a little girl. The fact of being away from work, from the stresses of everyday routine life, and in a new place helped us enjoy ourselves even more.
We stayed in the Madison Hotel in downtown Memphis that night, in a nice room, just a block away from world-famous rib joint Rendezvous, which was some of the best BBQ Jenny and I have ever eaten. Memphis BBQ definitely has a different flavor than Texas BBQ, but in a good way. Rendezvous was yet another restaurant featured on Man vs. Food. So far, we haven’t been disappointed by any of the places we’ve visited from that show.
We took time during the evening to walk around downtown Memphis, venturing a few blocks away from the hotel. Just one block away was a picturesque park, with fountain and gazebo, all arrayed nicely. It was like being on a movie set, and was absolutely perfect. Electric trolleys ran through downtown, stopping frequently, and lending an antique air to the ambiance of the historic downtown area. Horse drawn carriages, lit with lights also clip-clopped around, and really made the evening majestic. We ambled along, finding a ‘convenience’ store, where we bought something to drink, and then made our way back to the hotel.
There was a wedding taking place in our hotel the night we stayed there, so we were unable to wander up to the rooftop patio, or take in the nighttime view of the Mississippi river. We were able to visit the following morning, just as the sun was rising, and got a great view of the city.
Overall, Memphis was a really enjoyable visit, and we would gladly visit again. Though it’s 10 hours away from Houston, it’s a manageable trip, and will likely be a destination of ours again soon.
After leaving Memphis, we headed out for our ultimate destination: Port Huron, Michigan. It’s the home of my brother, and a quaint little town on the edge of Lake Huron. We spent the majority of our time here, though we took multiple road trips throughout the week.
We went out on a boat ride on the Huron Lady II which consisted of a 2-hour ride through Sarnia Bay, under the Blue Water Bridge that crosses into Canada, and out onto Lake Huron before returning to dock. The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny, and the water was bright blue. (Yes, the pictures actually capture the real color. They have not been altered.)
Later in the day, we traveled up the coast to Port Sanilac to browse some shops, and eat at a local restaurant (which was out of cheese for their famous pizza). We went and watched July 4th fireworks at night in a field, and got bit by plenty of Michigan mosquitos.
Detroit & Ann Arbor
We went to Detroit another day, in order to take a tour of Comerica Park, where the Tigers play their home games. My brother Don had never taken a tour of a stadium, so he seemed more excited than I was. Still, it was an interesting park, with lots of unique features. The most interesting portion of the tour was going through the visitor’s clubhouse and dugout. One question I’ve always had was finally answered: there’s a restroom directly behind the dugout for players to use during the game.
After touring the stadium (which is NOT air-conditioned at all), we toured downtown Detroit on the People Mover (an above-ground subway). Detroit boasts a lot of amazing architecture, and some beautiful views, but unfortunately, the city is no longer in its heyday, which shows. Many of the buildings are decrepit, covered in graffiti, and some literally falling apart. Many of the buildings are vacant, or only half-occupied. Because of the flailing economy, Detroit has significant challenges ahead, but could easily become a vigorous city once again, with an influx of jobs and money.
After Detroit, we went to Ann Arbor, which I thought was the prettiest city we saw while in Michigan. Gorgeous homes, and a hilly tree-filled landscape lent an air of extravagance to the town. We ate at the Maize and Blue Deli (another Man vs. Food featured restaurant), which was amazingly good–though not cheap. I had hoped to eat at Blimpy Burger while in Ann Arbor, but didn’t get a chance to stop by there.
We did stop at Michigan Stadium, the largest football stadium in the U.S., which seats over 109,000 people. The stadium was closed for the season, so we could only look in from the outside, but even that was impressive. It would be fun to go back some time and watch a game there.
Another day Jenny and I went to Frankenmuth, which is a tourist town, styled in Bavarian theme, where we visited Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, which claims to be the world’s biggest Christmas store. It was an enormous place, with thousands of ornaments, but in the end, we bought very little.
