In Search of…

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N. Gould City Road

I smile when I remember our search for the quilt store on N. Gould City Road in the eastern half of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We decided to do one more camping trip before Jim got our away-from-home home ready for its long winter nap. Our destination was St. Ignace on the other side of the Big Mac bridge, where we could get Bessie’s Pasties (click on link to learn more about them) and explore back roads, small towns, and shorelines of that part of the Upper Peninsula.

Just before we left home I checked out the 10-day weather forecast for the second week of September (cloudy, really cold at night, and some rain) and if there are any quilting stores in the region (two). I made notes of important information on each store and collected squares of fabric I’m using for quilts I’m working on so I could get a new new fabrics. I put these very important items on the table with other items to pack in our electronic and reading bags. I felt so organized and so excited about spending some time in a different location – one with quilt stores I haven’t visited. I packed up my lap top and Jim’s tablet along with cords and chargers for my I-pod and Kindle. I packed assorted items for our reading enjoyment on cold, wet evenings as we have a cup of chamomile tea and molasses cookies. And I left my notes and swatches on the table; they didn’t seem to belong in either of those bags and I didn’t put them in my pocket or the truck.

No sweat – I knew what I needed to know to find the stores and get what I needed. Tuesday was suppose to be cloudy so I thought it a good day to look for the first quilting shop and because state highway 2 follows the northern edge of Lake Michigan, we could maybe stop for a stroll on the beach. I didn’t have the address but I remembered the road it was on, and remembered the map that was on their Facebook page. Jim was doubtful when we turned onto N. Gould City Road because it was a dirt road and looked very wilderness-like. But I knew it was right so he drove, and drove, we saw a couple of houses, and he drove, and drove, and drove some more. He suggested it couldn’t be on this road, and I said it was. He suggested we turn around, and I suggested we go a little further. And he drove some more.

We carry a very old book of Michigan county maps that has every road and fire lane ever created. Many years ago we used it to search for ghost towns in the Upper Peninsula and now we use it to track where we are when we are almost lost. We found the paved road that goes to the small town of Curtis and Jim wondered if the quilt store was there. I said it was on the dirt road and asked to go a little further. We eventually went back to Curtis.

It was very good decision because we found an ice cream store and we were the only customers. Wearing our masks, I ordered Mackinaw City Fudge that I ate while sitting on a bench watching the water gently moving around rushes on the shore of South Manistique Lake. The ice cream was the best I have had in a very long time and I had a loaf of cinnamon bread that the owner said made really good french toast.

I also popped in the Chamber of Commerce to ask about the quilt shop. There was a local man sitting in a chair across the desk from the woman who worked there. I could tell they were having a relaxed conversation and they invited me in. Keeping a good distance from them, I asked and they looked puzzled. I said it was on N. Gould City Rd. and that sparked a memory – must have been the Thompsons. He died a couple of years ago and she closed her business.

It’s strange how a dish of amazing ice cream and a loaf of cinnamon bread can ease the disappointment of not visiting a quilting store. We took some back roads to St. Ignace and enjoyed some delicious split pea soup for supper. What a good day!

Mushroom Houses

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One of the perks of living in a state that caters to tourists is that we can be tourists – close to home. Earlier this summer we spent some time along Lake Michigan in the northern part of the state. We drove and explored from Wilderness State Park (in the northern most part of the Lower Peninsula, just west of the Big Mac bridge to the Upper Peninsula) down to Charlevoix (pronounced Shar’ la voy) just north of Traverse City.

Charlevoix is best known for its mushroom houses, designed by architect Earl Young. They are houses that trigger my imagination, make me think every day would be a funday if I lived in one. No two are alike but there is usually something whimsical in the design. I wonder if the people who live in them have pointy feet and ears and are a little shorter than the norm?

Our Favorite Roving Cafe

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We spent the first night of our holiday at St. Ignace in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – by plan. Probably this first day will be the most planned day on our trip because it was my 75th birthday and I wanted a Bessies Pastie for my birthday supper. You can learn why by reading this earlier post.

The second day of my birthday celebration (if we don’t count all the pre-birthday celebration days) was spent driving the length of the UP, that included eating lunch at my favorite cafe.

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The Bailey Lunch Cafe chose to locate on the shores of Lake Superior on this mid-August early afternoon. We had a table that overlooked a small bay east of Marquette and the sky was blue in the direction we were looking. Not so blue behind us as we had experienced periodic cloud sneezes that spattered our windshield with mist on the late morning portion of our drive.

There are a lot of pull-offs along this stretch of road but we had been to this one before – I have a photo of a wind-swept tree that is next to the dirt drive that swings from the main road and back. I don’t think there are any conveniences here – just beauty and wonder.

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We had a gourmet lunch of Honey Crisp apple slices, a selection of cheeses including smoked gouda  (my favorite with apples), a Parmesan and ranch cheese ball, multi-grain club crackers, sweet black cherries and a soft drink with two straws glasses. And we talked about this and that and what a great lunch we were having.

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After we cleaned up, Jim headed for the bed for a little rest while I took my camera outside, and we both rejoiced that each was doing exactly what we wanted to do in that time and place.

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I love the mystique of Lake Superior, its breadth and depth, its power, its secrets. Today there was a special magic of interaction of light and water that made the surface seem iridescence.

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The only post-processing I did on this photo was to give the grass some strength in the composition.

Tomorrow we will follow US 2 through northern Wisconsin and into Minnesota and there is no telling where the roving Bailey Cafe will be when we get hungry sometime around noon.

