Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Second Sunday Drive, Day Four

Upper Peninsula Barn, Delta County, Michigan

I set no alarm.  I requested no wake up call.  I would sleep as late as I could.  Which meant that I was up by 7 (5 by my watch, but Michigan is in the Eastern Time Zone).  Breakfast consisted of a nectarine and Naked Mango smoothie from my cooler, fortified with the motel’s coffee.  The pool opened at 8, and I decided to soak a while before heading down the highway.  Alas, I was not alone.  A mother watched two children playing in the pool, and a family of six waited while father climbed out of the hot tub.  While I soaked, another mother came in and dropped off her pre-teen daughter.  Shortly thereafter, the mother of the two little girls left as well, leaving the girls in the pool.  I decided that there was no way I could remain in a room with three young girls and no other adult supervision.  In our litigious society, there are too many people who would love to find fault where none exists.

Heading east on U.S.Highway 2, I found the Navigation System fighting my decision.  Fortunately, we have not yet got to the point where the Nav System actually directs the car, for mine kept telling me to “Make a Legal U-Turn.”  It did this every few minutes, and was so determined, that I was tempted to turn around just to see where it would lead me.  After several miles, I reached a construction zone where my road merged with a new one.  It was only then that my Nav System decided I knew where I was going and quit trying to get me to “Make a Legal U-Turn.”   Never once did it suggest that I make an illegal u-turn.

Before leaving the motel, I had done a Google search for “Gay Lodgings Michigan,” then “Clothing Optional Gay Lodgings Michigan,” and had found several possibilities in the Saugatuck area.  Saugatuck has long been known as a gay resort, a sort of Midwestern Provincetown or Key West.  In my 2007 trip, I had crossed the country far to the south, so didn’t have the opportunity to experience this Lake Michigan resort.  Even though it would add miles to my itinerary, there’s no time like the present, and I am on a road trip, so why not.  I called the Campit Resort and reserved a room in their Bed and Breakfast unit.  According to their website, this weekend was the big Bear Party weekend, complete with Otter Swim Suit Competition.   (I’m not going to explain to my non-gay readers just what Bears and Otters are in gay parlance.)  As I had over four hundred miles to go, driving from Escanaba to Saugatuck, I knew I’d miss most, if not all, the action.  I was a bit taken aback when in response to my query about room availability, I was told “I have all the rooms available.”  Oh dear?  Was I going to be all alone at the campground?  It’s happened before, but that was on a weekday in September and this is a Sunday in August.  Nothing ventured, and all that, I made my reservation and hit the road knowing I had a place to stay in the evening.

View of Lake Michigan's Bay du Noc

Driving along U.S. Highway 2 on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is sort of like driving through a green tunnel.  The trees are thick on either side of the road, and you don’t see much else.  I could make a statement about not seeing the forest, but indeed the trees were so numerous that it was not hard to think of them as a solid wall of green.  On occasion I’d see a house, or a glimpse of the lake, but most of the way was through thick forest. 
Spotting a sign for “Scenic Turnout,” I turned out, and snapped some photos of Lake Michigan.  I also turned off the road at one point to shoot a very photogenic barn, and was concerned when my Nav System (which needs a name—let’s call it “Nancy”) told me “Continue on this road.”  Where on earth was Nancy trying to take me?

The Upper Peninsula is 196 miles long—at least, that’s how far it is from Menominee to St. Ignace where I would cross the Mackinac Straights--and there are few distractions.  As lunch time approached, I kept noticing signs offering “Pasties.”  Now, having lived in Butte, America, I know all about pasties.  I love pasties.  I make my own pasties.  (If you don’t know pasties, they’re a type of meat pie introduced to North America by the Cornishmen who came to work the hard rock mines.)  Our church ladies in Butte had pasty dinners as fund raisers.  After seeing a dozen or so restaurants all offering pasties, I decided that it was time for lunch.  I entered the Wildwood in Brevort, and found myself in a shop with four tables, lots of kitch, and a big sign that said “Save room for pie.”  Not seeing any sign saying “Seat Yourself,” or “Wait to be Seated,” I joined the line at the cash register.  People were buying dozens of pasties and hunks of smoked whitefish to go.  I didn’t want a frozen pasty.  I wanted one to eat now.  Eventually a man emerged from the kitchen and asked what I wanted.  I said “Lunch.”  He asked what I wanted for lunch.  Whaddya mean?  I hadn’t seen any menu.  Well, you see, you go into a pasty place and have a pasty.  Or two, or several dozen, I guess.  I did have a decision to make.  Did I want a ground beef pasty, a vegetarian pasty, or an Italian sausage pasty?  Beef, of course.  Anything else is sacrilege in my book.  Did I want gravy?  Now this one is tricky.  The Cornish miners in Butte would take their pasties into the mines in their lunch pail.  They ate them cold, without gravy.  Opening their lunch boxes and seeing the envelope of beef, potato, and whatever vegetables were available at the time, they’d announce, “Look, a letter from ‘ome.”  At home, hot out of the oven, a pasty is often served with gravy.  I opted for the brown sauce, and a glass of “brewed ice tea.”  
After eating my “letter from home,” I asked loudly—“What kind of pie am I saving room for?”  My eyes were directed to a wall covered with sheets of paper, each advertising a different pie.  “Mile High Apple,”  “Blueberry,”  “Peach/Blackberry.”  Those were three of the choices I had.  One of the two bears sitting at the table opposite me said, “That’s just what I was wondering.”  I chose the peach/blackberry, it being a combination I’d never seen, and the two bears ordered a slice of peach and a slice of peanut butter.  My lunch was fine, but frankly, when I make pasties, my crust is better.  Nuff said.

