Even if you aren't from Michigan, you've probably heard all the different jokes about the weather Michiganders endure. From blizzards starting in October to blizzards continuing in April... we don't have much of a summer, but when it arrives, it is the most beautiful, entertaining, exciting time of the year. Now my list might be a bit biased, but I'm going to let you in on a few secrets why summertime in Northern Michigan is the best.
1. You actually enjoy the drive up.
Mackinaw Bridge at Night
Growing up in southern Michigan, the top half of the state seemed almost magical. Every memory I've had of northern Michigan always felt warm. I can almost smell the sunscreen and bug spray; I can almost hear the Kid Rock and Willie Nelson beating through the speakers across the lake; but most importantly, I can feel the warmth from that summer sun and the love from being surrounded by friends and family.
When I was young and my parents told me we were going "Up North", as us Michiganders call it, that initial excitement would start to sink in. There was nothing better than knowing you were going to your grandparents house, and the drive it took to get there was one of the best parts.
First, we would pack everything into the car, double-checking for sunscreen and toothbrushes, and before finally hitting the road, we would stop at the local grocery store for ice for the cooler and the occasional Faygo for my brother and me. (No one enjoys a Michigan product like a Michigander). After twisting the cap off of that crisp, glass bottle, we hit the back roads for a couple hours worth of scenery and small town history.
Growing up, I wondered if the drive Up North would lose its meaning and sense of excitement, but it definitely did not. Growing up meant doing that same beautiful drive with some of my best friends. There is almost no other way I would want to spend a day in the summer other than driving through back roads for hours listening to whatever our favorite songs are at the time with friends I've grown up with over the years. Even getting lost is fun.
No matter how many times you do the drive, if you're from Michigan, you know detours are a definite thing in the summer due to construction. Whether it be expressways or back roads, you usually know a different couple routes when traveling north in the summertime. When you're young, you dream about the day you can drive around and listen to music with your best friends, and there's nowhere better to go than Up North.
2. The music is just... different.
Just Dance Away
Whether it be the type of music you listen to or not, classic rock and bluegrass country music has a completely different feeling in the summer. Growing up, my taste in music has always been different than all of my friends. I like bluegrass, and folk music, and of course classic rock, and I know it's because of my grandparents. My grandma loves bluegrass, and now that I'm older, another reason I love going Up North is because I can hear more of her music, and we get to talk about all the different music we've been into over the years. I'll always remember our conversations about music.
Classic rock sounds different when it's beating through speakers on a pontoon while your body bronzes as you fall asleep. There's something about the tunes that seem inaudible as your family and friends laugh and splash around you that seem comforting and familiar.
Dancing at my grandparents house was almost embarrassing when I was little, but now that I'm older, it wouldn't be a night with the family if there was no dancing involved. It's nice to think that Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" reminds me of my uncles and grandma, and that the Zac Brown Band will always hold a comfort that takes me back to summertime in northern Michigan.
3. There's peace and quiet.
The Shores of Lake Michigan
I love being busy. I love the stress of being busy, and I like having a million things on my mind at once; however, it's nice to be reminded that other things outside of my daily routine matter too. Almost everywhere you go Up North, you'll probably have little to no cellphone service. A few years ago, that would've irritated me completely, but now it's nice knowing that I can go a few days without being bothered or worried about the stress that's waiting for me back home. I like that you have to drive "into town" to have reception, or that you still have to use a landline to call home.
The sleep you get Up North is the best sleep you'll ever get in your entire life. You probably won't get a lot of it if you're around my family, but the sleep you do get is amazing. Whether it be from being worn out by the sun and activities like hiking, swimming, boating, cooking, dancing, four-wheeling, etc., or just taking a nap on Grandpa's couch while kids are running all around you, it's the deepest, most comforting sleep in the world.
You get distance in every way. Distance from your daily life. Distance from the people you left at home. Distance from your worries. Distance between neighbor to neighbor. There is so much distance Up North. It's comforting to know you aren't surrounded by strangers all the time, and you can be loud and camp out without having to worry as much. Distance is comforting when it's distance in northern Michigan.
4. It gives you unforgettable memories.
Nightfall Across Lake Michigan
I have so many different memories when I think of going Up North, and they all mean so much to me. It's hard to have a bad memory of summertime in northern Michigan.
I have the memory of traveling to Charlevoix with just my best friend in the car, while we followed my mom, step-dad, and brother. My best friend and I made a "Road Trip" playlist and rocked out and laughed until our stomachs hurt while we drove in awe as we took in the scenery. I watched my mom marry her best friend that weekend, and my best friend became my step-sister.
I have the memories of dancing in the driveway at my grandparents house every night with cousins I'm starting to see less and less as the years go by. Even though we are older and busier now, we still share that part of our lives together.
I have the memories of playing hide-n-seek and capture the flag with cousins that were my best friends. I know we have different best friends now, but our friendship is forever.
I have the memory of being newly licensed, and driving to Traverse City with my step-sister and then boyfriend for spring break in high school. It rained the whole time. We bought matching rain coats and spent our days in shops around the town, while we spent our nights laughing in a hotel room I'll never forget about.
Northern Michigan is part of me.
I don't know where I might end up, what state I might call home someday, but I know that summertime in northern Michigan will always carry that feeling of home, and I'll always return to it. Other than Christmas, summertime is the best time of the year, especially in Michigan, and I'll always be down for a road trip with good music to a destination of peace and quiet with memories I'll cherish forever.