HISTORICAL INNOVATIONS TO NATURAL WONDERS ALONG THE MICHIGAN’S GREAT LAKES
As we continued our journey along the Great Lakes, we found a lovely place to set up camp along the shore of Lake Erie at Sterling State Park.
We chose to stay at Sterling State Park not only for its lovely location on the lake, but also for its proximity to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.
An American Industrialist, Henry Ford most famously founded the Ford Motor Company, executed the assembly line in new ways, and invented the Model T, the first car mass produced for middle-class Americans.
Despite Henry Ford’s success, he never forgot his rural upbringing and was passionate about collecting artifacts from the pre- and early-industrial revolution. He wanted to collect and preserve relics of the past that represented ordinary Americans’ day-to-day lives. This was the type of history that Ford believed was useful.
“We’re going to start something. I’m going to start up a museum and give people a true picture of the development of the country. That’s the only history that is worth observing, that you can preserve in itself. We’re going to build a museum that’s going to show industrial history, and it won’t be bunk! We’ll show the people what actually existed in years gone by and we’ll show the actual development of American industry from the early days, from the earliest days that we can recollect up to the present day.”1 – Source
After many years of collecting and planning what is now known as The Henry Ford, the museum opened on October 21, 1929. He dedicated the museum to his good friend, Thomas Edison.
The Henry Ford Museum is home to hundreds of exhibits celebrating the American way of life and achievements.
Many of the large as life exhibits take you back to a different era.
As you might expect there are hundreds of cars on display.
Two of the more notable exhibits are the bus that Rosa Parks was riding on her way to work when she refused to give up her seat and the Lincoln Continental that President Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated.
There are more than cars on display though. There is a large collection of airplanes, locomotives, and antique machinery.
There are even a few RVs on display!
The outdoor section of the museum is called Greenfield Village and consists of almost 100 buildings dating from as early as the 17th century to present day. The purpose of the village is to show how Americans lived and worked during America’s early origins.
From train and Model T rides to interacting with costumed interpreters, there is something for everyone.
Our favorite exhibit was the replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory complex from New Jersey.
Henry Ford considered Thomas Edison not only his personal hero, but also a close friend. The two took numerous camping trips together and Ford even bought a house adjacent to Edison in Fort Meyers, Florida.
The buildings and furnishings are laid out exactly like the original buildings in New Jersey. The furnishings are a mixture of original and exact replicas. We were all fascinated!
Well, everyone in our family was fascinated by the Thomas Edison exhibit but Thing 3. He didn’t seem too impressed. Ha ha!
Despite what Thing 3 thinks, there is so much to learn from Edison and it’s easy to see why Henry Ford thought of him as his personal hero. Not only was he a genius, but he was also persistent, curious, and courageous.
Speaking of Americans who changed the world, Greenfield Village is also home to the Wright brothers’ childhood home and one of their bicycle shops. Both which were bought by Ford and moved here from Dayton, Ohio.
As suggested by the Go RVing audience, we stopped at Frankenmuth, nicknamed “Little Bavaria,” to explore.
A few of you said we shouldn’t miss eating one of Frankenmuth’s famous chicken dinners so we headed over to Zehnders.
The town of Frankenmuth was settled in 1845 by Germans. The small group of settlers came with the purpose of evangelizing to the Native Americans in the area. Today it is a colorful small town with tourism and farming driving the local economy.
We enjoyed walking up and down the main street taking in the unique Bavarian style architecture and lovely flowers that flowed out of window boxes on every building!
On the other side of the state along the shores of Lake Michigan lies one of America’s most beautiful National Parks, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. You told us we couldn’t miss it and we didn’t!
Our first stop was the visitor center where we learned about the history and ecology of the park. Sleeping Bear Dunes is home to many species of animals including raccoons, squirrels, porcupine, fox, deer, and bats. Almost all of which can be seen on a daily basis. While at the visitor center we also talked to the ranger to establish a game plan for visiting the park.
Our first to-do was to drive the Pierce Stocking scenic drive loop.
The 7 mile long drive has many points of interests along the way including lovely views of Glen Lake and Lake Michigan.
Our favorite stop was the Lake Michigan Overlook.
We couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day. The sun glistened off the blue waters of Lake Michigan.
There were various short trails around the dunes, each offering unique perspectives of these sandy wonders and Lake Michigan.
A trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore isn’t complete without a stop at the Dune Climb.
People of all ages were climbing up and down the massive dune. The more adventurous were setting off on long hikes across the dunes. If you do that, make sure you bring plenty of water, sunscreen, food, a map, and follow the marked trails. The dunes can make finding your way back difficult.
The Dune Climb is a must stop if you visit Sleeping Bear!
A few miles from the Dune Climb sits Glen Haven Village.
Once a company town, Glen Haven, is a step back into time.
Our last stop before heading to the Upper Peninsula was the town of Traverse City. We set up camp at Traverse City State Park Campground.
Our little “helper” got dirty collecting pinecones and stray wood from around our site. (I’m so glad we have a bathtub in our RV!)
Across the street from the state park is state park beach with stretches of long sand, shady trees and playgrounds.
One evening we ventured into the Front Street District of downtown Traverse City.
Downtown was charming with many small boutiques, local eateries, and a retro theater.
There were plenty of windows to do our favorite kind of shopping.
Of course, you know we found a local ice cream shop. Good thing we walk a lot!
Perhaps our favorite spot in Traverse City was the Old Mission Peninsula, which projects into the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan. One evening we drove through the scenic vineyards and cherry orchards on the peninsula to the Old Mission Lighthouse to watch the sunset.
We lingered until the sun dropped to the horizon.
It was peaceful and beautiful in every sense.
It’s been a wonderful summer so far with lots of adventures and we are expecting more adventure….
That’s right! A new little adventure is baking in the oven. We are so excited for Thing 4, who is due in January, to join our nomadic family! We’ll be heading to Colorado this fall where I will be able to receive regular maternity care while we continue to explore The Centennial state and surrounding areas!
But before we pack up and head west, there is still plenty to see up here in the Great Lakes! Next up on our horizon is the Upper Peninsula. Looking forward to seeing the beauty that awaits as we travel north!
Have you ever climbed a sand dune? Anyone been to the Upper Peninsula? What did you visit there?