Some immutable facts: summer vacation is coming; gas prices are higher than an elephant’s eye and the kids are already planning on how they’re going to express their impending boredom. To help ease that boredom in my household this summer, the kids, the wife and I will be hitting the roads to discover fun, inexpensive and memorable places in Michigan. Maybe 25 years ago this trip would have meant that some buddies and I would have popped a Steppenwolf audio cassette into the Plymouth Fury and let the fates pull us in unimaginable directions. Now though, spontaneity has given way to clean restrooms (at predictable intervals), clean motel rooms and sites that will be of equal interest to a college-bound daughter, three younger brothers and two beleaguered parents. Hey, good thing that we have books. And speaking of books, some of my very favorite books for this summer’s travels are: Scenic Driving Michigan; Michigan Back Roads (volumes 1 and 2); Historic Michigan Travel Guide; Michigan’s Best Campgrounds; Grandparents: Michigan Style; and The DeLorme Michigan Atlas and Gazetteer. Okay, so now which one should you get? Well, one thing that my kids have taught me while vacationing is to never answer a question: it will ALWAYS come back to haunt you (“how long until…”). So let’s try this: I’ll offer scenarios, and you decide which one(s) fit(s) your needs! My kids are geeks (for the record, my kids are geeks) and want to actually learn things. Check out the just rereleased 5th edition of Historic Michigan Travel Guide ($6.95). Published by the Historical Society of Michigan, this nifty guide will help you to win games of Michigan Jeopardy while taking you to more than 300 fun spots all across our stately state. Been there and done that, I need off-the-beaten path ideas. Ron Rademacher’s Michigan Back Roads (volume 1 and volume 2 — $9.95 each) will help you and your loved ones find glowing tombstones, magnetic healing springs, lotsa’ food festivals, hidden waterfalls and apparently — Brigadoon! My parents are still in town and they still think that spending time with my darling kids is a good thing. Some people just have all the luck. Okay, foster this holy relationship by giving grammy and grampy a copy of, Grandparents: Michigan Style ($14.95). The book contains about 50 day trip ideas (and a few, such as an excursion to Isle Royale National Park, which should really take more than a day). Chock-full of pictures, wisdom and age-appropriate suggestions, it’s just plain cool. The kids are with grandma and grandpa, let’s run before they find that we’re missing. Scenic Driving Michigan ($14.95), by Kathy-jo and Ed Wargin offers 25 thoughtful and varied tours and some pretty photos. With equal respect to the lower (12 tours) and upper (13 tours) peninsulas, you and your significant other (or me and MY significant other) have many options. We love sand in our underwear, not bathing suits and communing with nature. Michigan’s Best Campgrounds: A Guide to the Best 150 Public Campgrounds in the Great Lakes State ($17.95) by Jim DuFresne was just updated and rereleased in April, and is an invaluable guide for those seeking rustic, modern or Precambrian (okay, that last one I made up) campsites. My sister-in-law swears by it (she and her family are far hardier than I) and has loved her dog-eared and highlighted copy to near-death. Each of the campground entries has campground cost, size, phone number, map, photo and thoughtful description. Ah heck, we’re clever enough, just hand me some mosquito repellant, a poncho and a map. Okay, and for the map, might I suggest DeLorme’s Michigan Atlas & Gazetteer ($19.95)? In this handy little (actually, it’s oversized) atlas and gazetteer, you get more than 100 pages of boat ramps, campgrounds, back roads, recreation sites and places to explore. Never before has it been so easy to end up where someone tells you to go (for the record, Hell, Michigan is on page 100). The map makes it easier than ever to get there from Lansing! My kids are more interested in other books; books that you haven’t listed yet. Well aren’t they sweet, offering a perfect segue for me to mention:
- Gentle Hikes of Upper Michigan ($14.95) by Tornabene, Vogelsong and Morgan. I like that the first word in the title is “gentle.” I like even more that their hikes — all less than three miles — are indeed gentle (and scenic).
- Best Hikes with Children: Michigan ($14.95) by Jim DuFresne. Eighty suggested trails from the Planet Walk on the Lansing River Trail to Black River Falls in the Ottawa National Forrest.
- Trail Atlas of Michigan — 3rd Edition ($34.95) by Dennis Hansen. More than 680 trail systems for hiking, biking, cross country skiing (this is Michigan) and in-line skating.
Liberal, Jewish and vegan. Scott has six kitties, a dog, four kids and a wife who saves peoples’ lives. He operates EVERYbody Reads bookstore, 2019 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing.