Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tunnel of Trees fall drive


Legs Inn at Cross Village, above. On the road on the Tunnel of Trees, left. 
  One of my favorite Michigan drives in the fall is M 119 between Harbor Springs and Cross Village. The slow, winding road through the Tunnel of Trees offers a stunning view of the Lake Michigan shoreline, and there are also the upscale homes along the road to see. There are places to stop and have a coffee or cider, like Primitive Images Rustics, above. Another good stop is at the Good Hart General Store. If you're up for lunch, try the Legs Inn at Cross Village, which was built by a Polish immigrant and wood workers, who fashioned the restaurant with local logs. Plan a long afternoon for the ride, so you can take your time. At Cross Village drivers can cut over to US 31, if they don't want to take the winding road back. Lodging is available in Harbor Springs and Petoskey.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Detroit in the 1930s: Corruption, hate groups, right-to-work

   
Black Legion members in the 1930s. 
I'm in the midst of researching a mystery novel set in Detroit in 1935 and the more I read, I realize the city hasn't changed  that much. The backdrop for the book is the formation of the UAW and the Ford Hunger march of 1932 in which five workers were killed by Ford Motor Co. goons and Dearborn police. I know that wouldn't happen these days, but one issue that hasn't is the right-to-work. The state legislature not long ago made Michigan a right-to-work state, reheating an old issue.
     Also figuring in the book is the Black Legion, which was very active in Detroit in the early 1930s. It was an offshoot of the KKK and was anti-communist, anti-immigrant and opposed to unions. There's some indication it was used by manufacturers in Detroit to fight unionization, but that comes from a booklet published by a socialist group, and I wonder how much of it is true. The group was responsible for some killings in Michigan and eventually was brought down by police.
     While the legion is history and I doubt we'll ever see its likes again, we still have that "anti" sentiment alive among some ultra conservatives. Don't get me wrong, I very much respect the conservative point view. We need to hear it for balance.
     You can't turn on the radio or TV these days without hearing some bellowing blow hard trying to put his or her political spin on events. Personally, I don't like either side. Things weren't much different in the early 1930s. Detroit had it's own conservative talk show host in the person of Rev. Charles Coglin, a priest at the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak. His anti-communist tirades and conservative positions had a large nationwide audience and it took the Catholic Church to eventually silence him.
     Meanwhile, at Detroit's city hall corruption was common place with the Purple Gang paying off police and public officials. Just look at the headlines coming out of Detroit these days, and you realize somethings don't change. It's just a different set of characters.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hemingway's beach

     Have you ever stopped at a place that was eerily familiar? Not in a disturbing way, but one of those strange memories that are in the back of your brain. While taking photographs for my guide book, I stopped in Horton's Bay near Lake Charlevoix to snap a shot of the general store there. It's where a young Ernest Hemingway hung out in his teenage years when he wanted to get away from home. It was his version of going to the mall. Something guided me across the road and down a small trail to the lake, and when I got there, Hemingway stories I'd read years ago came flooding back to me. The story is "Up Michigan," and the beach and dock play a central role in the drama. They still look pretty much like they did when Hemingway's characters were there.

Monday, August 26, 2013

That's when they had real winters in the U.P.

     The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a tougher than normal winter for the Great Lakes, colder, more snow. I just hope the giant railroad snow plow, left, isn't needed again. It sits in Calumet, unused for many years, a reminder of how brutal U.P. winters can get. For more information on the Almanac's prediction, go to www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/08/25/215489392/if-you-believe-the-farmers-almanac-get-a-good-coat?ft=1&f=1001

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mystery buildings near the tracks

      One of my favorite pursuits when traveling through small towns, especially in the U.P., is to get off the main road and find the old commercial buildings near the rail road tracks.
     I can often identify what they were used for, warehouses, railroad depots, but many times I can't. I just call them mystery buildings.
     The one, at left, is near the tracks in Newberry. Because of the town's lumber past, I suspect it could have been a mill or storage building for timber waiting to be shipped via rail.
   The photo, below, was taken in Marquette and looks like a similar building, but I suspect it could be mining related.
     If any readers can tell me what they are, I'd appreciate it.
   

