Taking the road less traveled

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Chippewa Lake couple explores M-66 in their recently published book

CHIPPEWA LAKE – Beautiful farms and charming small towns dabbled throughout the scenic countryside along M-66 are featured in a recently published book titled “Splittin’ the Mitten: Get Your Kicks on M-66.”

John and Becky Schlatter, of Chippewa Lake, recently penned the 130-page book, which features more than 250 pictures and tells about the highway and all it has to offer motorists who enjoy taking a moment to explore what John calls “Michigan’s heartland.”

“Most people are in a hurry,” John said. “When they are going somewhere, they are on the major highways. The best part about writing the book was seeing a part of Michigan that a lot of people probably don’t see.”

When the Schlatters retired to Chippewa Lake about a year ago, they discovered Barryton, one of the small towns on M-66.

“We had driven different parts of 66 and noticed how pretty and rural it is,” John said. “Then I looked on the map and noticed it is the only state highway that travels most of the Lower Peninsula.”

To write the book, John and Becky drove up and down M-66, stopping at towns along the way and taking lots of photographs.

AUTHORS: John and Becky Schlatter recently wrote a book about M-66 and the countryside, towns, farms and other interesting places along its path. (Courtesy photo)

AUTHORS: John and Becky Schlatter recently wrote a book about M-66 and the countryside, towns, farms and other interesting places along its path. (Courtesy photo)

“There are a lot of really nice little small towns,” John said of the drive along M-66. “Each is interesting in its own way. They each have a main street with vintage old buildings and many have been restored. There are some ramshackle farms that are not in great shape to some modern ones, even centennial farms that have been in the same family for 100 years.”

The 273-mile state highway runs from Sturgis, near the Indiana Boarder, to Charlevoix on Lake Michigan.

Along the way, drivers can stop to see a huge statue of a trout in Kalkaska, which hosts a yearly trout festival; Ionia’s beautifully restored Main Street and churches; Mancelona, where Earnest Hemingway spent some time and which appears in his work, “The Battler;” the grave of the Ringling Brothers’ bearded lady, Grace Gilbert, who is buried in a cemetery north of Mancelona; the scenic beauty of Charlevoix; as well as Amish homesteads, roadside parks, ice cream stands and more.

“I prefer getting off the interstate where we can stop for an ice cream or pull over for a roadside produce stand or admire a field of sunflowers or a barn displaying a painted quilt block,” Becky said. “It’s my version of stopping to smell the roses.”

M66 book coverWhile John said the book does not cover everything on M-66, he feels anyone who lives in a small town along the road would find the book interesting, as well as any Michigander who enjoys learning more about their state.

“We probably missed some things because there is a lot of stuff there,” he said. “The book doesn’t go into great detail of any town, it just scratches the surface.”

The black and white version of the book is available for $8 on Amazon, or $19 in full color. An e-book also is available for $2.99. Videos about M-66 can be viewed on YouTube by searching for the Michigan Route 66 channel.

John and Becky Schlatter also have written two other books, including a children’s story titled “The Bunny in the Window Well,” and a book about returning lost postcards to World War II veterans titled “Postcard Memories From World War II: Finding Lost Keepsakes 70 Years Later.”

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Posted by Miranda Roberts

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