Baching It

Doing the Balanced Arch

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. So, while the girls were out clubbing, Carl and I went to town, baching it, sort of speak. I parked for free on Magazine, with the intension of eating at Karl’s, but all of their upstairs seating had been taken. Instead, we walked the length of Portage’s tourist row and ate at Superior Café. I had one of their varieties of avocado toast, while Carl had their Rueben. He drank a dark beer and I had a cider. It was good.

After lunch, we went around the corner and visited the Soo Historical Society. I was underwhelmed at first. Their display consisted of the usual collection of hand-me-down heirlooms / junk.  Then we met Rowan. Thirteen years old and already well over six feet tall, personable, knowledgeable and generally quite pleasant. He was volunteering at the historical society. He showed off some of the displays, but generally we just talked.

I asked if he was named after the member of the comedy team of Rowan & Martin, but that was way before his time and he didn’t know what I was talking about. He said that he was named after the type of tree. At this time his mother stuck her head in, checking out what too strange men were doing for so long with her boy. She said that his father wanted to call him Alder, but she put her foot down and picked Rowan, because of Rowan & Martin. After about an hour, we bade farewell. His mother wished us well with, “Have fun baching it.”

We walked back down tourist row, past Karl’s to the putt-putt golf course. Shot a relatively quick round and we both finished up with a hole-in-one. Meijer’s was next and then back to the cabin, beating the girls back. We did the Cozy Inn. It was slammed, supposedly because of a fishing derby. We ended up with way more whitefish than we needed, so, I see fish tacos in our not too distant future. Anne, Jay and Carl finished their redwoods puzzle last night. 

Tahquamenon Riverboat Tour

As a much needed getaway from elder care, we drove west to Soo Junction and indulged ourselves in a totally touristy train and riverboat tour to Tahquamenon Falls, courtesy of Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tours. I’ve been vacationing up here for decades and have done all of the usual tourist stuff around here and Anne has been coming even longer, but somehow this attraction has eluded us. Yesterday, after a forty minute drive, we arrived at the parking lot. Before we got there though, we stopped first at Sugar Daddy, the new Brimley bakery, for a little something and at a popup roadside craft stand, at the corner of M-28 and M-123 that was selling birch-bark baskets. Anne bought a nice one for me.

The total tour runs 6 ½ hours and travels through the wilderness swamps and forests around Tahquamenon. It begins with a 35 minute narrow gauge train ride, along the “longest 24″ gauge railroad in the country” (5 ½ miles). Called the Toonerville Trolley, this train was first built for logging in 1910. In 1927 in converted from hauling logs in the winter to hauling tourists in the summer. We sat in the third car, the “party car” that was comprised almost exclusively of people from Ann Arbor. It was sunny, warm, bug free and an enjoyable ride.

The train ride is followed by a 2 hour, 21 mile, riverboat cruise. The Hiawatha offers two decks, with enclosed and open seating, food service and restrooms. If you save some room until the last hour of the return trip, hotdogs are a dollar. This boat is the latest in a sequence of tour boats that have been plying the river. In the dead of winter, water trucks sprayed water for a month, making an ice road 18″ thick. The boat was hauled to the river in five sections by truck and welded together on the frozen river. When spring came, it launched itself.

During the cruise, the captain provided excellent narration on the area’s logging history, Native American history and Michigan’s plant and animal life. After reaching the rapids above the falls, he docked the riverboat for a little over an hour, allowing for a 1¼ mile roundtrip nature hike to a private viewing area for the upper falls. The normal view from across the river is better, but this one was different and different is usually good just for being so. After the stopover, the riverboat and train retraced their routes back to Soo Junction.

It rained on the return boat trip and after a couple of nearby lighting strikes and the captain’s admonition, the outside decks were cleared. It turned cool and we were missing our raincoats that we had left in the car, so we snuggled, just to keep warm, don’t you know. It was still a pleasant ride. The return train trip was not so nice. We both got massacred by mosquitoes. On the way out, we were heading northwest into a northwest wind, giving us a combined air speed of between 10-20 MPH. So, no bugs, but on the way back, we were heading the opposite direction and what with the wind still out of the northwest, the motion of the train was effectively cancelled by the wind. We used Off!, but almost every spot that we had missed with it got bitten.

Still, the expedition was a lot of fun. We saw Sandhill cranes, a Golden and Bald eagle and “Harry” the woodchuck, but no wolves, bear or moose. Maybe next time? We dined at Pickles, which on a Saturday night was slammed. For having spent almost all day sitting, we were both very tired and Bubs had to go to bed early, because no one else was still going to be up much longer.

Back on the Bikes

Point Iroquois Lighthouse

I got my fitbit back. Thanks, Carl & Jay! Its return inspired me to get my steps in for the day. That was yesterday, when there was enough wind to comfortably prepare the bicycles for riding. My bike’s chain was a little worse for wear. It got some rust on it, from the day that I drove it up here in the rain, but a little spray-on WD-40 got most of the kinks out of it. I see a new chain in my future.

Anne and I launched today, at the crack of noon. She was lamenting to me that we seem to have fallen into a rut and need to start getting up earlier. I somehow got the feeling that it was my fault that I hadn’t kicked her out of bed. I think that since everyday here feels like the last, why not savor the best parts of each one? I like lying in bed together, during the still of the morning, listening to the many woodland sounds outside. Sometimes the wind is blowing, often waves are crashing and occasionally a woodpecker stops by, gives the cabin a few exploratory taps, but finding nothing to its liking, flies off.

Like I said, we launched. Our goal was the lighthouse. It felt good to be back on the bikes. It has been a while. When I reset our two odometers, I came to the conclusion that the last time that we both had ridden was in Louisiana and that was in late April, almost three months ago. We’ve been busy though. Later, at lunch, I saw the Weather Channel rainfall totals for the parishes that we had ridden through. All were at least 5″ and many were +10″. Those poor people.

I was drooling with anticipation for riding 6 Mile to the lighthouse. We had driven this route just days before, which gave us an inkling of what to expect, that most beautiful black of fresh asphalt. It was like butter. I had put on chamois butter, which was almost a waste, except for the ride’s two extremis. The shoulders have been widened to a full lane, except between the two casinos, where the old snowmobile trail has been paved, making a separated bike lane.

At the lighthouse, we met another couple from Saint Louis. They updated us on hometown happenings and we steered them towards some UP tourist attractions. We had a tailwind heading back. How much more perfect could this ride get? We stopped for lunch at Jack’s and then just four more miles to the cabin.

Ann Arbor

Birds on a Wire

Rest? Weary or wicked, we seemed to have found none. Our home coming was way too short. It amounted to no more than doing laundry, a repacking, haircuts and dinner with Joanie, who has done a great job of looking after the house.Thank You! Because today, we relaunched to the Great Lakes State. So long, Saint Louis. We’ll see you again when you are cooler and hopefully Big Bend is no longer under construction. One more day here and yes dear folks, you would be treated to an epic MSD rant.

Our drive to Ann Arbor was uneventful and after our three day cross-country marathon, today’s was a pretty easy drive. We made good time, only stopping twice. Plus most of the orange barrels had been sidelined for the 4th of July holiday. I felt like Moses, parting the orange sea.