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Misty sky over Lake Superior




































     I'm yearning for a few days of blue skies. It seems like we've been hanging out under a mist for about a month now. The sun can come back anytime it wants. We'll see enough gray soon enough this fall.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Dream home on Lake Superior

     When you use the term dream home, it conjures up an image of a mansion in an upscale suburb or a sprawling summer home on Lake Michigan.
     But in my mind, images of cabins I've seen in my travels through Michigan come to mind. The one at left is a favorite, it's near Grand Marais in the Upper Peninsula and is on Lake Superior. Travelers can rent one of these at Sunset Cabins. However, they are usually booked a year ahead.
     And for good reason. The big lake is a short walk, and the inside are all hand built and wood. They match their setting.
     In my travel guide, Michigan: An Explorer's Guide, I go to great pains to find cabins like this and list them. We can all find the big motel chains, but not these hidden gems.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lake of the Clouds hideout

   
     Chances are many people will recognize this photo, its of the Lake of the Clouds and is in the Porcupine Wilderness State Park. It has often been used on promotional material for Michigan, including state maps. The 60,000 acre park is one of the largest wilderness areas in the Midwest. There are camp sites near roads and there is back country camping, but one of the best options is to rent a back country cabin or yurt to stay in. There's even a cabin on the Lake of the Clouds. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov//documents/dnr/Porkiescabinprogram08_259497_7.pdf

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Isle Royale moose

     Isle Royale Nation Park in Lake Superior is one of the best places in Michigan to see moose. The 50-mile long island has a rocky shoreline, and off it are other islands to which moose often swim to feed.
     There are no roads on the island, and it's mostly visited by backpackers and paddlers. Seeing the island via kayak is the best way to explore its coast line. But it's not a trip to be made alone. Groups often travel together.
     This week and next are the peak season, and trips there are often more pleasant in mid to late August, and even into early September. There are fewer people and bugs.
     One tip, don't bother the moose. I snapped the picture at left of a female who was eyeing me distrustfully. She had reason. Kids at the campground we were staying at had been bothering her and her calf, and shortly after the picture was taken, she and her young bolted and fled into Lake Superior. You don't want to get caught in front of a charging moose. For more information, go to www.nps.gov/isro/index.htm. A boat from Copper Harbor makes daily trips to the island and another from Houghton/Hancock makes regular trips. There's extensive information about visiting Isle Royale in my book, Michigan: An Explorer's Guide.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Free range chickens bring back memories

Jeff Counts feeding chickens, age 4.
     Like others, I've seen the acres of empty lots in Detroit working themselves back to grasslands, and it made me remember times spent in the rural South during the 1950s, when people lived off their own chickens, pigs and produce. All at their door step.
     It made me wonder with all sorts of people on food stamps in the city, why don't people start raising their own chickens.    
     Raising chickens in backyards is becoming trendy again as people get more interested in local food and where it comes from. In hip Ann Arbor a resident has been challenging city ordinances against chicken raising, and in one of my favorite TV shows, "Duck Dynasty" one of the Robertsons is in trouble with his upscale neighborhood association for having chickens running around on his place.
     I'm all for this new trend, and think we should go back to our country roots and produce our own food. Whole Foods has made a fortune by doing what my grandparents in Arkansas did for their entire lives. A Sunday chicken dinner simply meant a walk to the coop with an ax to to cut off the head of what country people called a "hen."
     I remember those days well. Pre-dawn trips to the hen house with my grandmother, her with flashlight in hand. She'd gently nudge the hen off its nest and pluck the fresh eggs out for breakfast.
     These days neighbors would object, but I loved the earthy smells of the chicken coop, and loved to feed them. I can still remember 60 years later how the chickens gathered around me.
     As for vegetables, it was a short walk to the garden, where there was fresh corn, tomatoes, okra, big purple onions, and green peppers. The produce had only the chemicals you put on them, and you weren't left to guess. And you didn't have to start up the car for a trip to the store.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Old school resorts in the U.P.

