- 6,013 website hits between June 21 and July 11
- 4,075 miles
- 853 (M3’s national #FF ranking on July 1)
- 665 followers when the trip ended
- 526 followers when the trip began
- 201 gallons of gas
- 149 Twitpics
- 83 counties
- 62 meals
- 51 Michigan businesses visited
- 26 percent increase in M3 Twitter followers
- 21 local restaurants
- 20+ McDonald’s Sweet Teas
- 11 days
- 6 state parks
- 6 Aha cupcakes
- 5, the number of times we repaired Aha’s crank before giving up
- 4 hotels (one haunted)
- 3 great lakes
- Lots of 2’s
- 1 van
After completing all 11 days of our 83-county road trip, I can say with certainty there are a few things that made the trip a whole lot easier. There are also a few things that without them, I’m sure we would have perished. Thus, I give you the unsung heroes of #MeetMichigan with @m3_group.
Made the trip easier:
- McDonald’s breakfast: a #MeetMichigan staple, this delicious pit stop was an integral part of nearly every morning (even if it was just for a large sweet tea)
- Yelp: while we got some great restaurant recommendations from followers and fans, the Yelp app really helped us find the local hot-spots we craved without fail
- Friendly waves: we made fools of ourselves in the Motion Mobile more times than I care to balk at – we always did so with a friendly wave, and it was great to get them in return
- Google Maps: while I can’t say “I don’t know what people did before the Google Map app,” I can say it made traveling a cinch … when we had service
- 3G: as every member of the #MeetMichigan crew will attest, it was terrible when 3G went out … but we survived to tweet the tales
Made the trip possible:
- Outlet adapter: converting the car outlet into a wall outlet, hands down this was the best $54 investment of the trip
- Good ol’ fashioned map: when service was gone, so was Google Maps. That’s right, we pulled out the paper map … no shame
- Home base: when all else failed, we knew someone back at home base could help: blogs, directions, phone numbers … you name it, they had it covered
- Wikipedia: our “did you know” (DYK) facts were among some of the most shared information from our trip – big thanks to Wikipedia
- The Motion Mobile: our trusty fifth member of Special PRops held out like a champ, even when Google Maps took us down roads that weren’t really roads … what a trooper
When M3’s Vision Engagement Officer Pete Ruffing invites you to lunch, you go.
- He usually pays
- It means something exciting is coming
Such was the case on May 17 when Pete invited Special PRops members Julie Becker and Emily Caswell to his favorite lunch spot, Moriarty’s on Michigan Avenue in Lansing. Pete sat down with Julie and Emily and said “We need to do something big!”
He’d come to the right place.
After bouncing around a few ideas the group knew exactly what had to happen. M3 needed to hit the road. After all, what better way for us to get the word out than to, well, you know … actually get out there? But this wasn’t going to be just any old road trip. Oh no. This road trip would have a special hook – one of Julie and Emily’s favorite subjects: social media.
Nearly two months, 83 counties, hundreds of tweets, dozens of Facebook updates and a few blogs later we’re finally looking back at #MeetMichigan with @m3_group. It’s been a lot of work, sweat, blood … and as Emily can attest a few tears. But all of it, including Julie’s aching bones from sitting in a van for up to 15 hours a day for 11 days, has been worth it.
In a relatively short amount of time, M3’s Special PRops teams has traveled the state (far and wide) to promote positivity and report on the great things happening in business across our state. We’ve interacted with thousands of people around the nation using social media, and in the process proved that there truly is such a thing as free lunch. Note: if you’re the one picking up the tab, the Special PRops team might just have a big idea for you, too. Give us a call, we’d love to chat and/or dine.
M3 thanks you for your continued #MeetMichigan support. Stay tuned for more #MeetMichigan blogging, including “The Unsung Heroes of #MeetMichigan” and “#MeetMichigan by the Numbers.” Also, join us on Tuesday, July 12 for our #MeetMichigan wrap-up in Detroit. For more information on this event, please see our media release.
As the saying goes, hardships come in threes. But did you know that the number two is associated with good luck? According to Wikipedia, “The number 2 … is most often considered a good number in Chinese culture. There is a Chinese saying: ‘good things come in pairs’.”
