Onward and upward. That was our goal on our October road trip to Michigan.
After being awed and inspired by our day-long (which wasn’t ample enough time) visit to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, we traveled north.
Our next stop for the night would be St. Ignace, a small Upper Peninsula town on the shores of Lake Huron, just across the famous Mackinac Bridge (more about that later).
As day turned to dusk, the view outside our vehicle’s windshield still continued to cause me to keep my camera handy. The further north we traveled on a highway not busy with traffic, trees displayed their autumn glory in rich color.
Having been deprived of such beautiful fall displays in our home state for the last couple of years, I reveled in the sights. Fall, after all, is my most favorite season of the year. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
We crossed into the Upper Peninsula via the Mackinac Bridge in the dark so we couldn’t see much of that amazing five-mile long suspension structure that connects the two peninsulas.
But we could tell it was pretty windy as we crossed and rain was falling. Unfortunately, by the time we reached our hotel destination, the weather forecast wasn’t promising as rain continued steadily during the night.
We scrubbed our plans for the next day – visiting Mackinac Island – because the forecast called for 90-100% rain all day long. Instead, we decided to just go with the flow. Get in our car and drive even farther north just to see what we could see. An adventure on less traveled ‘blue highways.’
And we found some treasure troves that day like the photo above. As temperatures plummeted during our unplanned day trip, the air became crisper and sharper and the scenery became even more beautiful. And then snowflakes flurried through the air.
On more than one occasion, Papa had to stop the car or find a place to turn around after I would exclaim, “OHHH, look at that!” and wanted to capture a photo. (He patiently supports and understands how much I enjoy taking pictures and I’m so thankful for him.)
We wandered as far north as Lake Superior and found lighthouses to visit and the site of the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, an American freighter which sank during a storm on Lake Superior in November 1975. The entire crew of 29 was lost in the lake and if you’re
older mature like me you may remember a song recorded by Gordon Lightfoot about that tragedy.
Finally, to wind up our random day trip excursion, we found ourselves in the northeastern end of the Upper Peninsula at the St. Mary’s River in Sault Ste.Marie.
There we stood for over an hour with 20 or so other folks on an outside observation deck, shivering in the cold, but determined to watch a 740-foot long Canadian freighter travel through the St. Mary’s Falls Canal (called the Soo Locks) connecting Lake Superior with Lake Huron, which is actually 21 feet lower.
Had we driven any further, we would have crossed a bridge into Canada. But since we didn’t have passports with us to get back into our own country, we just waved to our neighboring country from the American side of the river.
We traveled a lot of miles that day but the sights we observed and visited made even a cold, almost wintry day well worth a few shivers. And we also realized what a small world this truly is.
While waiting for the freighter to travel through the Soo Locks, we began chatting with another couple, who were also tourists. The gentleman had a distinguishable southern accent but we could tell from our discussion he had been in the military.
As we conversed, he asked us where we were from. Since we hail from a rural area outside a small town that most folks have never heard of, we usually just answer with the name of our nearest city because it is ‘just down the road’ from us.
Of course, this gentleman wanted to know what part of the city we lived in, so we had to explain that we actually reside outside the city near a small town. He was persistent in asking what the name of that was, so we finally told him.
His face lit up and he said, “I’ve been there!” And he proceeded to name the little village across the river from our hometown. Why on earth had he visited our neck of the woods? He once had a military buddy from our hometown.
There are so many big sights to see in this seemingly big world, but as Papa and I have discovered, we can travel for hundreds of miles yet meet up with someone who has something in common with us.
Taking a detour from our itinerary showed us it just might be a small world after all.
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ~ G.K. Chesterton