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.

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Sundown Salty at Anchor

Much of the country, from the Midwest to Eastern Seaboard is in the grip of a scorching heatwave. Today, NYC is expecting a high temperature of 100 °F, while Saint Louis is looking at a heat index of 110 °F. It is high summer, mid-July and as such, a single weather event such as this is not all that exceptional, but it is not just an isolated occurrence. It is part of a increasingly clearer pattern of climate change that in this case has been also aptly dubbed global warming.

NPR had an article on this heatwave and how it is affecting people in northern latitudes more adversely, than individuals who live further south. Basically, this is because northerners are not as well prepared to deal with this kind of heat, as are American who live further south and have had to deal with it on a regular basis. In Brooklyn, our son Dan does not have air-conditioning, while in Saint Louis, our friend Joanie fortunately does. It is certainly hotter in Saint Louis than New York, but having the means to deal with the heat makes a difference.

In 1980, when Anne and I first moved to Saint Louis from Michigan, we were ill prepared for what turned out to be an exceptionally hot summer, even by Saint Louis standards. Neither our apartment nor our black car had air-conditioning. We were young then though and lived in a nice enough neighborhood that we could safely leave our windows open at night. We survived. 112 fellow Saint Louisans were not so fortunate and died heat related deaths. Their deaths did serve to spur city officials to take corrective measures, so that during the heat wave of 1995 only 31 people died from heat in Saint Louis. That same year, in Chicago, almost 700 Americans died from the heat.

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.

Look, Dear

Mule Deer on Simpson Beach 50′ Below

We were at Shores Acres, an Oregon State Park. A trail along the cliffs offered us this lookdown opportunity. One of four Mule deer grazing on the sparse, but apparently enticing beach vegetation, this one had the where withal to look up. The title is a callout to Anne’s and mine habitual silly little deer pantomime. Look, Dear. Yes, Dear. No, Dear. Oh, Dear. Etc.

So, we crashed home last night. I mentioned yesterday that we drove 7,000+ miles on this road trip, but I didn’t say that we accumulated more than a quarter of those miles (2,000+) in the last three days. But there is no such thing as rest for the weary, because today, the Lord’s day, a day of rest, is a workday for us. That’s what happens when everyday is Saturday, the week just blurs together.

Home

We’re home from our epic road trip. We logged 7,000+ miles of driving, through 14 states and only big ones. Now passing mile marker 700 on the 101 in California. We were traveling for almost 40 days. Staying a quarter of the time with family (Thank you very much!), a quarter in motels, but half the time tent camping. While camping, we stayed in parks, both national and state. We visited nine National Parks on this trip, saw lots of wonderful sights, reveled in nature and generally had a good time too.

Today, we’re heck bent for home, pretty much following the Missouri River, just like Lewis and Clark. We crossed the river several times. Sometimes it was on the left, sometimes the right, sometimes on both sides, even when we were not on a bridge. The Mighty Mo has gone walk-about and has left its banks far behind.

Earlier this month, I had scoped out our return route and Google hadn’t offered up I-29 through western Iowa, our most direct path. I attribute this to flooding. There were places where the water was still lapping at both shoulders. We drove a 58 mile stretch where all the exits were closed. Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise (any further), we’ll be home tonight.

But neither rain, nor snow or even flooding shall keep the orange barrels from completing their appointed rounds. Right lane is closing, merge left. Left lane is closing, merge right. Both lanes are closing, turn around and do not pass Go. Do not collect $200 dollars. Anne and I share the driving, but she seems to hog all of the construction. I guess she likes it? Go figure.