On the road with the Lincoln MKS

When Ford contacted us about taking Lincoln’s new MKS out for a test drive, I thought that they had the wrong website. Autoblog, our sister site, takes care of all things automotive, and they would certainly be better equipped to handle a test drive. And in addition to being an airplane person, well, I’m not a very good driver.

But they made a good point: everyone on Autoblog has seen the MKS a dozen times and travelers go on road trips too. The content is just as valid. Further, since I was driving across the state of Michigan several times for Easter weekend I had ample time to test the vehicle out. So I agreed to take a look. But I made no promises about editorial content.

For those (myself included) among us that are not in the vehicle testing circles, I first have to comment on the kick of getting a test vehicle delivered. A third party company in the greater Detroit area handles the entire transaction, calling you before delivery and dropping off the vehicle wherever you want. They came to my office one sunny morning with a Mercury chase car and a pleasant woman tossed me a set of keys, asked me to sign a form and disappeared within five minutes. I was left with a bright red MKS for the weekend to do with as I pleased. Road tripping across Michigan over several days seemed like a good opportunity to acquaint myself.


As luxury vehicles go, the MKS has all of the amenities that one comes to expect: a smooth, quiet ride, powerful V6 engine, heated and cooled comfortable, leather seats, wood trim, push-button starting and embedded navigation. Where I was surprised was in the features above and beyond.

Microsoft Sync is installed in the vehicle, and navigating though the touch screen AV system I was easily able to link up my iPhone via it’s Bluetooth link. Thus, for the duration of the trip when someone called the phone in my pocket the music automatically turned down and the call when through the speakers. Similarly, if I wanted to make a call I just pressed the talk button on the steering wheel and annunciated “DIAL” etc etc. Audio quality was decent, and I only lost one caller who happened to be inside of the noisy Detroit Metro Airport.

In fact, much of the interior control was handled from the steering wheel, including adjustment and selection of the MP3 audio system that I was constantly grazing about. It’s a nice feature that many manufacturers overlook.

Though hardly necessary, there is also a backup camera and very sensitive parking system that automatically beeps with increasing intensity as you approach a stationary object. This makes parallel parking a breeze, though it’s strange getting used to looking down instead of behind you when backing up.

Part of the MKS features I learned from the simple transition from my Audi TT – that is, the complete opposite in suspension and handling. Pulling onto I-94 on my maiden voyage to Buffalo Wild Wings, I got up to cruising speed and proceeded to start messing with the navigation. Only when my passenger pointed out that I was driving 95MPH did I realize that I was speeding – I had assumed my normal “comfort speed” as tuned to the TT on the expressway. That same vibration and feel was 20 MPH faster in the MKS.

Of the road trip? I enjoyed seamless navigation, an excellent ride and ultimate comfort as I drove from Ann Arbor to Kalamazoo to South Haven to Flint to Detroit in a head turning, modern car. My weekend couldn’t have been spent in a better piece of machinery. Oh and about the bad driver comment? I was lucky enough to get through the entire state without getting any speeding tickets or bumping into anything. My girlfriend? Not so lucky.

Budget Travel: The Lake Effect Wine Trail

In the heartland of our very own United States of America, “lake effect weather” has given birth a strip of wineries along the southeast coast of Lake Michigan.

Lake effect weather is a well-documented phenomenon which results in far more precipitation, especially snow, on the southern and eastern sides of large lakes than the northern and western sides. More precipitation means lots of grapes, including ice wines and varietals that can withstand the midwest’s strong heat and bitter cold.

Have a look at these resources which make for a much more budget friendly wine country tour than a trip to France (or even Napa Valley). Did we mention that most tastings at Indiana and Michigan wineries are free?

Getting in: You can start your eastern midwestern wine revelry in Michigan by flying into the Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (they have a snappy song on their airport website — who could resist?), serviced by Northwest, Conair/Delta Connection, American Eagle, and DirectAir, or in Indiana at South Bend Regional Airport, serviced by Allegiant Air, Continental Connection, Delta Connection, Northwest/KLM, and United Express. Of course, we are talking about the middle of the United States here, a.k.a. prime road trip territory. You could tack it onto a trip to Chicago, or a pass through Big Bone Lick or Santa Claus, Indiana if you’re coming from the south.

We recommend you drive. You’ll have to rent a car to get to all the wineries if you fly, but if you’re coming from far away, Kalamazoo and South Bend do have all the usual car rental companies handy.

Where to stay: There are plenty of cheap hotels all along the wine trail. You can find gads of them on ChoiceHotels.com, but here’s a tip: Don’t make your reservations in advance. Even hotel chains will haggle with you. If you walk in the door of a tricked-out Comfort Suites and tell them you can only stay there if they’ll give you a suite for $40, they just might give it to you! Be sure and mention if you plan to stay multiple nights; it’ll help them give you a lower price.

Another suggestion? Lee’s Inns. There a nice Lee’s Inn in Kalamazoo.

What to see: Sometimes we forget to look in our own backyards for the finer things in life. You don’t need to go somewhere fancy to find beauty, hard-working people, terrific stories, and darn good wine. What’s more, the wineries along Lake Michigan’s shores come with a little less snobbery than you might find in California. It’s a great place to go to learn about wine.

Tastings at most Indiana and Michigan wineries are free. The bottles of wine vary in price, naturally, but you will always be able to find something affordable.

The best online resource for scouting wineries along Lake Michigan is the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. Not every winery in the area is listed, but if you hit a couple in person, you’ll find other brochures that lead you to the rest. Talk to people in the area, ask at your hotel. The reason nobody goes around broadcasting information about these great wineries is that nobody knows they’re a secret!

Our favorite is The Round Barn Winery. The scenery is spectacular — and yes, there’s a big round barn. Round Barn specializes in wine but also makes fruit infused liqueurs and cordials and their very own range of beer! Definitely something for everyone.

A close runner up is Contessa. Be sure to try the merlot, and, if the weather’s nice, sip it out on their stunning terrace and gaze across the rolling hills of your very own America.