Saab and Shoreline, Lake Michigan, Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Highway 2 hugs the coast between Brevort and St Ignace, and I took advantage of one spot to stop and walk down onto the beach for some photos.  The photo I took of the car with the lake in the background is one I particularly like.  I think it will go right up there with “Saab and Shasta” as one of my favorites.  This one I’ll call “Saab and Shoreline.”

The bridge crossing the Mackinac Straights is an engineering wonder, and not surprisingly, there is a park in St. Ignace where you can view the bridge in all its magnificence.  Of course I stopped and took camera in hand.

The toll to cross the bridge is $4.00 if you’re in a two-axle car (as I was).  Crossing the bridge I kept feeling as if the car was being thrown sideways.  So far this has been the only time I haven’t felt completely in control of the vehicle.  I don’t know if it was high winds, or road surface, or just what, but something was definitely pulling me off course.  The speed limit on the bridge is 45 for cars and 20 for “loaded trucks.”  I don’t think I would have been comfortable at any higher speed.

I had programmed Nancy to get me to the Campit Resort in Fennville, and decided to trust her directions.  I haven’t yet learned how to personalize the choices Nancy gives me, so I ended up taking the interstates for much of the drive across the lower peninsula.  That’s ok.  Normally I prefer driving the two-lane roads, but in this case I was in a hurry to find out if there were any bears left in the woods, er campground.

The Mackinac Straights Bridge, Connecting Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas

Just as I had found on the Upper Peninsula, Interstate 75 across the Lower Peninsula was another adventure in driving through a green tunnel.  In this case, the trees even filled the medium between the southbound and northbound lanes.  I’m sure there must be farms somewhere, and even towns, but all you see from I-75 are trees, trees, and more trees.  At one point, following another sign for “Scenic Turnout,” I turned out, parked the car, and climbed the viewing platform.  What did I see from that platform?  Trees.

Nancy led me on a zig-zag course, turning off I-75 toward Holland, Zeeland, and eventually Cadillac.  Back on the Interstate, this time I-196, I drove around Grand Rapids, and stopped for gas.  I had waited until the warning light came on, as I wanted to see just how the car would warn me.  No small glowing gas pump on this baby.  No, Nancy lights up with a huge banner that says “Low Fuel.”  Also the DIC (should I name it Dick?), or Driver Information Center which is located in the center of the speedometer, quit telling me my average miles per gallon and said instead, “Low Fuel.”  I guess I was running low on fuel.  This Saab takes premium, and has a rather large tank for one of today’s vehicles.  I put in 19.5 gallons at a cost of $81.51.  By my calculations, I got 23.4 miles per gallon.  Dick had suggested 24.1, but I had only learned how to get Dick to talk to me after driving several miles past the previous fill up.  

Nancy directed me all the way to the front gate of the Campit Resort.  Stopping at the office, I found the door locked.  I had arrived after hours.  Before I could figure out what to do next, one happy camper grabbed me and suggested I go with him to find someone who could help.  By the time we returned to the office, the evening attendant was there and he checked me in.  He then offered me a tour of the facilities, and as we rode around the 33 acre campground in his golf cart, he explained about the tent areas, the cabins, and the sections where the “seasonals” have their camp trailers set up.  I knew all about “seasonals,” as cousin Ron and his partner Derwin are “seasonals at Roseland, where I’m headed next.
Once in my room, I changed into my swim trunks and headed for the pool.  Campit Resort is NOT a clothing optional place.  Nudity is not permitted according to the camp regulations.  In the pool I found four bears (well, two bears and two otters to be exact).  Only one was wearing trunks.  Dare I say I joined them?  In the buff?  

After relaxing in the pool, I retired to my cabin for dinner of ham, veggies and cheese from my cooler, then wrapped myself in my leather flag sarong and walked the campground, including the secluded nature trails where I had been told anything might be found.  It might, but all I found were empty trails.  It is Sunday evening, after all.

Back at my room, I tried accessing the internet, only to find that I would have to join the site by paying a fee.  No thanks.  I’ll get things posted later.  Guess it’s time for bed and an end to Day 4.

The View from a Michigan "Scenic Turnout"

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