It was in 2011 on Presidents Day Long Weekend, Chicago weather forecast showed pretty good over the week end. We decided to tour Lake Michigan Circle and on the way enjoy some of the winter activities. Though I had my own car I often took a rented car whenever I went on a long trip. The Enterprise car rental office was just in front of my apartment which made it easy for me.
As we wanted to leave early, I worked from home on Friday and planned to leave at around 3 O’ Clock in the afternoon. I went to the enterprise office to rent the car. I had booked a mid-size car but the rental guy told me that none was available at that time except for a Jeep Wrangler. He suggested either I take it or wait for one hour for another mid-size car. He said that I could take the Jeep Wrangler on a trial drive and if I didn’t like it come back and exchange it with a mid-size car. I decided to take the trial drive (as I am big fan of SUV) and took my wife on a short drive along the Lake Shore Drive. We took some photos alongside Lake Michigan on the Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep did not have the Cruise Control and as I was about to drive 1000+ miles I decided to return it. We went back to Enterprise and exchanged it for a Dodge Caliber. We started our trip at around 4 PM from Chicago. I booked a Hotel in Grand Rapids, MI for that night as I did not want to drive at night and Grand Rapids was just around 3 hours from Chicago.
Next day, we started our trip towards Mackinaw City and on the way we wanted to do Ski at Tree Top Ski Resort. My wife was quite excited for Ski as this was her first time. The weather was quite nice and sunny. On the way we bought a Pizza from Pizza hut for lunch (as we usually do). After enjoying a nice drive we reached Tree Top Ski Resort around 1 O’Clock.
We rented Ski Equipments and lift tickets and headed to the Ski Area. Initially I gave a few tips to my wife for skiing but she said she will try in the lower slopes rather than go to the top. I went to the higher slopes a couple of times on my own. I left my wife at the beginners’ area so she could try at her own pace. First time she fell from the Ski Rope but later she mastered it. Afraid of heights, she enjoyed at the lower slopes only while I started to feel more confident and used the ski lift to go to the higher slopes. It was fun. At around 5 P.M we decided to head to Mackinaw City as it was already getting a bit dark. We reached Mackinaw City around 7 PM and directly checked-in to hotel Our Hotel which was just near to Mackinaw Bridge which could be seen from the Hotel. After taking some rest, we went for drive in Mackinaw City and while returning we enjoyed a custom made vegetarian Pizza which was very tasty.
Next morning, we went around the Mackinaw City. The Street had a deserted look as it was very cold that day, temperature around 10 Degree Fahrenheit but still looked beautiful. We wanted to go to the Mackinac Island but as Ferry Service had stopped for the winter, we just took some photos of the Ferry Boarding area. There was a beautiful frozen fountain. Then we walked along the frozen beach and took some photos of the Mackinaw Bridge and Mackinac Point Lighthouse.
After spending around one hour we headed towards Tahquamenon Falls. We drove through Mackinac Bridge. At the end of the bridge there was a Toll booth. Unfortunately we did not have any cash. I told the booth guy and he told us to pay the toll in the office near the bridge where they accepted credit cards. I paid the toll and we headed further.
We wanted to do Snowmobiling on the way in Paradise. We stopped at a Snowmobile Rental Company but unluckily there was no Snowmobile available until Sunday. We decided to do it some other time and headed to Tahquamenon Falls.
As Lower Tahquamenon Falls came first on the way, we headed for it but the road was full of ice. I slowly drove near to the water fall area but as nobody was there and the drive was also a bit risky, we returned without seeing the Falls. After that we went to the Upper Tahquamenon Falls, where the visitor center was located. There were lots of people to see the Upper Tahquamenon Falls. The State Park was very beautiful and all the trees were covered in snow. The walking trail was full of snow. There were Lanterns hanging along the way of the trail and we came to know that there were night tours to the Waterfall as well. It was breathtaking view of the Water Fall. The complete river was frozen and it was a complete white snowy walk way. Some part of the river water was flowing under the ice. After spending a few minutes we headed back.
At the Visitor Center we found there was an open fire place. We spent some time warming our self sitting in front of the fireplace. On entering the visitor center we found a restaurant and brewery inside. For the first time we saw how beer was made there. We went to the restaurant and had vegetarian burgers for lunch. We also bought some souvenirs.
It was almost 2 PM when we headed towards Escanaba, which is around three hours away from Tahquamenon Falls State Park. On the way we took a quick halt at NewBerry and headed further. We reached Escanaba at around 7 PM. After checking in the hotel, we went for dinner in a Chinese Restaurant. We just did carry out and had dinner in the hotel room. I turned on the TV and came to know that there was a big snowstorm in the Green Bay area. I was a bit worried for the next day drive as Green Bay was on the way.
Next morning we started driving towards Chicago. It was snowing. This was my first drive in the snow and I was completely unaware about driving tips in snow.
After reaching the Highway 41, I switched the car into cruise mode at 55 speed. There was not much traffic on the road maybe due to the big snow storm the previous day. Surprisingly, the highway was completely cleared from snow and the weather was almost getting sunny as we were about to reach Green Bay. We were almost 5 miles away from Green Bay when suddenly my car skidded off the road. There was black ice on the road which I was not aware of. The car was on cruise mode, and I pressed the brake and the disaster happened. Our Car completely turned 90 degrees. The worse thing was that my leg was still on the brakes hoping the car would stop. The Car slowed down surely but it was too late. It completely overturned into a ditch beside the road. We both were hanging on our seat belts. I remember my wife’s first sentence was “Arre hum to latak gaye“. I asked her, ‘Are you safe?’, ‘Did you get hurt?’ and she asked me the same. Thankfully, we were safe and to our surprise neither of us got a single scratch. I tried to open the car door but it was jammed. But in a few minutes there were people rushing in to help us . They quickly opened the door and rushed us away from the car. I am thankful to them that they came so fast to help us. One person allowed us to sit in his vehicle until the police arrived (as it was freezing outside). In a few minutes’ an ambulance and the police arrived. The Policeman prepared the accident report and dropped us at a nearby gas station. Our car was completely crushed and it was towed away by the Police towing vehicle. That day we stayed at a Hotel in Green Bay as there was no other car available for rent and all the flights were cancelled because of the snowstorm. Next morning we took a Greyhound Bus and reached Chicago by evening.
I am really thankful to god that we were safe that day. We completed the Lake Michigan Circle Tour but with a disastrous end. After that I read all about how to drive in snow. Now, I always avoid driving in snow and never use Cruise Control in winter.