Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Take A Ride Through History Along the West Michigan Pike

Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike: From Sand Trails to US-31by M. Christine Byron & Tom Wilson

The West Michigan Pike, now US-31, is a 400-mile meandering ribbon of road, hugging the coast of Lake Michigan from Michigan City, Indiana to Mackinaw City, Michigan and passing through many small beach towns along the way. Its 1913 slogan, “Lakeshore All the Way” sums up the main feature of this gem of a travel route. The road is sometimes called Michigan’s Route 66.

In their new book, Vintage Views Along the West Michigan Pike: From Sand Trails to US-31, seasoned authors M. Christine Byron & Thomas R. Wilson tell the story of this road’s early beginning as serpentine sand trails and rutted dirt pathways and its transformation to US-31 used by today’s traveler.

“Actually, road improvement was first sought by bicyclists, a craze that swept the country in the 1880s,” explains co-author and Grand Rapids librarian, Christine Byron. “It was the Michigan Wheelmen, an association of bicyclists, who campaigned the legislature to allow each county to adopt a county road system. That really got the ball rolling for road improvement.”

The West Michigan Pike Association was formed in 1913 by boosters from lakeshore communities who knew that a good road would promote tourism, farming, and commercial pursuits along the lakeshore.

The book starts out with a recommendation from Ernest Hemingway in a 1919 letter to his Chicago pals Jenks and Barney, preparing them for their trip to Horton Bay, (near the location of the Hemmingway family’s summer retreat at Walloon Lake), to take the West Michigan Pike, “a pretty good road” and that the trip could be made in three days. Our research road sleuths, Christine and Tom, retraced the original Pike using vintage maps and allow readers to time-travel back to the small towns and villages through their collection of photos and postcards.

This is the fourth book in the Vintage View series. Previous books are: the award winning, Vintage Views of Leelanau County and Vintage Views of the Charlevoix-Petoskey Region and also Vintage Views of the Mackinac Straits Region.

The book is available through independent booksellers, chain bookstores and online.

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