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Michigan Travel Tips

First thing we noticed when driving into Michigan was the number of people fishing. Every body of water we passed, no matter how big or small, had pole-toting people fishing from its shores, from a dock, or from a small boat. But what can you expect from the land of 11,037 inland lakes and more miles of fresh water shoreline than any other state? That's our first impression, but our lasting impression is the friendliness of Michigan people. They say "Good Morning" like they really mean it.

MICHIGAN TRAVEL BUREAU (800) 543-2937

STATE CAPITOL, Lansing (517) 373-2353
Open Mon-Fri 8-5, Guided Tours 9-4

Lot's of Victorian charm in this newly restored Capitol . . .a colorful three-story rotunda, glass-paneled floors and ceilings, corridors of woodgraining and marble wainscot, black and white check floors made of Vermont marble, and the grandaddy of them all . . . a 114-year old grandfather clock that's still ticking the correct time.

MARSHALL

With more than 867 National Historic Landmarks in town, Marshall is an architectural playground. A series of events occurred in the 1800's to make this town a showcase of so many interesting preservation sites. First, from 1837 to 1847 Marshall was expected to become the site of the new state capital. News of this imminent honor attracted many distinguished and talented people to build homes and businesses here. Next, the railroad came to town in 1844 and Marshall became the switching center for Detroit-Chicago run. But the second half of the century brought a reversal of fortune. Lansing was chosen over Marshall as the state capital and a few years later the railroad shops moved out of town. For the next 50 years Marshall slumbered like Sleeping Beauty, leaving all it's beautiful buildings untouched. Until 1925 when Prince Charming, in the form of Mayor Harold Brookes, awakened the town to its historical treasures. Brookes launched a major restoration and preservation effort that continues to this day. The entire town seems to value its past. Why, even the dentists' offices are housed in beautiful old buildings downtown with displays of antique dental equipment in their storefront windows. It's amazing how each business, from drugstore to donut shop, honors its relics.

The Governor's Mansion, Marshall (800) 877-5163
Open Sundays 1-5 p.m. May 1 to September 30

In 1839 Marshall resident James Wright Gordon (who later became Governor), was so convinced that Marshall would be Michigan's new state capital that he and his brother built the Governor's Mansion on "Capitol Hill" to house the expectant state executive. Tour this simple one and a half story building with Greek Revival influence and see what was considered to be befitting a Governor back in 1839.

The Honolulu House, Marshall (800) 877-5163
Open Sundays 1-5 p.m. May 1 to September 30

In 1857 Abner Pratt, Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, was appointed US Consul to the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands. When he returned to Marshall in 1860, he had this house built to resemble the Honolulu Executive Mansion he had lived in during his short term there. The house is a blend of Victorian charm and tropical flavor, including 15 ft. ceilings, 10 ft. doors, a circular freestanding staircase, and murals depicting scenes of island life.

Tip: The town holds its Historic Home Tours in September where you can see these treasures and more, including some private homes.

WINDMILL ISLAND, Holland (616) 353-1030

When we and got off the highway and crossed the bridge to Windmill Island, we felt we had finally arrived in the promised Netherlands atmosphere that this town is known for. Although this is a recreated Dutch village designed for tourists and not an actual town in which people live and work, it is still fun to walk over the drawbridge and tour the authentic windmill, direct from Holland. The shops are replicas of what might be found in a traditional Dutch village.

Tip: Tiptoe through the tulips during the town's Tulip Festival in May. We're told that the bulbs light up the town.

DEARBORN

Your choice of museums await you in Dearborn, and all of them are only blocks from each other. For example, if you want to walk through 350 years of American history, visit Greenfield Village. Right next door is the Henry Ford Museum which documents 300 years of technological changes in industry, communications, agriculture, and transportation. And if you want to learn about the automotive industry, go to the Automotive Hall of Fame. But if you want to know about Ford himself, visit the Henry Ford Estate described below.

Henry Ford Estate, Dearborn (313) 593-5590

We know about Henry Ford 's autos, now we want to see the house that Hank built. What a delightful surprise to find a homey and inviting place. The house itself is very welcoming and not intimidating at all; however, the attached garage, powerhouse, bowling alley, underground tunnel and underground boat launch, sharply remind us of the rich, powerful and ingenious man who lived here. But oh, what an interesting guy! His gardens reflect this industrialist's love of nature. His library, containing books on poetry, reincarnation (the guide tells us he was a believer) and vegetarianism (he was a disciple of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg [see Cereal City below]) show the expanse of this man's curiosity. Driving home in our Ford pickup truck we felt we got to know the man who brought this amazing independence and freedom to the masses.

Tip: The house has a great luncheon restaurant in the room where the indoor swimming pool used to be. It serves a light fare of unique soups and entrees in a delightful atmosphere of palms and skylights.

Check it out . . . Ford built himself a small treehouse on the grounds that has also been restored. You can actually climb up and see the vistas he might have seen when he wished to escape from the perils of power. The marker says Ford enjoyed his time in the treehouse more than the adjacent mansion.

BATTLE CREEK

Battle Creek, a.k.a. Cereal City, is where corn flaked cereal was invented. It seems that back in the late 1800s, Battle Creek was a hotbed of health nuts. Here, the renowned health-food guru of the time, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, his wife, and his brother, William, accidentally discovered corn flakes in the kitchen of the health resort where they worked. William Kellogg wanted to mass-market the product but Dr. John Kellogg wanted it only for his clients. The brothers fought a lifetime battle over this. Of course, William Kellogg won out and the rest is breakfast table history.

Tip: Free breakfast! In June every year the town snaps, crackles and pops with excitement as local merchants host "The Longest Breakfast Table in the World" on Main Street in downtown Battle Creek.

Kellogg's Cereal City U.S.A., Battle Creek (616) 962-6320
Open daily. Call for specific times.

Curious about the health food craze of the late 1880's? Does the battle between the Kellogg brothers and C.W Post intrigue you? Interested in the history of cereal ads and TV commercials? Want to know how corn, rice and wheat become flaky breakfast foods? Need a hug from Tony the Tiger? Visit Kellogg's Cereal City and learn all this and more in a carnival-like atmosphere where colors, cacophony and kids rule.

OUR CAMPSITE FOR THE WEEK:

Tri-Lake Trails Campgrounds, Marshall (616) 781-2297

What a beautiful site! Beautiful lakes, meadows, pine groves, and farmland surround the RV park. The place is clean and extremely well tended. The people -- hosts and RVers alike -- are extraordinarily friendly. The rates are low ($15 per night) and the list of activities is long: swimming, fishing, volleyball, basketball, playgrounds, miniature golf (Free), shuffleboard (Free), and boat rentals ($5/day or $1.50/hour) as well as various games and activities held in the big red barn every evening.

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