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USA Radio
March 11, 2016

Our Great Lakes Road Trip

Home to the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth, the Great Lakes region of the Midwestern United States spreads across major cities and deep wilderness. This beautiful area is also home to a patchwork of people and cultures. The region is rich with USA history ¬– from auto manufacturing, fisheries and agriculture, to Rock ‘n’ Roll and high-speed motorsports – that would serve as the backdrop for our adventures.

Our trip began with a bang and some beers on the western shore of the mighty Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The headquarters of Harley-Davidson roars with excitement as our first stop, and features an immense collection that showcases the evolution of the “iron horse” throughout the company’s history along with a multitude of artwork. All coated in enough adrenaline and octane to fuel our entire trip and more. Our thirst got the best of us and we headed on over to the Miller Coors Brewery for a little taste of the “High Life” and a bit of hops and history. A delicious lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market and stroll through the Historic Third Ward for some photos wrapped up an incredible first day. The next morning after a quick breakfast at the Wolf Peach and a gorgeous view of the city, we stopped by the Alamo Rent A Car to pick up our shiny Jeep Grand Cherokee fit our the adventures to come and set out to the famed Windy City, Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago lies on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan and commands a huge presence in the Midwestern U.S. — home to six professional sports teams, the Chicago deep-dish pizza (and deep-freeze winters), and a multitude of cultures and cuisines that require a few days to properly experience. We started at the French Market, and with croissants and coffee in hand, we set off to explore the city by water on a captivating architectural boat tour down the Chicago River. The afternoon was all about food and views. We visited an amazing Hot Pot soup joint (where you cook your own meat and vegetables in a pot of seasoned broth) in Chinatown before we elevated ourselves to the 108th floor of Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, for some epic perspectives on the lake and city below. We continued a bit of the French theme at Le Colonial French Vietnamese restaurant for some truly amazing (and one of a kind) dishes, like Banh Cuon, a steamed Vietnamese ravioli. The food was full of flavor and story.

The next day we woke early for a street breakfast of steak and eggs and a ride to the Museum of Science and Industry to experience the wonders of the many impressive exhibits, from earth sciences to robotics and aerospace. With all our exploration, we worked up quite an appetite so we headed back downtown where we were hosted by Choose Chicago at The Gage, a tasty gastropub with all kinds of pub-inspired delights. After lunch, we took a short walk across the street to the famed Millennium Park, where we had a blast exploring the reflecting pool, the “Bean,” and the pathways around the impressive city park that defines Chicago’s lakeside waterfront. From there, it’s just a quick stroll to the carnival-esque Navy Pier, where we hopped on the Ferris wheel and took in the views – strawberry lemonades in hand to quench our thirst. We wrapped up another amazing day with a must-have deep dish-style pizza at Lou Malnati’s, where we toasted our Chinese guest Lao Song with a traditional Mandarin version of “bottoms up,” said with enthusiasm, “gam bay!”

We woke up early that morning to see the Michael Jackson’s family home, one of our favorite American pop stars, before heading toward the southern tip of Lake Michigan; we were on our way to enjoy the great outdoors in delightful Grand Haven, Michigan.

Grand Haven is a quiet and extraordinary town on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Officially known also as Coast Guard Town USA, Grand Haven buzzes with that all-American ambiance that resonates so strongly in the Midwest. An amazing dinner with the folks of Visit Grand Haven on the shore of the canal led right into one of the most stunning sunsets we’d witnessed, seen from the Grand Haven State Park Beach and Pier. Captivated by the color and beauty of the changing sky, we reflected on the beauty and vastness of the Great Lakes and hopped back in the car for a quick ride to one of the most spectacular Musical Fountain shows in the country, seen live and direct from the base of the structure. The fountain is one of the biggest of its kind and performs nightly, providing a fun and magical experience to end the evening.

The next day began with an excursion to Rosie Mound State Park to explore the dunes and shores that largely define the wilderness experience of Michigan. After emptying the sand from our shoes we headed east toward Grand Rapids, Michigan. There we had a wonderful American-style lunch at Founder’s Brewery and took a little time to explore the town before hitting the road again toward Detroit. After checking into the Ferry Street Hotel in historic Midtown, we stopped for dinner at the Pegasus in Greektown. To end another jam-packed day of traveling we walked around the waterfront to enjoy the sunset and visited the only place in the U.S. that looks south into Canada (Windsor, Ontario) just across the Detroit River. The next morning we headed out to indulge in musical history at the Motown Records headquarters where legends like Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson and the Supremes all recorded smash hit records. The history in each room gave us goosebumps. We refueled with a classic Coney Island hot dog (topped with amazing meat sauce) at one of two rivaling restaurants, located directly next to one another. After lunch we checked out the Art Deco-influenced Guardian building and then made our way to the Henry Ford Museum. Here we got a glimpse into the deep automotive history that has had such a lasting impact on the “Motor City.”

We hit the road for Cleveland, Ohio next, and arrived in town just in time for a spectacular sunset and a world-class dinner at Lola’s on 4th Street downtown. Rib-eye steaks, lobster tails, and fine whiskey were the theme of the night, and put us to bed with full and happy bellies. With a bright and sunny Cleveland morning welcoming us, we drove to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and saw some incredibly special memorabilia like Elvis’ motorcycle, Beyoncé’s stage outfits and Bob Marley’s handwritten lyrics. Our next stop was Columbus, Ohio for a quick lunch of gourmet burgers and craft beers at Wolf’s Ridge Brewery before hitting the road again to Indianapolis, Indiana.

Indianapolis is the home of the Indy 500 and the Motor Speedway that defines the ever-popular sport of auto racing in the Midwest. We soaked up history and lore by the eye and earful at the museum, before hitting the track ourselves for a ride-along experience like no other – nearly 275 km for three laps of octane-induced adrenaline in an authentic NASCAR stock car. Next up was a citywide bicycle tour on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail that winds through the monuments and neighborhoods, past museums and under bridges next to the Canal. After the bike tour and a hearty lunch, our crew embarked on one of the only authentic Venetian-style Gondolas in the country, complete with a trained gondolier who belted sweet Italian classics as we drifted down the canal, wine in one hand and camera in the other. Our last meal of the journey was at the famed St. Elmo Steak House downtown, where we were treated to an unprecedented buffet of their famous shrimp cocktail, prawns and a fantastic pairing of red wines. Indianapolis had been incredibly good to us, and we really felt the love of the Midwest as the end of our Great Lakes trip came to a close.

Stay tuned for more adventures as we Discover America!

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