This research on the number two was conducted on day five of the trip. A strange “pair phenomenon” began on day one when the #MeetMichigan crew spotted not one, but two unrelated mattress mishaps on the highway. How many times have you seen a mattress fall off of someone’s car on the highway? We saw two, roughly 10 miles apart.
The twos kept coming, here is a short list of some of the other strange “twos” we encountered on the trip. (Note: the incidents are not necessarily the strange part, it’s typically how close together each set occurred that weirds us out).
- The first night after we left dinner at Joe’s Gizzard City, Tiffany spotted a black cat. The next night, after we left dinner in Hastings, the team spotted two black cats just blocks from Walldorff Brew Pub
- While on the trip we had two bees and two (large) flies enter the Motion Mobile (four separate occasions – first the bees, then the flies)
- The only potential encounters resulting in road kill both happened to be chipmunks (luckily, they’re small and quick)
- A penny was found on the trail to the bat lookout at Millie Mine (near Ironwood). When we returned to the van, Anna found another penny on her seat (these were the only pennies we found on the trip)
- Julie ran into two Ciesa Design employees while on the trip (one in Grayling, one in Ludington) – both purely coincidental
- The ladies taking photos at every county sign didn’t get much attention, until the Tahquamenon Falls – two stops (back-to-back), one honk at each
- While roadside businesses seem to be popular, the most unique were fur salesmen – of course, we spotted two … only miles apart in the U.P.
- On the last day of the trip, Kelly spotted two baby deer near the Howell Nature Center (no mommy, no daddy, just two Bambies)
When we told people we were taking an 83 county, 11 day road trip … a lot of people said, “good luck.” We appreciate the sentiment, whether sincere or sarcastic. After what’s been an exciting and successful journey, we feel truly lucky to have had such great support – and the proof is in the pairs.
Day 10 of our #MeetMichigan trip brought us into the thumb, which is a great reminder of yet another asset in Michigan that no other state can claim. We have a first digit, how cool is that? In fact, we have an entire hand and then some, but for now let’s focus on the thumb — here are 10 reasons we love finger No. 1.
1. An opposable thumb allows us to write, use tools and increases our survival rate as a dominant species.
2. Emily is from Lapeer, a historic town in the thumb. Without her or her hometown where would we be today?
3. Miles and miles of beautiful shoreline — more than 90 miles of shoreline in Huron County alone (and we traveled almost all of them).
4. Plenty of port towns, like the adorable Lexington, Mich., full of specialty shops and a huge marina.
5. Verizon 3G no matter where you go — small town feel, big town coverage.
6. Without a thumb, hitch-hiking would be difficult (not that we recommend hitch-hiking, but we are all about exploring).
7. Without the thumb we wouldn’t have super-cool community festivals like the Bologna Festival in Yale and the Cheeseburger Festival in Caseville.
8. You can eat fried chicken for lunch at FireSide Inn and then again for dinner at the Bavarian Inn. So much chicken, so many inns — we love it!
9. Thumb Lumber is fun to say.
10. Heather, a life-long Thumb resident, who works at the FireSide Inn, said her favorite thing about living in the thumb is that you can always find someone to lend a helping hand. Seems fitting considering it’s hard to lend a helping hand without the thumb.
After what has been a scenic, beautiful day in Michigan’s favorite digit, the #MeetMichigan crew is happy to report we give this leg of the trip, not one, but two thumbs up!
As the Motion Mobile turned onto 9 Mile from 95th Avenue in Evart, Michigan we realized we weren’t in Ice Mountain country anymore. Truth is, we never were to begin with.
While fairly accurate and reliable, Google maps had taken us far away from our 11:15 a.m. appointment at Ice Mountain Water in Stanwood (35 miles south of our current location … not to mention the direction we’d just come from).
