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Miller’s Bar: Greatest Hamburger on Earth (So Far) (Day 64)

September 19th, 2009 3 comments

Drove from Chicago out to Dearborn, Mich. to meet with my ol’ mission buddy Jeff and his wife and to take in the #8 hamburger of all time. (I’m not sure why I never take photos of people I meet up with on this trip. And if I started now, it would seem sort of mean toward everyone I didn’t already take photos of.)

Right, so Dearborn has this bridge that I drove under and that I thought looked cool.

dearborn_bridgeBut my real cameras were packed in my backpack and it would’ve been an awkward place to get out of my car.

Then we hit Miller’s Bar. Kind of an odd neighborhood — some beautiful, old, small residential homes (like 20 of them) right behind the bar, but otherwise car dealerships and closed-up restaurants dominated. Ah well.

When we sat down the waitress came to ask what we wanted, at which point Jeff informed her that we hadn’t seen the menus, at which point she seemed a little flustered before answering: we don’t have menus, we only have hamburgers or cheeseburgers and french fries and onion rings. At which point Jeff said, “Oh”. Per the GQ list, I ordered the hamburger. They brought a cheeseburger, though, but I don’t think GQ would really disapprove.

millers-bar_burgerWith a bun that shiny it *has* to be good!

I can’t explain why exactly, but of the straight-up burgers from the list, this is my favorite so far. I don’t know.

  • It comes out with just bun, burger, melted cheese.
  • The waitress brings slices of onion on a napkin and there are pickles, ketchup, and mustard on the table.
  • You’re on your own from there.
  • Ordered medium-rare, yet the bun remained firm and true without disappearing.
  • I don’t know. I just don’t know.

It just tasted fantastic. And it wasn’t like I hadn’t eaten all day or anything. I really think it was the burger. Maybe they put good spices on it, or maybe they’ve got a meat grinder in the basement and are pulling a Sweeney Todd on us, but whatever. Simple, yet transcendent.

So of the eight I’ve eaten so far, here’s my rank order:

  1. Miller’s Bar – Dearborn (#8 in GQ)
  2. Houston’s California Burger – Santa Monica (#6)
  3. Le Parker Meridien Hotel Burger Joint Cheeseburger – New York (#9)
  4. Red Mill Double Bacon Deluxe w/ Cheese – Seattle (#17)
  5. Keller’s Drive-In #5 Burger – Dallas (#10)
  6. Poag Mahone’s – Chicago (#18)
  7. The Counter – Santa Monica (#15)
  8. Burger Joint – San Francisco (#16)

I’d say IMHO, but no: this is not a matter of opinion. This is fact.

bkd

(PS, I think I’ll only get to six more on this trip — outside shot at seven, but they get packed in pretty tightly in the tri-state area upcoming and I can’t eat more than one hamburger a day without getting sick.)

Mackinac Island and the Nates of GRR (Day 59)

September 18th, 2009 3 comments

The headline overpromises, although, yes, I did visit Mackinac Island and my niece and her husband, whose last name is Nate. Maybe it doesn’t overpromise so much as it leads the post to under-deliver.

The island is basically like being ont he TV show The Prisoner, but with better special effects. The concept is that you start out in Mackinaw City, just across the bridge from the Upper Peninsula, then take a 20-minute ferry ride across (a small part of) Lake Huron to Mackinac Island, a small island community where internal combustion engines are not allowed. As such, transportation is done via horse-drawn buggy, bicycle, and foot.

Should’ve skipped straight to the fourth paragraph.

mackinac-waterfrontMackinac Island waterfront.

mackinac-island_main-streetMain Street, which features the highest per-square-foot concentration of fudge retailers in the Lower 48. I would know.

mackinac-buggyHorses, buggy, people. Road also. Grass, trees.

phoca_thumb_l_arrival42Prisoner with bubble.

mackinac-fort-hillPathway up to Fort Mackinac, which dates back to the Revolutionary War. It wasn’t our fort back then.

mackinac-rifle-squadI’m not sure why the six-year-old gets to be the officer, but I’m guessing nepotism.

mackinac-path-and-churchPretty similar picture to that other one, but I figured if I put the one with the rifles in between you wouldn’t notice so much. I think it’s an Episcopal church.

round-island_lighthouseAnd on the way back, I took this photo of the Round Island Lighthouse.

  • Cloudy day.
  • The fort was cool.
  • I pretty well liked hanging out in a non-motorized town, especially walking around a little further to the island’s interior. It was easy to imagine horse-drawn carriage rides to someone’s house in the woods.
  • OTOH, the streets all smelled like horse manure.
  • And if I wanted to get rich, I’d open up a shop on Main Street there and sell something *other than* fudge.

    After escaping the island I drove down to Grand Rapids and saw Andrea and Preston, went to dinner with them, and then left. No pictures. Their new house is pretty nice.

    bkd

    PS, Mackinaw City (where I stayed in a hotel before catching the ferry over in the morning) was a nice place also — friendly locals and it’s a very well-kept town. Someone there’s doing *something* right. Probably mafia.