Deer Park General store. 
The eastern Upper Peninsula is home to two older style resorts that bring back memories of childhood vacations from the past. Simple cabins and a beach nearby.  At night there were camp fires and marsh mellow roasts. Those pleasures have been lost in our era of electronic devices and non-stop entertainment.
     To recapture the past, check out Deer Park Lodge (906-658-3341; deerparklodge.typepad.com ), 29209 County Rd. 401, Newberry.  The one and two-bedroom cabins are on Muskallonge Lake and have the use of a shallow, sandy beach. Since it’s an inland lake, the waters are much warmer than those of nearby Lake Superior. The rooms are reminiscent of simple wooden cabins of the 1940s, and they’re furnished with basic cooking utensils. There are no television sets, and cell phone service can be sketchy, so a traveler can really get away.
     The lake is dominated by the Muskallonge State Park, and doesn’t get much traffic, apart from fishing boats. There are small motorboats available. Bringing a canoe or kayak would be a good idea, as the water is shallow, and day trips on the water would give the kids something extra to do.
     The owners, Mick and Monica Brown, are friendly and like to share local history with visitors. They have an anchor from the 1880s that was recovered from the lake and thought to come from a fishing boat. The couple also runs the Deer Park General Store near the cabins, which can pretty much fill the needs of guests. The nearest other stores are about 20 miles away in Newberry.
Cabins at Deer Park.
     There is plenty to see and do nearby. The agate beaches of Lake Superior are just north of the cabins along H 58. Agate hunting on U.P. beaches is a regular activity for Michigan residents. The rocks are hard and colorful. Many people polish them. Tahquamenon Falls State Park is about 43 miles away, making it a day trip. The falls are a top U.P. travel destination. The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, another top attraction, is 54 miles via H 58, which runs along Lake Superior.
     Just about due south on Lake Michigan are the Hog Island Country Store & Cottages (906-477-9995; www.hogislandcottages.com), W8294 US 2, Naubinway. The focus is on the Lake Michigan shoreline, which is just a short walk. The one – three bedroom cabins date to the 1940s and are simple and clean. The kitchens are furnished with basic utensils and each has a fire pit. There are television sets, but who needs them. The beach is sandy and the water warm. By
modern
Hog Island Country Store. 
standards, the rooms are a bit cramped, but travelers are here to get outside.
     The hosts here are Tom and Sandy Jacobs and can be found on most days manning the Hog Island Country Store, where they sell homemade jams and jellies, smoked fish and pasties. There’s also coffee for those on the road.

     The town of Naubinway is about nine miles east of Hog Island. The town is home to an active fishing fleet, and there are several markets selling fresh fish. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

M 22 wine tasting room

     M 22 running along Lake Michigan from Manistee to Northport and then south to Traverse City is one of the best drives in the state. There's plenty to see and do, including visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park.
   But it's also creating a commercial buzz, with M 22 stickers for vehicles, and even one group of business people who wanted to commercialize the route number so much so that they wanted to copy write the name. Thankfully, Michigan's attorney general ruled that M 22 belongs to the state and its residents, paving the way for all to use the name.
     This summer I drove the entire route again, and found this delightful sign and flag in Glen Arbor at the M 22 wine tasting room. It's worth a stop.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Seney's Boot Hill Cemetery

     When I drive through Michigan towns, I don't just check out tourist attractions, I like to look for the remnants of how people lived in the past. This often leads to old cemeteries. A favorite is in the Keweenaw Peninsula copper mining county where I found a row of tombstones marking the graves of boys about ten years old. The date of death was the same on each grave, leading me to believe they died in a mid-19th century mine accident. In Seney in the central Upper Peninsula, I drove just south of the town of about 300 and found the old Boot Hill cemetery, with mostly unmarked graves. I suspect most were lumber jacks who died in accidents, but you never know in Seney, which around the turn of the 20th century was a booming lumber town of about 3,000. There were many saloons, and fights. Some could have been victims of the violence. A visitor can tell where the graves are because most have sunken in. Some have crosses on them, others not. I try to work such sites into my guide book because it tells readers about a real place.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Confessions of a Michigan wine illiterate