Getting Ready

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Spring dune flowers in Upper Michigan

It is August and today the weather has that late summer feel, when I start thinking of Fall and our annual 5-week camping trip from mid-August to mid-September. I am so eager to go as we are returning to the Canadian Rockies, the western side of Glacier International Park, and down to Oregon to see our grandson’s family. I have menu items planned, our bed made up for warmer nights, have started stocking the cupboards with staples, and have meals in the freezer so we don’t have to do much grocery shopping while on the road. Next week I’ll be able to start packing in earnest as we will need both warm weather and cold weather bedding and clothes. I really want to get this show on the road.

At the same time as I am eager to move on into Fall and our travelling home, I have been spending time looking at the photos from our last camping trip with friends to the very upper portion of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Not surprising because both involve quiet, easy living. My request for a day trip was to go to Wilderness State Park that is situated where Lake Michigan narrows into the Straits of Mackinaw between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Our friend was asking if we would be able to see the Big Mac so I told him to pull over at a turn-off.

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I remember camping at Wilderness when our kids were young but the campground didn’t look familiar. That has happened several places because the shorelines change as sands shift resulting in the campgrounds needing to be redesigned and enlarged. What was the same was the sense of wildness and quiet. We were far away from towns.

It is a place where the kids learned how to entertain themselves with simple activities using nature’s toys. Maybe we don’t outgrow this pleasure.

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The vastness of each of the five Great Lakes pulls me into thinking about the greater questions of life as I gaze into the horizon. Sometimes we engage in small talk, but most of the time we just enjoy quiet time together.

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This is a beautiful wilderness in the summer months with warm sun and cool breezes off the water. In the winter the weather can be brutal although a lot of people enjoy the outdoor winter sports that are available. When I think of winter in northern Michigan, I think of Florida.

But before I think of Florida, I’m thinking of driving across Canada and down the Rocky Mountains into the northwest states. I’m thinking of traveling with our cozy little home behind us, spending time exploring the changing landscapes, eating healthy meals we cook ourselves, finding small pleasures along the way, and taking lots of photographs.

 

Lake Michigan, Harbor Springs

_DSC0074We went “up north” last weekend camping with friends. This wasn’t a new location to us, with lots of new areas to explore. No, we have been here before, many times so it was more like going “home” to the “up north” that includes anywhere above the midpoint of the Lower Peninsula into the far west end of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We have vacationed at different places throughout this large area for close to 50 years so we can engage in many “remember when…” conversations. Conversations like; “Did we come here with … or …? Wasn’t this the place where Mike… or Sharon… or Carol …? Didn’t we have the …. camper when we camped here, was it in 1976? This sure has changed a lot – its not as I remember it.

It was a beautiful weekend in Petoskey, on the shore of Lake Michigan almost to the tip of the mitten-shaped Lower Peninsula. The temp was in the low 70’s with a cool breeze to complement the warm sun traversing a very deep blue sky. On Friday we drove north along the Lake Michigan shore making our first stop at Harbor Springs. I did a little shopping but mostly tried to capture the spirit of the small towns that cater to tourists who are discovering the beauty of our Great Lakes for the first time or the people like us who have been going “up north” for decades. Many of the people were young families with strollers and young adults in small groups.

Harbor Springs was just waking up to summer, enjoying the laid back quiet before the throngs of summer visitors arrive. The planters were newly planted with bright summer flowers and spring iris and daffodils were blooming. There weren’t many boats in the harbor marina and hardly any people walking the streets or shopping in stores. A couple of shop owners told us this was the first week of being open, probably recently returning from their winter of managing stores in southern Florida.

The most obvious sign that we are in northern Michigan is the presence of fudge shops – lots of fudge shops. It appears that this shop is stocking up for the 4th of July week-end.

I resisted, although Lynn and Gary confessed to indulging in something decedent and very tasty. I am convinced, however, that I gained about a half a pound smelling the wonderful aroma coming through the door that was propped open to the morning breeze.

I really enjoyed meandering through the gift shops looking for things that I normally don’t shop for. I only bought a few little things but was reminded that this is a shopping area with a short season evidenced by their simple way of writing up an order. No fancy technology here – the clerk is getting my change from a small metal money box under the counter.

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As my purchase was being bagged the clerk said that if I liked cookies I should go to the next corner, turn right and cross the street. And of course we did.

We bought enough to split one now and another later, and some to share with our friends. The ones with chocolate were the best, but I didn’t need to tell you that.

Our friends were exploring somewhere that Hemingway is said to have frequented when he visited upper Michigan. While they were doing that, I was admiring a bronze statue of Hemingway that was for sale in front of an art gallery. The owner of this gallery had an eye for talent that resonated with my taste. Fate intervened to require that our credit card be cancelled and a new one issued the day before we left and Jim had the single other card we have as backup. Sometimes life just works out like it should.

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Funny how certain tiny events can evoke big and beautiful memories. We had crossed over to the shady side of the street and I had sat down on a bench to enjoy being who I am in that moment in time. As we sat, two boys passed in front of us, one a little older was striding with purpose, with a dollar bill in his hand. The second boy was younger, full of excitement, and bouncing down the street sideways. I overheard the younger ask if maybe they could get some ice cream at the general store that was their destination. The older replied with the authority of age that they would have to check the price.

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Those boys were me 60-some years ago. I remember the power of having money in my hand, especially money I had earned, heading for the corner market to make my decisions about what penny candy to buy – without adult supervision. I remember hopping along beside an older cousin I trusted and admired as we went down the street to the dry cleaners that also sold stamps for our stamp collections. Yes I remember this summer day from the being of a child, from the being of a young mother responsible for the fun and earned privileges of her children. And best of all, I experienced this summer day from the being of an old person with time and money to spend for small pleasures.