    Chapel Beach Loop Hike, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Day 58)

    September 16th, 2009 2 comments

    10.5-mile loop hike starting at the Mosquito Chapel Trailhead, about 20 miles east of Munising (where the Upper Peninsula’s purported powerhouse high school football team is located).

    pictured-rocks_chapel-fallsAt which point I worried I’d chosen a bad trail. I mean, remoteness is its own reward and all, but these are parking lot-quality waterfalls at best. Unless you’re in Orange County, in which case you’d hike 40 miles straight uphill for them and be grateful for the opportunity.

    pictured-rocks_chapel-rockChapel Rock and the start of my shadow-sun issues. Probably if the tree had been in full sun — except that the colors on the rock are the real-life interesting part.

    pictured-rocks_chapel-rock-sideMeh.

    pictured-rocks_chapel-beach-rocksRocks, pictured.

    pictured-rocks_near-grand-portalCliff-rocks, pictured.

    pictured-rocks_grand-portal-tree

    The so-called “Grand Portal”.

    pictured-rocks_mosquito-beach-rocksRocks at Mosquito Beach.

    pictured-rocks_cliffs (1)The edge of the world. Fine: *an* edge. And if you fall off, you’re in a lake, not some fiery abyss. The fiery abyss would’ve made a good photo, though.

    pictured-rocks_jerkyI and My Breakfast

    pictured-rocks_red-duckA red-headed step-duck starts a voyage of a thousand miles with a single foot-flap.

    • About as easy a 10+-miler as you’ll find.
    • My route took me past Chapel Falls down to the beach at Chapel Rock, then along the lakeshore past the Mosquito campground, then back to the trailhead via Mosquito Falls.
    • I regret that I didn’t add three miles to include Spray Falls in the hike. I’ll have to go back for that one. Per the pictures, it would have been the one waterfall worth visiting.
    • The photos don’t look as great as reality — it’s a north-facing lakeshore and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with shadowy cliffs above fully-lit water. (If anyone could lmk, that’d be cool.)
    • For being the warmest Saturday of the year so far, it wasn’t crowded.
    • Would probably be a fun place to do an overnighter — either two very easy days along the trail I took, or a shuttle hike along the Lakeshore Trail.
    • The water’s colder than it looks — but I *did* swim in it (not pictured).

    I’d go back here again, no questions asked. All hail Lake Superior!

    bkd

    Miner’s Castle Is Major Awesome (Day 57, Part 2)

    September 16th, 2009 4 comments

    Drove across the U.P. to Christmas, Mich., where I got a campsite for the night, then headed out to Munising (a town!) and then Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to see what was there, half-way intending on finding it to be lame and then leaving first thing in the morning.

    I found out Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore existed by going through a list of all National Parks Service properties on Wikipedia and seeing that this one looked kind of pretty in the pictures, plus somewhere in my mind I thought I remembered someone telling me that the “claw part” of Michigan had something worthwhile about it. Turns out that real life is prettier than the pictures, most especially *my* pictures (in this case). IMHO.

    munising-fallsSee that there? And if you squint hard enough, you can almost see a waterfall!

    So Munising Falls wasn’t the good part. It was close to town, though, and thus got visited. The next site down the line was Miner’s Castle, which was recommended by RS’s Reader’s Digest book.

    miners-castle_kayaksThe Miner’s Castle; the miner himself may be in one of the ‘yaks. But probably not.

    miners-castle_pictured-rocksSans paddlers.

    Was mostly struck by how pretty the water was. Looked like something you’d expect to find in the South Pacific, but it was on Lake Superior. Pretty cool. I figured I hadn’t seen enough of it and then found what looked like a good 10-miler I could try the next day.

    Meanwhile, my writeups get continually lamer. This one’s almost *sincere* [shudders]. Only another 68 days of blogging to go (give or take)! Maybe my second (writing) wind is waiting for me in, oh, let’s say the Adirondacks. Seems likely enough.

    bkd

    PS, The campground was an NFS site, so you know it had to be good. It was a pretty big NFS campground (40 or so sites) and privately managed, which meant it was a little on the expensive site for NFS ($16). But: potable water, plenty of trees, and I could do laundry without my neighbors having to watch. NFS campgrounds ├╝ber alles.

    Welcome to Michigan: Great Lakes, Great Times (and State #13!)

    September 15th, 2009 2 comments

    Oh boy, the states are coming fast and furious(ly) now! ‘Course, I’m in Chicago at my brother’s place all this week, so there will be a slow-down in state-churn for a bit. Ah well, ah well.

    welcome-to-michiganDespite appearances, there wasn’t all that much highway construction going on in Michigan. I think someone must have forgotten they were a swing state.

    I had some pretty great times in Michigan and there were, by definition, some great lakes, so — yeah. Good job on not over-selling on the welcome sign. Some cool things about Michigan:

    • Everyone goes 10 mph over, even in 25 mph zones — this was especially amazing after the very cautious driving habits of North Dakotans, Minnesotans, and Wisconsinians.
    • No, seriously: 10 over!
    • No “click it or ticket signs” or other nanny-state roadside hallmarks.
    • People were disarmingly friendly. Like, residents in small towns who know you’re a tourist walking through their neighborhood still say hello and seem to mean it.
    • Granted, I’ve never been to Detroit, but: it’s a pretty place.

    More later.

    bkd

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