January 6, 2013

The Beautiful Things of Michigan with Fiona McGier

The state of Michigan has been in the news a lot recently-most of the coverage is negative.  All you hear about is the fact that the state is in a financial mess, the job picture is only slowly improving and the two murder capitals of the United States are Flint and Detroit. 

Since some of my husband's cousins live near Detroit, as does one of our sons, I feel the need to defend a state with parks as beautiful as any I've ever seen.  Sure the big cities are over-crowded and can be violent, but that's the same no matter which state you're in. There are many quaint towns surrounding beautiful beaches. Those on Lake Michigan start with the Warren Dunes and head up the coastline.  The beaches on Lake Superior up in the U.P. are unspoiled and gorgeous, with The Porcupine Mountains a great vacation destination. And there are great restaurants everywhere to fit every taste and budget. You just have to know where to find them.

My second son attended Kettering University in Flint, which used to be called G.M. Institute and you used to have to know someone who worked for G.M. to get in.  Now it's an engineering/math/business college open to anyone with the drive to excel.  Flint is re-positioning as a college town along with other colleges there, including a nursing branch of the University of Michigan. 

When we drove up to watch Colin graduate he insisted we go with him to his favorite place to eat, just a short drive up north on highway I-75.  We got off on exit 136 for Birch Run, MI.  It's the exit for Frankenmuth. Tony's I-75 Restaurant looks like a truck stop, but inside it's a young man's delight.  All three of my sons were in pig heaven...literally, because the biggest claim to fame is on the backs of the tee-shirts of the servers: "Got Bacon?"

Colin and his one brother ordered omelets which are made with 12 eggs.  The side of bacon is a full pound served with 2 huge slabs of toast.  My sons consumed it all, challenging each other until they were both done cleaning their plates and slowly settling into a bacon coma.  I ordered eggs and bacon and got 4 eggs with my pound of bacon.  I love bacon a lot...just ask my kids why they're embarrassed to take me to breakfast buffets!  I couldn't finish.  My other son ordered a large-sized burrito and it filled a dinner plate... didn't stop him from eating every bite.  My husband ordered a barbecue sandwich and had trouble finishing it, never mind the pile of fries he got with it.  My daughter only ate half of her wrap and some of her fries and took the rest in a doggie bag topped off with my left-over bacon.  Colin's girlfriend knew better than us what to order and still she couldn't finish her food.

When I questioned him as to how he found out about Tony's, my son said, "Anyone local to the northern thumb area would definitely know Tony's."  Now that he lives and works near Plymouth we'll enjoy heading out there to visit. He's told us that there are many nearby state parks for camping.  I'm sure that someday my sons will get a hankering for too much bacon and we'll head up to Tony's again.  I'll wear looser clothing next time.

Much of the action in my book, The Reluctant Bride, takes place in the Chicagoland area.  The two main characters met as teenagers when both ditched school for a day spent sunning and swimming at the Warren Dunes State Park.  Once they are dating, Pamela often spends time at a cabin owned by Eric's family, on a Lake Michigan beach.  When she gets cold feet and runs away from her groom, she hides at the one place her family doesn't know about: Eric's cabin in Michigan. And when he sees her picture on the news along with her mother and her groom asking her to come home, he guesses where she might have run away to, and he hops on his Harley.

The Reluctant Bride, partially set in the Warren Dunes area of southwestern Michigan.  Buy link:
Find out about my work here: www.fionamcgier.com  The first page is my blog and please take time to check the other pages with excerpts and links for each of my books. Novels are also available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  

And now for a Michigan contest: Leave a comment here about your favorite destination in Michigan. I'll choose a winner on January 20.  The winner gets an eBook of The Reluctant Bride. 

(pictures provided by author-michigan tourism-restraunts.com)


  1. I was born in Michigan but as part of the military my family did not stay long. I have returned to Michigan as my husband's family is there in Ovid and Alma. I love Mackinac Island. And Petoskey looking for Petoskey stones.
    My birthday is January 20.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  2. I love the upper peninsula; it is it's own world. I hope that Detroit can recover. Mostly, I like the fact that the trees are the "right height."

