The long drive northWritten by Roger Holliday Claudia Fischer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It always seems to take the better part of a week to fall into the rhythm of “Up North” living and to feel fully at ease in our log cabin in the Huron National Forest, where we spend most of the summer.
This year was a little different.
After leading small group tours around the world for 23 years, we decided in March to retire from the travel biz. So this summer we came north somewhat lighter in both mind and spirit.
We had no overseas trips to plan, no airline fiascos or erupting volcanoes on our horizon and no terror alerts, frantic client calls, hotel snafus or weather-related disruptions to worry about. This promises to be a nice long summer “at leisure.”
But first, there was “The Drive.” In two cars. With two big dogs, 250 miles straight up U.S. 23 and I-75 to the Rose City exit. And then 40 rural miles more until we finally reached our place in the woods.
While we obviously know the road to Luzerne like the back of our behinds, we still let “our Emma” (Garmin GPS) do the talking and show us her way.
Happily, our route beat hers by a good three minutes in spite of a rest stop pause.
So, gotcha, Emma but we still love you!
Through the years, we must have visited just about every rest area between the Ohio/Michigan border and Mackinac City to relieve the dogs, ourselves, or simply to have an alfresco sub sandwich at one of the picnic tables.
Almost without exception, each stop features sparkly clean restrooms and beautiful grounds-designed, planted and maintained by local master gardeners.
Midwesterners may take them for granted but to judge by the reactions of our occasional foreign visitors, the rest stops are one of Michigan’s best kept tourism secrets and everyone who works on them should get a massive “shout out!”
Arriving at the cabin on a Wednesday, two days after our “I-can-do-everything” caretaker had been there to turn on the water, light the furnace and check for any winter intruders…there was still plenty for us to do. Like mowing. And picking up sticks. And pine needles. And checking up on our nearest year-round resident neighbors.
But job No. 1, as always, was replenishing the larder.
At the end of each season, we give away all perishables and canned goods (temps go way below zero up here near the 45th parallel) so the first order of business is a run to Glen’s Supermarket in Mio and the Amish store on Kittle Road for bags of baking flour and hard to find spices.
Wednesday is also Karaoke night at Ma Deeter’s Log Cabin Inn, where the steaks are just $2.99 and the atmosphere is “Pure (Up North) Michigan.”
But this year there was a certain sadness in the air — as longtime owner Ray Tweedly had died in February at his Arizona winter home.
Some 70 people jammed the American Legion Hall that Saturday to pay respects.
It was a casual, community, chatty affair. There were pitchers of beer. And food. And gooey homemade desserts. Bandanas talked to ball caps. Hunting boots to NASCAR jackets.
After an hour or so of neighboring, Brian, Ma Deeter’s manager and cook, tapped on a glass for quiet, spoke a few words and said a prayer.
Others followed. Telling of Ray’s immense kindness and generosity. How he’d been a great role model and a mentor.
They also related his readiness to help those in need. How he was the first to contribute to any worthy cause, and how he’d always wanted to own a bar.
Ray’s wife, Sunshine, who had already hugged her way around the room, was asked for a few words.
Barely holding back tears, she managed: “He was a very good man. Thank you all so much for coming. Now let’s eat.”
We slipped out into a cold and rainy afternoon, but couldn’t help thinking that Ray, sitting at some celestial bar, would have liked what he heard, taken another pull at his Bud Light, tipped back his signature cowboy hat and hummed another country tune.
E-mail Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer at email@example.com.
Tags: Holliday Travels