Goodbyes are really hard. They make “hellos” sweeter, but that doesn’t take the acrid taste of a farewell from your mouth, when you’re saying it to someone you love.
I fully intended to leave my parents’ house yesterday, but I just couldn’t. I was having problems repacking. I was having issues sorting stuff to keep or give away. I was having problems saying “so long,” to my mom. It feels a little silly, to be so reluctant to go. I am a grownup. I have my own life to live, and adventures to have. But I love my mother–she’s one of the most interesting people I know–and I feel like the time we have together is limited. Her health hasn’t been great during the last decade, and I worry about her. It’s hard to say goodbye when it feels like it could be forever. But it was time to go. I think departing today was made easier because she had to leave to go to a chiropractic appointment. She wasn’t there to show how much my leaving hurt her. Even so, after she left, it took me two hours to pack everything–furtively–into my car, and I didn’t actually leave until noon. And despite taking days to pack and sort and organize, I still managed to leave my wind-proof North Face jacket in the basement.
C’est la vie.
The drive today was kind of surreal, because it mirrored the “going up north” trips of my childhood… and yet almost seemed a parody. The first major section of the drive really was a mirror of my trip from a few weeks ago. Up to the cabin I went, stopping properly at two of the way-points on our traditional Up North drive. The first of these was the Turkey Roost restaurant in Kawkalin, Michigan. Here, you can get a Thanksgiving dinner pretty much any day of the year. There’s a big nostalgia factor, because my family’s been stopping to have lunch here for my entire life. The turkey and stuffing are reliably good. The mashed potatoes switched from hand-mashed to being from a box many years ago, but they’re still edible. The vegetables change daily, but are always from a can. That’s pretty much the only place that I ever had canned green beans, so to this day, I still associate that particular flavor with this restaurant. They’re actually sort of gross, but eating them reminds me of my childhood, so I’ll consume them anyway. Memory is an odd thing, isn’t it? Sometimes it makes the unlikeliest things seem palatable.
What was truly unique about this visit was that there was some kind of political meeting going on at the back part of the restaurant. I was trying not to stare, but it was hard. An older fellow got up and started talking about what it was like to deal with recruiting people to join the Democrats when he was a boy. He described rallies, helping to form unions, getting doors slammed in his face, and receiving death threats in the mail. Very surreal, and very intersting.
I asked the waitress if she knew what the group was, but she had no clue. She wasn’t super friendly, but I left her a pretty decent tip anyway. I figured she was probably having a rough day. My check was tiny, and I’m certain that the people at the meeting weren’t making her as much money as she would have gotten if the tables were free. Sorry lady! Next time I’ll try to come in with my whole family.
My next stop was at Sherni’s Candies, a confectioner’s shop that’s pretty close to our cabin. They sell all kinds of chocolate-covered treats; everything from raspberries to potato chips. They also have something called “puff n stuff” which is crisp rice and, I think, peanut butter, blended with chocolate. It’s really tasty! I ended up buying three bags of things that I was going to send to my (ex)co-workers, but then I didn’t. Sorry guys! Once the weather gets colder, I’ll mail-order you something.
Post chocolaterie*, I headed to the cabin, to drop off some laundry. I took a couple of quick pictures, borrowed a blanket, and picked up the dishes that I’ve been “saving” there for 10 years or so. (They’re outrageously 70s–brown, green-gold and green rings are layered in concentric circles. They’re the dishes that we used there when I was growing up. They’re sort of hideous, but I love them anyway.) After quickly filling some water bottles with deliciously iron-flavored water and writing a note in the visitor’s book, I got back on the road.
After another few hours of driving, I reached the Mackinac Bridge. It links the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan, crossing waters where two of the Great Lakes merge. I haven’t been to this area for about a decade, and never this late in the year. It was evening, and it felt eerily quiet and calm. Normally the area is busting with tourists, but I only saw about 20 other people around. Which, by some standards is a lot, but compared to high season is definitely miniscule.
Fun fact: this area has great fudge. Not fun fact: I did not procure any. Neither did I venture to Mackinac Island, the historically-maintained highlight of the area. It’s a really neat place to visit if you are a history buff, nature-lover, or alternative-conveyance aficionado. (There are no cars allowed.)
I got across the bridge shortly before the sunset became really glorious, and got the above picture of Lake Michigan from a roadside pullout.
Had this been summer, and had it been earlier in the day, I might have stopped for dinner at either Clyde’s Drive-In, or Lehto’s Pasties. Clyde’s is delightfully retro, serving your standard burgers and fries, and Lehto’s is a family favorite for the U.P.’s signature dish. Oh, you want to know what a pasty is? It’s a kind of savory pastry*. You take unsweetened dough, wrap it around uncooked filling ingredients (usually meat and veggies) and bake that sucker. So, essentially, it’s a handheld meat pie. Horribly unhealthy, terribly delicious. And, yanno, not on the menu for today. I was in a hurry to get up to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where I hoped to camp for the night, so I just got some “fuel” for me when I stopped for gas.
That was actually a pretty funny experience in and of itself. When I went into the station to pay *gasp* cash, I ended up talking to the station attendant, who had grown up in Oceanside. Small world, right? Apparently he’d spent part of his childhood living in Michigan, but had moved back to California for college. “Why’d you decide to come back up here?”
“Too many people down there!”
Amen, brother, amen.
I finally got to the area where Google Maps thought pictured rocks was around 10:30 at night. Unfortunately, when I followed the road that was supposed to lead to the campground, it eventually became nigh impassible. Don’t believe me? Observe the looming darkness which was fast swallowing my headlights:
So, being the brave soul I am, I decided to be adventurous… and go back to town and find a hotel. The one I ended up staying at turned out to be run by someone who had also spent a fair amount of time living in California. She had moved back to Michigan because of family ties. Go figure. Apparently the mass-exodous of Michiganders to California has a reasonably high rate of return. At least if the number of ex-Californians I met today is any indication.
The stars were exquisitely bright, and you could see the Milky Way, but I was so tired that I didn’t bother to get any night shots. Instead I dragged some things into the hotel room, and went to sleep. A surprisingly good day for one that started with goodbyes.
*By the way, that is probably the most over-glorified description of Sherni’s ever. Love them, but they are not fancy at all.
Author’s Note: This post is backdated for clarity, wonk wonk wonk.