     Wine tours have become a big thing in Michigan, with folks going from winery to winery in northwestern Michigan and else where, sampling the  products of the vintners, and I joined in on a day this summer, hoping nobody would discover my wine ignorance. For years, I've tried to join fellow baby boomers in their appreciation for wine, but when it came to describing a wine, I was usually at a loss for words. Observing that it was white or red was too painfully obvious. 
     For this I blamed my up bringing. I was a child of the 1950s and in our house Mogen David concord grape wine was the only one to be found, pretty thick stuff for a teenager, so my drinking career started with beer, as it well should have. Then came a fateful wine night when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1968. The entire city of Detroit was having a party, and if you were driving, people would stop you and hand you a beer. 
     Needless to say, I was celebrating too. But like most naive 20 year olds, I had no idea where to go to make merry, so I headed downtown Detroit with friends. The Detroit riots had happened the previous summer, and some  were dubious about heading downtown. I wasn't. I'd spent much of that summer digging ditches in the inner city, and wasn't afraid. 
     The problem was,  pretty much all the alcohol on store shelves was gone, and we finally ended up at a party store on East Jefferson, where the only stuff remaining were bottles of Wild Irish Rose wine, a staple of Skid Row winos that was usually consumed from the bottle, while it was still in the bag. 
     We bought what we could, and drank it. It was thick and sweet, as I remember, and the next morning I awoke with a hangover, and blamed it on the Wild Irish Rose, as thought it was the only culprit. It's legacy was to put me off wine for a long time. Then came the hippies with their Boone's Farm apple wine, which induced more hangovers. After that period of my life, I swore off wine for many years, although I did have a brief try at Mad Dog 20/20 in my 30s, another street wine. 
     Jack Daniels with a beer chaser became my wine for many years, until I took up wine again, seeing it as less harsh than bourbon. My clumsy wine attempts usually found me making a purchase decision based on the looks of the label. I knew that wasn't right, but I was adrift. I read a few books on wine and tried to read some magazine articles, all of which came off as pretentious. We've all read that stuff -- "tastes like a sun kissed apricot on a July day," as though anyone can particularly tell what an apricot tastes like in July versus August. 
     But as I stumbled through the process of leaning, I progressed past the stage where wines were either white or red, or in boxes versus bottles. I still sucker for labels. One is Big Paw red which has an illustration of an English setter dressed as an upland bird hunter. The dog looks like my son's setter, so I've taken to calling the wine Molly red, the name of my son's dog. 
     Maybe someday I can master French pronounciation and that will lead to a better educated wine palate, but I doubt it, maybe it was that Wild Irish Rose or the Jack Daniels that forever numbed my tastes. 
#Michigan wine

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Beaches of Frankfort

There's nothing more inviting that a boardwalk leading to a Lake Michigan beach. It tells you to leave your cell phone or device in the vehicle and saunter on it until you get to the water. This beach is a bit hard to find. It's on the south side of the Betsie River in Elberta just off M 22. The search is worth the effort, as there are few people on the beach. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The copper strike of 1913

A hundred years ago this week copper miners in the Keweenaw Peninsula went on strike, seeking more money, an eight hour day and the end of the one man drill, which they considered dangerous. 
The state eventually ordered the National Guard in to keep peace, as 15,000 workers went on strike. The mine owners hired a detective agency to provide private security. But trouble came anyway.
Calumet was at the center of the troubles, and it looks like its been sealed in time capsule since 1913, with many fine 19th century buildings lining the downtown. 
My favorite stop to pay tribute to the miners is Shute's Bar, photo at left, which dates to 1890. It has recently been cleaned and re-opened after a several year hiatus.
When I go inside, I can imagine tough miners, many of whom didn't speak much English, standing at the bar, nursing a beer, if they could afford it, and talking about the strike. 
Old pictures of the miners show them wearing suits and carrying picket signs. The world was much more formal then. There were also some miners who were opposed to the strike backed by the Western Federation of Miners. The union brought in Mother Jones, a radical labor activist of the time. 
The first  violence came on Aug. 14, 1913 when two strikers trespassed on mine company property. Local deputies and men from the Waddell-Mahon Detective Agency were dispatched to fetch the miners, but when confronted in a boarding house, one refused to go, and the security officers started shooting. Two men with no connection to the strikers were killed.
The violence continued, but the most tragic event was to come. On Christmas Eve hundreds of miners and their wives and children were gathered at the Calumet Italian Hall for a party. Some one in the crowded yelled "fire" and the crowd ran for the door. In the chaos, 73 people were trampled, most found dead near the door. 
As with most labor disputes, the mining companies blamed the union and the union blamed the companies. But the truth was that nobody seemed to know who yelled "fire", and it has become an enduring mystery in the Keweenaw. 
The strike eventually ended in April 1914, with the miners winning shorter work days and pay hikes, but no reprieves from the one-man drill. The union wasn't recognized by the company.
After the strike, many of the miners lost their taste for working under ground, and followed the lure of auto jobs in Detroit where Henry Ford was paying $5 a day. 
Although the Italian Hall has been demolished, there are still plenty of historic buildings and sites in the copper country, many of which are in the Keweenaw National Historic Park run by the National Park Service. For more information, go to www.nps.gov/kewe/index.htm
For further reading, pick up a copy of Michigan author Joe Heywood's "Red Jacket" which uses the strike as a back ground for one of his woods cop mysteries. I won't spoil the ending, but he has a different take on who yelled "fire."
For many years there was a controversy over whether the doors of the Italian Hall opened outward or inward, and there was a theory that the door was jammed shut by men from the detective agency. 
This is explored in a non-fiction book, "Death's Door: The Truth Behind Michigan's Largest Mass Murder," by Steve Lehto, an attorney. 