We browsed the shops, finding nothing that interested us, until we found the Cheese Haus and Sausage Haus, where we picked up a few local meat and cheese items. Local cuisine is always something worth sampling, and this was quite good.
After Frankenmuth, we spent the rest of our visit in Port Huron, relaxing, and not doing much of anything else. When it was finally time to head home, we had another 2 days of driving to look forward to.
In order to make the most of it, we took a different route home, traveling through Indiana, and staying in St. Louis. Our hotel was literally next to the new Busch Stadium, and there was a game going on that night. We thought about attending, but the tickets prices were astronomical, so we acceded.
St. Louis is home to the Gateway Arch, which is more impressive than one might think. Easily visible from miles away, it’s a prominent feature of the city’s skyline.
We visited yet another Man vs. Food restaurant, Pappy’s Barbeque, which was good, but sadly, not up to the standards of the other places we’ve visited. After dinner, we visited the Gateway Arch, though we didn’t travel to the top of the arch; Jenny’s afraid of heights, and it took an hour or more to do the tour, so I avoided leaving her alone for that long. Still, the museum, and gift shops were good, and we enjoyed ourselves (until we went to pay for our parking, but that’s a story for another time.)
Our hotel was amazing, and the bathroom featured a separate tub and standalone shower (with 2 shower-heads), marble tile, and dual-vanities. It was easily the most luxurious hotel I’ve ever stayed in, and was reasonably priced to boot.
The next morning, we grudgingly checked out, loaded our things into the car, and set out for another 15-hour drive to return home.
Though the trip was a long one, and full of activity, we still enjoyed ourselves immensely. It served to reinforce how much both of us enjoy traveling, seeing new sights, and experiencing new things. If only we could do this more often. All things considered, it was a fairly inexpensive vacation for us as well; we probably spent more money on gas than anything else.
So now, we’re home, have our puppies returned to us, and have unpacked. Everyday life returns tomorrow, as we return to the daily grind that is work, but I feel much more relaxed and refreshed, which is the point of vacation, I suppose.
A trip through several states causes an unavoidable situation where one is forced to draw impressions of a state, based on what is seen of it. There are my impressions of the states we traveled through:
Horrible roads. Not much to see here, really. The most interesting we saw while in Arkansas was an airplane buzzing low over crops. I’m not sure if they were crop-dusting or not, but it served as a nice distraction from the miles and miles of flat fields, and tree-lined roads. Did I mention how bad the roads were?
Beautiful countryside, and unique, historical atmosphere. We visited Graceland, but missed out on Beale Street (next time.) The gentle, mountainous terrain served to showcase some beautiful lands, and made for a nice drive.
Another beautiful state with good roads (it’s important when you’re driving cross-country!) The Ozark mountains lend a ruggedness to the state, and an air of beauty to the drive. Probably the prettiest portion of the drive north.
Good roads, lots of farmland, and beautiful Cincinnati. I never realized that Cincinnati was both very hilly, and barely inside Ohio; it practically straddles the border between Ohio and Kentucky.
The state of my birth, and my home for a few years before my parents had the good sense to move us to Texas. I was born in Flint, which has seen much better days. The roads here weren’t great, but they weren’t as bad as Arkansas. Still, with all the coastline, this is one of the most beautiful states I’ve visited, much less lived in. The weather was also absolutely beautiful while we were there, which added to our enjoyment.
More farmland. Good roads, but not much else to say about the state. It’s really very flat. Indianapolis looked like a good-sized city, as we passed by it though.
Another flat state, full of farms. Decent roads, a few hills, but nothing much else to distinguish it. Of course, Illinois is the home of Chicago, but we weren’t able to visit the Windy City on our trip.
More good roads, and a pretty country-side, especially just south of St. Louis. It grew flat and was mostly farmland toward the south of the state, but was a pleasant visit. Again, learned that a major city (St. Louis) was right on the state border, straddling the river. St. Louis was a very pretty city, with some very nice architecture. Still, we enjoyed Memphis more for the historical downtown flavor.