We pulled out beneath the gray sky and picked up a couple of coffees and some sticky homemade muffins at the Mackinaw Bakery. Donna also bought a couple of tchotchkes at the bakery—small decorative ship anchors because I don’t know, we were near water? I don’t understand the tchotchke thing at all.
From there we crossed the wondrous 26,372 foot Mackinac Bridge over Lake Michigan to the upper peninsula. Such a massive and magnificent structure makes you think with resources and commitment the things people can do together are limitless.
Almost as awesome as the bridge was the female toll collector on the other end who was a bit on the older side. When I asked her if my Ez-Pass would have worked in what they called a MacPass lane she smiled and said, “No. This is Michigan, we’re special. Four dollars please.”
Moving forward on 2 West which ran along the northern tip of Lake Michigan I realized, as nice as our spot was the night before, we should have continued on to one of the many beautiful sandy rest stops on this side of the bridge. Too numerous to count they dotted the shoreline for miles and miles. When Mitt Romney was running for President in 2012 he curiously said, “The trees are the right height in Michigan.” Maybe he should have talked about these little beaches rather than the height of trees because they’re spectacular. Next time we’ll know to continue on.
As we flirted on and off with rain we went past numerous places that sold smoked fish and pastes. At first I thought this was a clever Michigan variation of pastry. But I would find out pastes were like pot pies without the gravy. The eatin’ is good in Michigan—smoked fish, pastes mixed with homemade fudge which also seemed quite prevalent as we rolled along.
The ride became more interesting when this helmetless guy on a Harley, who wore a bright orange riding shirt emblazoned with the rhetorical question in big black lettering, “Can You See Me Now Asshole?” on his back started to weave in and out of traffic and pass everyone. I wondered if it was the guy from the night before who pulled in next to us in the rest area. That maybe he just rolled through this part of Michigan on the weekend trolling people for fun. At any rate, though I was surprised when he flew by us, I was able to rise above my darker instincts and maintain my Zen like state of being. I didn't have one thought about seeing this motorcycle guy up the road up in a ditch with his Harley on fire. Other, less evolved people might have had such thoughts, but not me.
We rolled into Duluth right on schedule going past a slew of grain elevators that were reminiscent of Buffalo. These were in much better shape than the long dead ones in Buffalo making me think they were still operational.
I would soon find out that some were operational as we met Andy and Joy at Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge in bustling Canal Park. After a quick greeting we started to walk and talk like old friends. Donna and Joy got to know each other and Andy started to give me the rundown on Duluth’s rich shipping history. Right from the start Andy took charge and was eager to show us the sights. A couple of days removed from my everyday routine, flying by the seat of our pants, making a million new decisions was very taxing. So it was awesome for someone else to take charge and make all the decisions.
The Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, a museum which preserved the maritime heritage of Lake Superior was closed and Andy was quite disappointed. Despite this disappointment Canal Park was very cool. A triple decker tour boat called the Vista Fleet moved through the harbor and a profusion of activity surrounded us on land from sightseers to people riding tandem bicycles.
We went to a place called “Famous Dave’s” which served up some pretty good barbecue and continued to get to know each other. We talked about our kids and we explained to Donna the old message board where Andy, Joy and I first met. The board was a way to socialize without going out of the house. I remember many a Friday night sitting at my computer drinking beer and discussing whether the lyric was bacon and cigarettes or bacon and fingernails—for the record it’s bacon and cigarettes. From there we drove out to Andy and Joy’s house which was off a dirt road in Saginaw, twenty minutes from the canal. After meeting their very friendly dog Pronto we had a fire, a couple of White Russians and some more conversation. It was lovely.