We fell hard for Michigan. As we stepped off the ferry from Mackinac Island and began our trek southward down the middle of The Mitten, we had plenty of time to ponder our time there. Yes, Midwesterners are still just as nice as we remembered. Wow, they still refer to soda as pop! They are not meta or ironic and for the most part, not even all that cynical. They are politely interested in visitors from distant locales, but they have no interest in following you home. They like where they live.
I ticked off the places we’d peeked at: Frankenmuth, Glen Arbor, Torch Lake, Traverse City, Petoskey, Charlevoix and the jewel that is Mackinac Island. We really just skimmed the surface. If we are lucky enough to make a return visit, it is the Upper Peninsula that beckons. I would bury myself in Jim Harrison novels and head up to Copper Harbor. Preferably in the summer, because I am not completely crazy: Copper Harbor gets an average of 207 inches of snow every winter.
A few hours into the drive, we stopped in Grayling for lunch. The Grayling restaurant, with its lunch counter and wooden booths, looks about the same as it must have when it opened in 1937, although the framed newspaper clippings on the wall hark back to the sinking of the Lusitania.
We pressed on, driving south and finally west to where the Black River winds its way to Lake Michigan at South Haven, a little town we will always remember because here we had our first successful stay at a bed and breakfast. We’ve tried it before: once, after bone-wearying travel delays we drove up to our designated B&B in the wee hours, found it illuminated by a flickering fluorescent light from the gas station across the street and discovered we were basically checking in to the Bates Motel.
. Another time, in another place, the CE lay awake all night in a room where the worn polyester bedspread slipped and slid dangerously close to his skin and a half-dozen portraits of large-eyed cats stared down at him in the dark. He woke me at 5 a.m. to announce that we were moving to a Courtyard Marriott.
But in South Haven, we found Yelton Manor, where gracious innkeepers Bob and Elaine have spent thirty-two years perfecting the art of hospitality. Our stay there was brief, but we had time to sample the popcorn and peruse the bookshelves that line nearly every wall of the artfully designed common areas. The inn is pristine, cozy and welcoming.
We walked into town for dinner, across the drawbridge where bridge tender gave us a friendly wave as we went by. The tab at Maria’s was under $40, so we celebrated with a cone at the local Dairy Queen. Reason enough right there to move to Michigan – the young man who waited on us could not believe that we live in a place where there is no Dairy Queen. Neither can I.
After a restful night and a healthy breakfast, we bid farewell to our kind hosts and continued our drive southward for the last stop of our two and a half week sojourn. Onward to my beloved City of the Big Shoulders: Chicago…