Of all the eight states that touch the Great Lakes , Michigan – with 2,147 miles – has the most coastline. So as we rounded the bottom of Lake Michigan from the Indiana border and made our way into Southwest Michigan on the last leg of out 10-segment adventure, there was a sense of déjà vu about it all.
Around us were beautiful blue waters, sand dunes, lush green agricultural fields and even a wine trail, much like we have seen to different degrees on all of the lake shorelines we’ve visited over the past month on our Verizon Great Lakes Shoreline Roadtreking Tour.
Here’s part 10 in our videos:
And yet, there was an entirely different feel to this stretch of shoreline.
Seemingly every few miles were broad, sugar sand swimming beaches that put anything in California to shame. A series of welcoming beach towns – Grand Haven, South Haven, Saugatuck – are right on the shore, with trendy shops and restaurants just a couple blocks east of the lake.
Southwest Michigan and the lakeshore is also known for its vineyards. Acre after acre… so many, there’s even a shoreline wine trail that draws fans from across the country.
But then, along I-94 we saw a billboard promoting a place called The Chocolate Garden, a place the Food Network has raved about, a place voted as the Number 1 chocolatier in America, located in the town of Coloma, a mile off the interstate.
How could that be, especially in a, well, an obscure place like Coloma.
Turns out it is a technology story.
Tina Buck, the owner, is a former advertising and marketing exec who started a small online business from her home making chocolate truffles. Not just any chocolate truffles, mind you. She has some secret ingredients and a way of cooking them that made her chocolates to die for.
People slowly started ordering them off the Internet. Then the Food Network found out about them and, blown away by Tina’s chocolates, did a full blown story praising them. Then came the Best of America Award as the best chocolatier in America and the Chocolate Garden was on the map.
People started showing up in Colima, looking for her. But she had no building. She handled it all in the kitchen of her home. Because of the demand, she built a small little store and that’s where we found her, selling the best chocolates I have ever sampled. We liked them so much we spent $130 and walked off with a shopping bag of them.
“Technology has been crucial to our success, especially the Internet,” she said. “That’s what made all this possible. That’s how we got our start.”
She relies on Verizons 4G LTE network and an Air Card to provide redundancy to her network. “It’s actually our most stable connection,” she said.
The shoreline tour came to an end just south of Ludington MI. We had come down that far on an earlier leg, before crossing over to Wisconsin on a car ferry.
In all, we drove the coastline of all five Great Lakes, traveled 4,062 miles and visited eight states across two time zones.
I invite you to follow in our tire tracks.