There are a few scattered corners of the United States that are a complete mystery —unless you or someone you know hails from that vicinity. Michigan was one of those places for us. When we first crossed the state border, the only impression we carried with us was that it was possibly filled with middle-aged white ladies who talked like Bobby’s Mom and looked like the principal’s secretary from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
There is no Bobby’s Mom only Zuul… and a lot of really crazy drivers!
One noticeable difference is that people from Michigan have no respect for insinuated parking lot structures. Across the country, it’s generally accepted that the painted lines in parking lots are a guide that should be followed to maintain some semblance order. In states like Pennsylvania, they even made it illegal to drive diagonally across the lines and lanes in a lot. Michigan… not so much. In Michigan you just take the shortest route possible to get the front of the lot. When you get there, you just go ahead and park wherever and however you damn well please.
Think this observation came from just one or two eye-witness sightings? Nope! This observation came from an entire month of watching crazy people drive this way. All of the cars with Michigan plates did it in every single parking lot we were in. All of them. When we saw someone respecting the lines, they were not from Michigan.
Lighthouses, libraries, and lurking husbands… oh my!
Another note about how my impression of Michigan changed once we got there was that I never even considered how many lighthouses one could find there! It was completely obvious once we got there, but it was just something that I never thought of before. I never really followed that particular niche in photography. Once I got there though, I could see why this was a thing! Needless to say, I started take pictures of every lighthouse we came across—at least, I tried to…
I just started to get some really nice shots, but then Mike put a stop to my budding obsession after to 7th or 8th time I said. “Just one more place and then we can go home.” From his perspective, I could see how this part of the adventure was getting old for him. I was just starting to get a hang of how to photograph them too! Here he is… not amused.
I never did end up putting my camera away… As I was getting dragged away from the coastline, I noticed something else quite refreshing about Michigan: they also have some pretty neat architecture! In other parts of the country, the most interesting architecture is usually dedicated to either churches or museums.
In Michigan, the coolest architecture seems to be devoted to their public libraries. That’s a trend I can get behind. Libraries need more love in this country. In nearly every small town we drove through, the public library had the most interesting facade on the whole strip.
Castle Farms in Charlevoix, Michigan
Speaking of interesting architecture… did you know that Michigan has a castle? Well they do. It looks like it’s ripped straight from the fairy tale stories too. There is everything you could ask for. Castle Farms comes complete with towers, carriages, a life-size chess set, an enchanted forest to stroll through, a moat… it even has the royal ducklings.
Up in the town of Charlevoix, the vice-president of Sears, Roebuck and Company decided to give an opulent salute to—wait for it— his farm equipment.
No, seriously—the whole place was built as a crummy commercial!
That’s where it began. Not long after it was built, it fell into disrepair. A few decade later, someone purchased and restored it. Since then, it’s been the destination for art galleries, rock concerts, weddings, and other private festivities.
Who knew that you had to go to Michigan to cosplay as a fairy-tale princess on your wedding day!
Regardless of its origin story, touring Castle Farms was a great experience. It was a fun day of history and relaxation that also fulfilled one of my childhood dreams of being able to play in a castle. And life-size chess… don’t forget to play an epic game of life-size chess.
On to Yooper Territory… and beyond!
Remember how I was trying to photograph “every lighthouse?” Yep! I got this one too. One of the benefits of being the navigator in the relationship is that YOU get to decide when you cross the big freakin’ bridge, where you get to stay before you do, and what you go see while you are waiting. I was getting abusive of my power, but I totally got that hang of those lighthouses!
For the rest of our journey, we continued to venture north over the Mackinac Bridge. In retrospect, I would have liked to spend a lot more time in the Upper Peninsula—particularly along the coast of Lake Superior. However, for this particular adventure, we started to get pushed by the weather. It was after Labor Day at this point and we still had to make it to far side of South Dakota to change our residency.
At some later date, I’m sure we will return to the Michigan. Then I will be able to continue my quest to photograph every single lighthouse on it’s coastline. <Insert evil laugh here!> At the very least, I’m sure we can easily spend a lovely summer hiding in the forests of the Upper Peninsula.