GTPulse: Let’s Go For a Drive

These Northern Michigan drives are sure to soothe and inspire. Whether it's a view of the coast or of some of your favorite small towns, there's always something to look at out the window.

I used to have a theatre director who had the most saintly temperament, while directing Les Mis, no less. She directed us with grace, vigor and thoughtfulness, and never lost her temper despite many of us not being off-script on time, the set lagging in production, and being down a costumer. She never swore, either. A friend of mine starring in the show once asked her when she was dealing with yet another SNAFU, “Don’t you just wanna say scream F at the top of your lungs?” She calmly told him no, she was just going to go on a drive.

I think a lot of us are conditioned to be soothed by a long drive, at least in my family we were. My parents and their parents before them used drives to lull their restless babies and toddlers to sleep. As I got older, all of my mom’s friends lived in rural downriver and we would make the drives to their houses a couple of times a week. I never minded. Watching the metro Detroit suburbs gradually turn into long stretches of fields and highways was relaxing.

In high school, me and my friends would spend our leisure time driving around. Midwest winters leave little else to do, and a heart to heart just felt easier and inevitable after a late-night drive to pick up fast food fries.

My dad introduced us to the art of the road trip playlist. An avid music lover, he’s always on the hunt for a new artist or band that he likes and he would provide the soundtrack for our drives down South to visit his family in Tennessee. With an ever-changing picture through the car window and an overactive daydream muscle, long road trips were never dreaded by me.

Since moving up here, I haven’t had many road trips simply because I haven’t gone back to my hometown much. My comfort in long drives has been fulfilled, however, because there are endless ones to go on in Northern Michigan, and especially close to home in Traverse City. With 2020 making many of our usual outings inaccessible, I’ve still been able to ease my mind with a deep breath and a long drive. If you’re the same, check out some of my favorites around here.


Smokey Hollow, Old Mission Peninsula

The road I always want to go down on the peninsula. For the longest time, anytime I was on the peninsula for work my GPS never took me down this road. But I always noticed it when I rounded the Center Road bend on my way somewhere else. Finally, on an aimless cruise, I was taken down old Smokey Hollow and treated to beautiful coastal views, stretches of tidy vineyards, and a tunnel of trees that arch their arms towards each other. Center Road on OMP is hit or miss on how busy it will be. Smoky Hollow is a bit quieter, with no compromise on views.


M-22 Glen Lake, Glen Arbor

Anywhere you drive on M-22 is going to be beautiful, but my favorite is through Glen Lake. The waters have a constant Caribbean blue, even through cold temperatures, and the Glen Lake Narrows Bridge gives you a view of Sleeping Bear Dunes. It’s breathtaking to see the Dunes shrunken by lake and skyline on one side of the bridge. On the other side is the floating Glen Lake Christmas Tree Boat. Two photo ops for one drive sounds like a cool afternoon to me.


Along Torch Lake, Rapid City to Bellaire

This is a drive for the weekend. I don’t get to see these towns as much as I’d like to, but when I get an itch to see one, I figure why not see them all. This loop will take you around to some of the quaintest spots in the area. Each of them are worth popping into on your drive for a coffee or an excuse to peruse some gift shops for the holiday season. Grab some Harbor Cafe coffee in Elk Rapids, and restock your garlic pepper at the Mill House in Alden. With peeks of water and small-town America flashing through windows of wooded areas, this is a drive that can be turned into a day trip if you’d like.


Central Neighborhood, Traverse City

In a festive mood? Want to stick close to home? Central Neighborhood has beautiful homes made only more beautiful this time of year with Christmas lights. It gets dark pretty early these days and would be a great after-dinner ride for you and a friend, or you and your family. Grab your hot cocoa, your loved ones and go for a slow ride. Take it easy, friends.

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Categories: GTPulse