Great Lakes Road Trip Day 18: canoeing the Au Train River

The Au Train river winds its way lazily from Lake Au Train to Lake Superior. Although the distance as the crow flies is only a couple of miles, the river meanders such a lot that a trip by canoe takes well over four hours, negotiating the shallowest of waters, hairpin turns, and – literally – thousands of logs and fallen tree trunks blocking the route.


But it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.

And to our delight, along with the stunning views of the riverbank, we see all manner of birds and animals – including freshwater terrapins, water voles, and the ubiquitous ducks.




Great Lakes Road Trip Day 15: Michigan’s thumb

It’s time for a change of pace. Up to now we have been driving towards destinations: Wooster, Cleveland, Niagara, Toronto, Detroit. The drives themselves have been a means to an end and the cities we’ve been visiting have been the highpoints. But now, as we head up into rural Michigan, it will be the journeys that we start to relish.

Today’s takes in the “thumb” (so called because if you hold up your left hand it looks like lower Michigan, and hey: we’re driving around the thumb).


This takes us up the shoreline of Lake Huron, which we first glimpsed crossing over from Canada. And on this route, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the lakeside views. This has to be the most picturesque lake yet, not just for the scenery but also for the forested avenues we drive down, the hundreds of lakeside cottages that line the route, the small towns that are straight out of the 1950s, and the dozens of garage sales, yard sales, and driveway sales that make the M25 (yes, really) a thriving marketplace. It’s like Michigan’s car boot bonanza.

We stop off several times, enjoying Pointe aux Barques in particular. Here stands one of Michigan’s many lighthouses (they’re really important: some estimates reckon there are up to 10,000 wrecked ships in the Great Lakes!).

And as luck would have it, a little bit further down the road, we find the Caseville Cheeseburger Festival in full swing. We’d heard about this last night when a delightful lady in Nemo’s bar in Detroit told us about it. Well, you have to partake, don’t you? So we grabbed a $3 burger along with the hundreds of locals who had found their way to the tiny village.


It’s been a great day – and we’ve been kept company by bikers all along the route (perhaps they fancied a cheeseburger).


Towards evening we finally make it to Bay City, our stop for the night, to find a great riverview from our hotel window, and a lovely sunset approaching.


Great Lakes Road Trip Days 1-6

Hey – we’re back! It’s August and we have another three week trip lined up. This time, we’re in the North Eastern United States, and we’ll be visiting seven states overall, along with one province in Canada.

After a hairy trip to the airport in which we nearly missed the plane completely (our suitcase did miss the plane!), we managed to get to Chicago and then drove through Illinois, Indiana and a large part of Ohio. We’re on a bit of a mission for this first day of driving, since we have to reach Wooster, OH, home of the Ohio Light Opera Festival. We’ll be here for almost a week, prior to embarking on a tour of the Great Lakes.

The trip from Chicago to Wooster is well over 350 miles, so it’s a long day of driving; still, we manage to find an hour or so to stop off at our first Great Lake – Lake Michigan, which we catch sight of from Indiana Dunes National Park, in Chesterton, IN. This is when we realise just how great these Great Lakes really are: from this sandy beach, the lake stretches away into the distance, looking far more like a sea than a lake.


We’ll be seeing lots of sights like this along our way, but first: it’s time to get to Ohio!

The OLO is in its 40th year, and as part of this year’s symposium, Dominic’s giving a couple of talks about Rodgers & Hart and Leonard Bernstein. Alongside the symposium, there is a full schedule of performances: seven shows in the beautiful Freedlander Theatre, and an additional handful of concerts in the Scheide Music Center. What a great week! For us the highlights were two fantastic productions of Iolanthe by Gilbert and Sullivan, and Candide by Leonard Bernstein. A concert performance of Offenbach’s rarely performed Les Trois Baisers du diable (The Three Kisses of the Devil) was exciting to see, and The Pajama Game in the main house was also really enjoyable. Some of the performances were excellent, and the overall quality of the OLO company – especially in terms of their vocal ability – is tremendous.


Wooster is a university town in the middle of deepest Ohio. Apart from the Festival audiences, it’s been rather deserted since most of the students have not been around. But driving in to the town we caught a real glimpse of rural American life – lots of sweetcorn in the fields, lots of iconic American barns by the roadside, and every so often, an Amish buggy.


As it happens, Light Opera is not entirely Karen’s cup of tea, so from time to time she dipped out of the events of the symposium to explore the local area. Top of the list of the priorities (according to everybody we asked) was a trip to Lehman’s, the local hardware store (20 miles away). Dominic was delighted with his Olive Spoon and Bottle Opener; that’s him sated for the rest of the trip.

It’s been a fun week, and we have met lots of fabulous new friends – thanks to everyone for their great hospitality and for making us feel so welcome!