ST. IGNACE — Greetings from the Upper Peninsula, as the Great Lakes Innovation and Technology Report 2012 Fall Tech Tour is officially under way.

I spent four and a half thoroughly enjoyable hours behind the wheel of this fall’s Tech Tour Mobile, a gorgeous, loaded 2013 Ford Taurus packed with high-tech features. The adaptive cruise control worked like a charm on I-75 North, from the busy parts from Flint to Bay City to the not-so-busy parts north of Grayling. The thing handles really nimbly for such a big car, too, and the performance of the EcoBoost four-cylinder engine, which displaces a mere 2.0 liters, is simply astounding. And somebody has finally married a navigation map with weather radar, so you know what you’re driving into. (In my case, apocalyptic-looking clouds, driving rain, and a 20-degree temperature drop — 61 degrees in Bay City, 41 in West Branch.)

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The numbers so far: 358.4 miles driven, 14.9 gallons of fuel consumed, 24.0 mpg average. (I’m betting that mpg number will go up as I head onto the two-lane highways of the UP, where I’ll be driving considerably more slowly than on freeways.)

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Traditionally, I’ve started these fall tours of the state’s university tech transfer efforts at Michigan Technological University. MTU is an absolutely amazing research institution that’s worthy of coverage — but that’s limited by its remoteness, since Tech is farther away from Detroit than Washington, D.C. I used to drive up all day Friday and see people from Michigan Tech on Saturday. But I finally figured out that it wasn’t necessarily fair to ask the Tech folks to give up a beautiful fall Saturday. So now, I drive halfway to Houghton on Thursday night, and finish the long journey on Friday morning — that way I can offer Tech some Friday afternoon interview time.

My past visits to Tech have yielded such jaw-dropping surprises as an invisibility cloaking device and an atomic rocket engine, as well as successful tech-based business incubators, all in a setting of incomparable natural beauty. I can’t wait to see what the Huskies have to show me this time.

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CLICK HERE to follow me on my Fall 2012 Tech Tour.