On our speedy, yet safe cruise back down US-131 we spent a great deal of time embracing the following positive aspects:
- We made it eight full days on the road with very little backtracking or mistakes in our route
- We were able to see the beautiful back roads of Evart, including the Spring Hill summer campgrounds
- Julie got to hear “Evacuate the Dancefloor” before noon on the Lady Gaga Pandora radio station
- We ended up arriving at 11:16 a.m. for our 11:15 a.m. appointment – not too bad for going 70 miles out of the way (yes, we would have a been very early had Ice Mountain been located in Evart)
Most importantly, our on-time arrival allowed us to meet several Ice Mountain employees who had gathered with a reporter and photographer from The Pioneer Group to celebrate a huge safety milestone. Today, Ice Mountain celebrated 4 million hours, over seven and half years of zero lost time for injuries – a pretty big deal for a business with 240 employees.
A lot like our wonky route to Ice Mountain, Michigan has had some unexpected detours on the road to economic recovery. #MeetMichigan has seen the effects of our hardships across the state – some areas have undoubtedly been hit worse than others, but it’s inspiring to see so many Michiganders staying positive.
So, when the road turns to gravel and you feel a little lost, just remember that a positive attitude and three lefts will get you back on the highway.
A big hope for #MeetMichigan was social media engagement from businesses we may not otherwise have connected with. So, when Rock River Café (@rockrivercafe) tweeted at us from Chatham, Michigan (population 231) we had work it into our route.
Around 11 a.m. on day six of our trip, we coasted into Chatham. What we found was more than just a café. We found the beauty of entrepreneurism and the essence of #MeetMichigan.
Lesson #1: You can come home again
Owners Pat Nesberg and John Filus shared their all-too-familiar story of struggling through the U.S.’s economic hardship over the last several years. After living in various southern states, Pat decided to bring her years of restauranting knowledge back to Michigan. She and John opened Rock River Café in May 2011, and never looked back.
Lesson #2: Invest in history
One might ask, “why Chatham,” (we certainly did). Situated at the corner of Rock River Road and Munising Street (not too far from Slapneck Road, seriously) Pat and John purchased an historic hotel building that had nearly fallen beyond repair. Previous owners had tried to restore the “money pit” but had not succeeded. You can sense a great deal of pride in the owners for giving life to an important piece of their community’s history.
Lesson #3: Believe in your product
Don’t let the presentation of their menu fool you – the four, stapled 8.5” x 11” pieces of paper are chocked full of locally sourced options, with an array of vegan and vegetarian meals – good for both the heart and the soul.
@RockRiverCafe had recommended (via Twitter) that we try Swamp Thing, their most popular vegan dish. I don’t think we’ll ever look at vegan the same way. The wonderfully seasoned grilled potatoes held together the spinach, quinoa, fresh garlic and vegetables perfectly. Served with a side of Lake Superior Wild Sourdough and homemade blackberry preserves, this breakfast blew our minds (and our tastebuds).
We spoke with the chef’s after our meal, and the pride everyone has in the food they prepare is outstanding. You can taste their passion and knowledge in every bite, and it leaves you begging for more.
Lesson #4: You can’t beat quality
As the #MeetMichigan team enjoyed their breakfast, questions began to form about the viability of Rock River Café in it’s current location. Do they have enough patrons in Chatham to support their business? Would local residents be willing to purchase items from the moderately priced menu? How would a town of increasingly older generations feel about this “new-age” food?
Luckily, we met Linda – who classifies herself in the 60+ age demographic. Linda had many positive things to say about Rock River Café. She explained that locals who have eaten at Rock River Café really appreciate the investment Pat and John have made, as well as the quality of their food. She said, she and her husband don’t mind paying a little more because the freshness of the food makes them feel better about eating it.
Linda also went on to tell us that even though the Rock River Café uses the same tables, plates and silverware as the previous establishment, everything feels cleaner and healthier because of the business Pat and John have built.
Lesson #5: You’re never too small for social media
Another essential element to Rock River’s sustainability is the investment Pat is making in social media. A large number of their customers are tourists visiting larger, nearby towns like Munising. Without her dedication to Rock River’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, Pat doesn’t believe the restaurant would be doing as well. Truth of the matter is, without Their twitter account, we wouldn’t have been eating there.
Lesson #6: Where everybody knows your handle
There a handful of places that we’ve hated saying goodbye to. Oddly enough, most of them involve food, and Rock River Café was one of them. There’s something about eating at a locally sourced, vegan-inspired café in a town of 231 people that makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger.
