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All Things Michigan

Michigan travels, events, photos, and more

More of the best from our Michigan vacation

Andrew Norton

Note: This is Part Two of a series - Part One. So, when I left off last week my wife and I had just "caffeined up" at Java Joe's in St. Ignace. I enjoyed my caramel apple latte while we drove down one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in Michigan, nay I say, in the country. Sure California has the Pacific Coast Highway, but driving down U.S. 2 along the northern shore of Lake Michigan is nearly intoxicating to eyes that have seen more than their fair share of bumper-to-bumper traffic and the same old boring franchise-filled strip malls.

You have the white-capped waves of Lake Michigan crashing along the sugar-sanded shoreline on one side and the fresh scent of pines intermingled with creeks, swamps, and hardwood forests on your left. Interspersed along U.S. 2 are scenes from the past of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Motels and pasty shops that sprung up with the opening of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957 that had high hopes of summer tourists keeping them in business dot this stretch of highway. Some of the shops and motels are still open and look clean and tidy if not terribly busy. A number are either shut down with boarded up windows and 'for sale' signs older than me or are in such a sad state of disrepair that would not entice the weariest of travelers.

I was sad that the Cut River Bridge was under construction. Not because of the detour, but you get such a beautiful view from the span. I've enjoyed a nice picnic lunch there many a time.

Our destination for a few nights were the Hog Island Cottages just east of Naubinway. If you're looking for indoor pools, flat screen televisions with 50+ channels, and complementary continental breakfasts then you've come to the wrong place. If you are looking for a wonderful stay at a simple and clean cottage that is a throwback to the heyday of travel then you have found nirvana. The white clapboard cottages were originally moved to this location around 1942.

Clean and cozy

The owners, Tom and Sandy Jacobs, are super wonderful people. Sandy does a great job keeping the cottages clean (and readily supplied with the numerous fresh towels the kids went through) and Tom keeps the cottages in good shape. They both take turns running the old general store - that store in itself is reason enough to stop. I meant to get a picture of the exterior and interior and for some reason did not. You walk in and there are glass display cases filled with smoked whitefish, jerky, and beer. A cooler to the left holds bottles of soda pop and a freezer next to it contains pasties and ice cream.

We went in there everyday to buy something or other. It was always fun to walk in and chat with Tom or Sandy while the kids picked out a treat or two. The last night we were there we wanted to try some of their pasties and Tom was kind enough to cook it for us! He said he had it down to a science and believe me, he did. Those were the best pasties I have ever had. Sure some of it is how they were made, but the way Tom cooked them just right was a big part too.

I tell you what, the only other time I have been treated like this was when we have stayed at a bed and breakfast. Tom and Sandy greet you from the get go and treat you like old friends the whole time you're there. I needed to get in touch with some relatives in the U.P. and my cell wasn't getting a signal. I asked Sandy if I could pay her for use of her phone and she said she had free long distance and it wouldn't be a problem to make a call. How sweet is that?

We had a great time hanging out at the beach that was just a short walk from the cottages. I don't think a day went by that our oldest didn't go and swim. The time went by too fast and we were sad to say goodbye to Tom, Sandy, and our Hog Island Cottage.

I'll try and wrap this series up tomorrow by covering the places we visited during our stay in the U.P.