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Mention MICHIGAN and most people think of cars, heavy industry
and inner-city Detroit. Midwesterners prefer to focus on its
magnificent scenery. The beaches, dunes and cliffs along the
3200-mile shoreline of its two vividly contrasting peninsulas
- bordering four of the five Great Lakes - rival many an oceanfront
The mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula is dominated from its southeastern
corner by the industrial giant of Detroit , surrounded by satellite
cities heavily devoted to the automotive industry. In the west,
the scenic 350-mile Lake Michigan shore drive passes through
likeable little ports before reaching the stunning Sleeping
Bear Dunes and resort towns such as Traverse City in the peninsula's
balmy northwest corner. The desolate, dramatic and thinly popu
lated Upper Peninsula , reaching out from Wisconsin like a claw
to separate lakes Superior and Michigan, is a far cry indeed
from the cosmopolitan south.
In the mid-seventeenth century, French explorers forged a successful
trading relationship with the Chippewa, Ontario and other tribes.
The British , who acquired control after 1763, were far more
brutal. Governor Henry Hamilton, the "Hair Buyer of Detroit,"
advocated taking scalps rather than prisoners. Ever since, Michigan's
economy has developed in waves, the eighteenth-century fur,
timber and copper booms culminating in the state establishing
itself at the forefront of the nation's manufacturing capacity,
thanks to its abundant raw materials, good transportation links,
and the genius of innovators such as Henry Ford . Despite the
slumps of the Seventies and Eighties, car production remains
the major source of Michigan income - and tourism is now a four-season
It's easy to be daunted by Michigan's sheer size : Detroit
is more than seven hundred miles from Ironwood on the Wisconsin
border (a ferry between Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin,
helps to cut driving time). Greyhound buses run regularly throughout
the south, but services elsewhere are less frequent, and those
few buses that serve the remote Upper Peninsula travel through
at night. Amtrak trains between New York and Chicago stop at
Detroit, Dearborn and Ann Arbor; trains into Canada leave from
Windsor, just over the river from Detroit. Michigan's principal
airport , a hub for Northwest Airlines, is just outside Detroit.
Cycling is both feasible and rewarding, particularly with the
abundance of bike paths in and around Traverse City; Michigan
Bicycle Touring (tel 616/463-5885, ) in Kingsley organizes tours
and can help with routes.
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