  3. I wouldn't mind visiting the upper peninsula--Jim Harrison country. You make some good arguments for the rest of the state, too.

  4. Hey Fiona, glad to hear you enjoy Michigna. I spent the first 47 years of my life in SW Michigan, always less than a 30 minute drive from Warren Dunes. I've spent many happy hours on the beaches of Lake Michigan. My favorite spot in Michigan is the church camp I attended from the time I was 12. It's located in Grayling Michigan & is a nature lovers paradise. The last 3 weeks of the summer, they offer their camp to families & I've taken my nieces & nephews more than once to enjoy an all inclusive vacation filled with all the activities I enjoyed as a kid. Space for the family camps is limited, so they usually sell out within the first day or so, but if you want a carefree vacation for your whole family, I can't recommend it enough. www.campausable.org

    drainbamaged.gyzmo at gmail.com

  5. Favorite destination in MI is a tough choice, but I'll lead with Traverse City as the desire to own a summer home there has been the longest on my bucket list. :) Thanks for the heads up on Tony's, Fi!

  6. I've never been to Michigan, but would love to visit.


  7. Absolutely the Traverse City area! Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes are an awesome climb and the Leelanau Peninsula for wine tasting and beauty! My daughter wants to live there some day.

  8. Barb HeinrichJanuary 06, 2013

    I would love to visit the Upper Pen some day but my favorite spot it a little town called Marshall. My aunt lived there for many years and many of my cousins. The town reminds me alot of Riverside. Many old historic homes and many firendly people.

  9. Love this post. I have never been to Michigan, but I love to travel, and you've certainly made your state appealing. Wonderful story about Tony's. Very 'local flavorish'

  10. Thanks for all of the comments! Michigan is indeed a jewel of a state, with natural settings to please everyone, quaint towns with cool shops, and as I pointed out, many choices for dining!

    Since I love swimming in the great lakes, Michigan beaches are a favorite destination. Especially the ones up in the UP, where you can swim in the always icy-cold Lake Superior. Must be because my Dad was a Scotsman. He used to say swimming in the North Sea was the coldest water he'd ever felt...and totally enjoyable. That's how I feel about Superior!

  11. Oh, this is too easy. I was born and raised in Flint, MI only moving to NC in 1999. My favorite place to visit? It's hard to narrow it down, in fact I can't. I love Mackinac Island, Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountains, Whitefish Point, and any town in the Keweenaw Peninsula.

    Here's more history about Tony's Restaurant. They have been in Birch Run for decades and were the main trucker's eating place in competition with another truck stop on the opposite side of I-75. For a few years, Tony's Restaurant had a location in Flint on Fenton Road, just north of Atherton Road. It was there for about 10-12 years then, like a lot of other Flint businesses, it closes for lack of business. They served the same huge portions as their location in Birch Run. It is a standing joke about the pound of bacon with every meal ordered and anyone traveling I-75 between Flint and the Straits, knows about Tony's. You haven't lived until you eaten at least one meal at Tony's...its an experience that shouldn't be missed.

  12. My ex-father-in-law has a cottage up along Lake Bellaire, near Traverse City. In fact, I set an unpublished (so far) romantic comedy in that beautiful area -- most relaxing place ever. Further up, the entire U.P. is absolutely fantastic.

  13. Sorry I'm late, back problem. My only foray into MI was to Mackinac Island for a book presentation. Beautiful place and the drive up from the airport in Detroit was lovely. Otherwise, I'll take your word for it. Hope you book is a huge success and thanks for the blog.

  14. And the winner is: Karen H in NC! I'll contact Annette for your email so I can get you your eBook of "The Reluctant Bride". Thanks for your comment...I especially enjoyed it since my son went to college in Flint...but still he managed to find out about Tonys!

  15. Hi Fiona,

    Thank you so very much. Love it when my name comes out of the cyber hat! I'm looking forward to reading your book.
    Thanks again.


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