Before we had kids, Mr. Willoughby and I used to love to take day trips. Not just in summer, but year round. We would get out a map and then one of us would close our eyes and point to a spot. As long as it was within a distance we could travel to and from in a day's time, that would be our destination. The less we knew about the city we picked, the more exciting it was because we never knew what we might find to see and do. We once drove to a small town on the Michigan/Ohio border to find that all the businesses had anti-gang signs on their doors. Who knew that small towns had gang problems? We didn't stay there long.
One of our favorite places to visit was Iargo Springs in Oscoda, Michigan. It's a beautiful area on the edge of the Huron National Forest. There is a staircase of 294 wooden steps that take you down to where the underground springs come together to form coldwater streams. The Au Sable river, popular for canoeing and kayaking, is nearby as well. On our last visit there, 17 plus years ago, we decided to be adventurous and hike back up the embankment instead of taking the wooden steps. It's very steep and difficult terrain, almost impossible at times to keep your footing. We had to grab onto trees and plants to pull ourselves up the grade. By the time we got to the top, we were exhausted. It was then that we noticed the signs that said "Do Not Climb Embankment - Toxic Weeds". We never had any health problems as a result, but strangely, none of the pictures we took turned out.
The strangest thing we ever saw on a day trip, though, is almost impossible for me to describe. We were driving through a rural area in the northern part of Michigan when we spotted a number of large glass front boxes along the side of the road. Boxes probably isn't the best way to describe them, they were more like free standing rooms, with the sides, top and bottom being made of wood and the front being plate glass. We must have seen at least six or seven of them in less than a mile. They were set back from the road so it was difficult to see inside. We finally got the nerve to pull over and look in one and it had a lectern and several seats, like a small chapel or, maybe, a mausoleum. They weren't on cemetery grounds, so we were only speculating. We didn't make note of the town we were in, though I wish we had. It was really creepy.
We still take day trips every once in a while, we just keep them shorter so the kids don't get bored. Even when we're on vacation we like to drive around and do a little exploring. We had a strange experience in the Carolinas a few years ago. We were driving through a small town and turned down a side road just to see where it would take us when we came into an area we didn't feel comfortable in. It wasn't a military base or state land, but there were "Restricted" signs all over the place and we were followed until we left the area. It was so disturbing that I don't want to mention the name of the town or go into any more detail. I explained what happened to a friend of mine who is familiar with the town and she said she had heard a lot of strange things happen there. We'll have to take her word for it because we won't be going back.
More often than not, though, we find something fun to do or interesting to see. We've stumbled across monuments (Oscoda, Michigan), beautiful parks (Independence Dam Park, Defiance, Ohio), waterfalls (Rock Glen Falls, Ontario, Canada) and talked to interesting people (almost everywhere). Even if the destination turns out to be less than spectacular, the trip is always an adventure.