                                                            Photo of the mine headquarters in Calumet. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Beginning of the Road

We all travel roads, but rarely do we get a chance to see where they start or end. This sign in Copper Harbor marks the beginning of US 41, which runs from the Upper Peninsula to southern Florida. Little did the original Native Americans who blazed the trail know they were pioneering the road that generations of Americans used to escape the snow and ice and head to Miami in the winter.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Unconnected at Hog Island





   If you've ever driven along U.S. 2 in the Upper Peninsula, you've probably seen this place located near Nubinway, on Lake Michigan. It's worth a stop. There's food, coffee, fudge and other items, but it's the history that's the draw. The building was once in the nearby backwoods town of Rexton, but was moved to its present location some time in the 1940s as tourism developed along U.S. 2. Once a house, its has been a store for many years. There are also about six rustic cabins with beach access. There's no Internet connection or fancy electronics in the cabins, and it would be a great place to take kids who have become way too dependent  on cell phones and other devices for entertainment. There's just the beach nearby.

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's research at the Mitten Bar


     Some times when you're doing research on travel destinations in Michigan you have to sacrifice, like I did at the Mitten Bar in Ludington where they only serve Michigan beers and hard liquor. I tried both. The Traverse City whiskey, which I've been hearing about, was fine, something like a Canadian, but a bit spicy and it had a bourbon feel to it. The Mitten has become a destination for beer lovers in Michigan, and doesn't cater to the average beer drinker. My wife, who took a picture of me at the bar, tried to order a Bud Light. There was none, so she just took photos. If my hand looks a bit fuzzy in the photo, it's not her fault. My elbow was pretty much in constant motion when I was in the place. There's also an adjoining whiskey bar, but I never made it in there.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Frankfort Gateway

Back in the 1950s when I was a kid, you'd see a lot of  these types of welcome signs over roads leading into a town. But over the years they've lost favor with the local town fathers. I like them, they give you the feel of entering enterting a place with defined boundries. On my travels through Michigan I can't remember seeing another of this type. There is something like it in downtown Houghton in the U.P., but you're already in town when you see it. Anybody know of any others like this one in Frankfort on Lake Michigan.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Saturdays at the Eastern Market


     For some reasons, produce tastes better when its sitting out in an open air stand and the signs over it with the prices are written in hand. That's part of the allure of Detroit's Eastern Market where on most Saturdays about 40,000 people show up to mull over produce and other farm products. It makes us feel better to hand our money over to the person that grew the stuff. Why is it called the Eastern Market? Because in the 19th century in Detroit there were also a Central Market and a Western Market, which was located at Michigan and Trumbull. It obviously gave way to a baseball park, old Tiger Stadium. The Central Market was in the downtown business district.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ironwood Train Depot

When I drive into a town doing research on my travel guides, one of my first stops is the old train depot. I've got this crack pot theory that the spirit of a town is reflected in how it treats its old depot. When train travel was the norm decades ago, the station was the first building most travelers saw, and that their reaction to it determined how they viewed the community. Some stations are elaborate brick or stone structures, while others were of wood. The old Ironwood station, left, is now used by the chamber of commerce and there's a small museum. Although I don't remember it much, I must have been here in the early 1950s when I visited relatives in Ironwood. My mother and I took the train from Detroit, which passed through Chicago first. My childhood memories are hazy, but I remember seeing many box cars filled with iron ore from the nearby mines. I hope Ironwood takes care of the old station, as I'm sure others have memories of it when it was thriving.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Old School Bar Town