From the moment we walked through the door, we felt like a regular. Pat may not have known our names, but she knew our Twitter handles. It was like we’d eaten there every day since they opened just seven weeks ago. It’s the kind of warmth you wouldn’t expect from a relationship built through social media, but it’s one of the friendliest places we’ve visited to date.
What’s more, is that they greet everyone this way: regulars, tourists and social media friends alike. You never have to worry about eating alone – customers were engaged in conversation with one another and John visited nearly every table in the room.
There’s really nothing we didn’t love about Rock River Café. And honestly, these are the kind of places (and people) that we believe make Michigan a beautiful place to live, visit and dine. Thanks Pat and John for reminding us what #MeetMichigan is really all about. You truly rock.
Considering we’ve been westbound on US-2 for what seems like an eternity, we feel it only befitting that we share the highlights of the highway. After 300+ miles of beautiful Pure Michigan road, we’re certain of a few things:
- Smoked fish, pasties and fudge – rarely sold separately. We’re not sure about this business model, but it seems to be working on US-2.
- In the city we take our sidewalks for granted. Out here, if you want to walk/run for any great distance, you do so on the highway.
- You have 3G coverage, look happy. After driving through many painfully extended networks, when you get one or two bars you tweet/email/text/call/post for dear life.
- You can stop in bat country.
- Nine miles is a great distance … especially when you’re waiting for the next passing lane … behind a behemoth RV … pulling a Jeep.
- If you make a pit stop, don’t be surprised if you wind up behind the same behemoth RV that you passed 20 minutes ago.
- There’s still a market for cash only gas stations with pumps from 1955?
- Sometimes you’ll think you’re driving in Michigan, then all of a sudden you’re in a different state. And time zone. And then, somehow, you’re back in Michigan – all on the same road, going the same direction.
- People are quick to ask if they can take a photo for you, unless you’re on the side of the highway photographing a county sign. Then the only people who stop to help are State troopers.
- If you’re not sure which road to take, chances are it’s probably US-2 west.
This blog is dedicated to Leslie Mattson who greeted the #MeetMichigan team with the friendliest U.P. “good morning,” ever. She loved the Aha on the motion mobile so much, we asked if she’d like her picture taken with him. Her response, “you betcha!” No better way to start-off a day on the road in Michigan’s U.P.
Recently, Forbes Magazine and CNBC classified Michigan’s economy as “improving” … slowly. From what we’ve seen during the #MeetMichigan trip, it might be making a faster comeback than they think.
Misha Neidorfler, co-owner of Morsels in downtown Traverse City, has found that their “summer season” (e.g. tourism) started sooner than it did in 2010, and last year was better than 2009. Misha brought a morsel she calls a “treat-up,” a Rice Krispy treat with a chocolate drizzle, to the Traverse City TweetUp; a perfect example of a small business using social media to reach both local and statewide audiences.
Traverse Traveler is an app that connects visitors with Traverse City businesses and restaurants. This app is a useful tool for building relationships with potential customers even before they arrive. (It was great for our short visit as well).
Another social media saavy business we visited is Friske Orchards in Charlevoix. Heidi Friske took some time to show us around today, explaining 80 to 90 percent of their products are proudly Michigan-made. They sell their own homemade food items made with local ingredients, but also stock a variety of Michigan-made treats, games, clothing and gifts (their general store is a must-see for Michigan lovers!).
The owner of Hill Top Soda Shoppe in Benzonia is looking to diversify her business as well. In addition to opening an ajoining florist and consignment shop, Victoria Mekas makes homemade ice cream from locally sourced products that she hopes to start selling downstate (we hope she starts in Lansing).
The idea of buying locally is a common thread that seems to run through many Michigan businesses we have visited. The more our communities rely on each other for products and services, the stronger our state will become. Social media is a great way to start connecting with new partners, clients and regions.
No matter if the businesses we’ve visited are on Facebook, Twitter or use their own combination of social media marketing, they’re contributors to Michigan’s economic upswing and for that they have our seal of approval.