On a recent tour of the Upper Peninsula I stopped in downtown Ishpeming, an old iron mining town just west of Marquette and was pleasantly surprised to see a large number of old fashioned taverns. Not trendy brewpubs, old school places where guys drink beer out of a can. A favorite is the Rainbow Bar, which was a hang out of my favorite U.P. writer, John Voelker, a judge, novelist, and above all a fly fishermen. Reading his fishing essays, you'll regularly find names of taverns mentioned, and the Rainbow is noted. I was a bit surprised to see it still in operation, along with five others within walking distance. I'm going to have to return to make a pub crawl some night. All look interesting and include Jack's Tee Pee Bar, which is next to an old favorite, The Congress, which also serves great pizza. The others have kept their old style names, the Wonder Bar, Paradise Bar and Hickeys Bar. For those looking for a micro brewery, try the Jasper Ridge Brewery & Restaurant which is located outside of downtown of M-28. As for me, I'll stick to beer out of the bottle at the Rainbow. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Pine Stump Junction

Years ago while looking at a Michigan map, I found a place name, Pine Stump Junction in the Upper Peninsula's Luce County on County Road H 37. I wondered what was there, and I finally made it to the place during the 1970s while on a fly-fishing trip. The old northwoods tavern was the only building in the place, and inside it was basically a beer bar with pickled eggs and ham hocks sitting in jars behind the bar. Every few years I'd stop by to see if it was still there, and did so this summer. Looks like times haven't been kind to the Pine Stuff. It was Sunday morning, so I couldn't tell if it was open, but it looks like there's a bit of construction going on. In my travels through the U.P., it seems like other backwoods taverns are suffering the same fate, victims to the brewpub craze. I'm sorry to see them go, nothing went better with a pickled egg than canned beer. The place is at least still on the map.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Legs Inn on Father's Day

     In Michigan, if it's Mother's Day it's Frankenmuth. But what about poor old dad? The Legs Inn at Cross Village in northwestern Michigan is just the antidote for fried chicken.
      The historic resturant/bar dates to the 1920s when Stanley Smolak, a Polish immigrant and auto worker, came to the small town and started to fashion the building from twisted forms of wood and stone.
     The family opened a restaurant in the unique structure and offered Polish food. The family still operates the distinctive structure that's a hold over from the era of roadside attractions. For more information, and a look at the menu, go to www.legsinn.com.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The old Jeep

     My relationship with my 2001 Jeep Cherokee lasted longer than a lot of marriages, about 190,000 miles of bumpy road - which some would equate to a rocky marriage. But in my case, I wasn't looking for a divorce, it was forced. The old Jeep presented me with a bill for the misdeeds I'd done her over the last dozen years that added up to about $3,000, which prompted me to say goodbye.
     We've been through a lot. When I first climbed into it, I could claim to be middle age. These days I get free coffee at McDonalds and only have to pay half price for a fishing license.
     The Cherokee has been replaced by a new, gray Jeep Liberty and smells brand new. Some like that; but not me. I miss the smell of the old one, the combination of spilled bourbon, river water, sweat, mold, dirt, sand and spilled coffee. Too bad I couldn't bottle it.
     I spent an hour or so cleaning it up for the trade-in, mostly pulling out flies that had become embedded in the carpeting. I couldn't face giving it a true cleaning. That would have meant an array of chemical products which I never used on it.
     When I first bought it, I made some feeble attempts to make it acceptable to suburban society, but that soon faded away because it was my vehicle, not a family van to take kids to soccer practice, it was mine and mine alone. I'd never had a car that was truly mine since my 1968 Mustang, which was abused in the way only a 20 year old kid can manage. When we have kids and social responsibilities, we tend to buy vehicles for others, to cart around kids, get groceries, and drive people to medical appointments. There were also teenage sons borrowing the car. The Jeep was all mine and had no social responsibilities.
     It was often caked in mud from fishing or hunting trips, and my wife pretty much refused to ride in it. Later on, it developed creaks and groans brought by driving back roads, and my sons took to affectionately calling it "the rattle trap." One salesman I worked with pretty much told me it didn't belong in the office parking lot. Since I hate suburban sensibilities, I'd leave it mud splattered for as long as possible.
     I went down a lot of roads with the old Jeep, some of which I probably shouldn't have, especially after a night at a northern Michigan tavern, but I don't regret any of the adventures I had with it. I also wrote three travel books out of it, one about Detroit, so the Jeep has been on some of the wild back streets of the city. And in all that time, I never had to call a tow truck. It's been a good marriage, and I'm looking forward to getting the new Jeep dirty, and acquiring new bourbon, river and fish smells on the inside.
   

A favorite sight

Fishtown in Leland along Lake Michigan is a favorite stopping place for travelers. With it's fishing boats and historic shanties that are now small shops, it's a world away from out hectic lives.