Mickey (our puppy)

Sometimes our greatest adventures aren’t planned out with every mile accounted for and the places we’ll stay secured before we leave, sometimes they are the ones thought of at the end of a day and acted upon with little planning and or preparation.

Shira and I had been looking for a new member of our team, one we can take with us on new adventures and exploring along the river near our home. We wanted to find a dog, old enough to not have to worry about too much training and a breed that is hypoallergenic so that we don’t have to worry about allergies shared by Tracy’s older kids. We wanted a smart dog and one whom likes to explore with a good temper and disposition. We ended up deciding on a Portuguese Water dog because they aren’t a huge dog and are totally hypoallergenic and love being active and around water as well. It seemed like a perfect fit for us so we began looking but soon came to the conclusion that people do not rid their families of Porties (as owners tend to refer to them) but rather keep them for life, and that’s the way it ought to be but it made it impossible to find one for us past the potty training phase.

So as a last ditch effort Tracy reached out to the nearest breeders of Portuguese Water Dogs and asked if they might contact us in the off chance that someone may have an older Portie for us to adopt. Well that didn’t really happen however the owner’s of Traverse Bay Portuguese Water Dogs, a breeder outside of Traverse City, Michigan contacted us with a single, litter pick that was looking for a home, and after communicating with them and viewing video footage of this pup, yes only four and half months old, and seeing many photographs we were fully engaged. She was beautiful, her color magnificent, playful and very photogenic. We wanted to meet her and so as Friday wound down at work the decision was made last minute to drive out to the Lake Ann area of Michigan, on the opposite side of the lake from our home in Minnesota. We met at home after work, threw some leftovers in a cooler, grabbed our go bag with a change of clothing and drove off through the monotony and psychosis of rush hour traffic, over the Mississippi River into Wisconsin, and headed for the Northern Peninsula.

As with every trip we were excited to hit the road, with a little initial stress over maneuvering through rush hour we took some huge, deep breathes and sat back to watch Wisconsin fly by excited to take in all we can on our first adventure of the season. The sun shone and we dialed in songs to sing along too as we cruised and talked about our hopes and dreams, adventures and follies we might share with our new pal. Eventually the sun fell away and with evening came cooler weather and some rain. The road was good and we made pretty decent time. We had planned on staying overnight on the way there as the entire trip consisted of many single lane highways along the coast of Lake Michigan for about 12 to 13 hours; if we’d drove the entire trip in one shot, so we found a small motel in Escanaba, Michigan. A great little place just off of main street, it was very clean, very outdated but the owner was kind and pleasant at midnight when we asked for a room; we hadn’t accounted for the time change and thought we might catch him before he closed for the evening, but that wasn’t the case, so he answered the door anyhow in his slippers and bath robe, and placed our names in a big book by hand. Bid us a nice evening and shuffled back into his quarters. The room was well tended to but old, the carpet clean but worn and the bed rock hard but it was warm and dry. It had rained for the last couple hours on the road so we fell asleep hoping for a nicer day to follow.

Morning came early and we were excited to get on the road, we had four and half hours to drive and half way was the Mackinaw Bridge. The weather wasn’t bad for travelling but it was misty and wet the majority of the way. The day would bring many interesting sites, and no two were alike, and none left us with more questions than one tree just outside of Rapid River, Michigan. The road was wet, it was foggy and we had only been in the car for about twenty minutes when we shot past a tree just after crossing over the Tacoosh River, with what at first glance appeared to have been taken over by some strange, foreign growth. But there was something more strangely about this growth as we decided to spin around and take a second glance at said tree.

When we pulled up to it again it was not a natural growth which had overtaken nearly every branch, burdened every limb and hung unsightly over the gravely edges of the road, no this was no lichen, it was hundreds of pairs and shoes, tennis shoes, dress shoes and the like, each set laces knotted tossed around it’s thinly leafed branches. There was something not only odd but dark and mysterious about this tree, and if that weren’t enough, just under a hundred yards from the tree stood an abandoned ramshackle cabin, one imagined an old codger lived once, foraging from the land to live out his final days long ago, but as we’d learned as we drove on was that the legend behind the shoe tree was much more sinister and evil. That consisting of an allegedly murderous individual and missing children, then as you file through the search engines you realize there are many of these “Shoe Trees” through-out the country, still it leaves one’s mind haunted, at least until we saw the giant, tanker sized hot dog covered in relish on the St Ignace side of the Mackinaw Bridge.

And there it was, we finally arrived at the Mackinaw Bridge, we pulled off the road to catch a view from the shoreline and catch a snapshot or two. After all the Mackinaw Bridge is nearly 20,000 feet longer than the famed Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, although I ‘d gamble the weather was better in San Francisco. The bridge itself is a huge feat of construction, spanning 26,372 feet across the Straits of Mackinac its over 500 feet tall and 155 feet, at its apex above Lake Michigan. It was around 8:15 in the morning and cold and windy along the shore, we managed to get a picture and looking at the bridge it looked no less ominous than it did driving over it; there are two towering structures on the bridge from which the deck is suspended, the first barely visible through the dense fog and the second completely hidden. It was neat but sort of spooky.

It has been said that if you don’t like the weather on some part of Lake Michigan then drive along the coast and you’ll find it different around the next corner. That seemed to be the case as we drove South East along the coast from St Ignace to Traverse Bay. The sun shone and the rain blew away and the sun poured down upon us as we drove by miles of quaint little motel cabins, pine trees, birch trees and rolling sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

When we finally arrived at Traverse Bay, Traverse City, we couldn’t have expected what we’d found, it reminded me of a Midwestern version of Lake Tahoe. Old streets lined with shops and small eateries, a boardwalk along the dark water canals off of Front Street and people picnicking and playing along the beach under the sun in 60 degree weather, it was wonderful. Folks wore sandals and sunglasses sipping on iced coffees and gelatos, a vastly different scene than we’d experienced during the rest of the trip. We even took a break on the beach ourselves, laying in the warm sand, listening to people and their dogs splashing in the clear, clean water near the marina and the Bijou by the Bay theatre.

By dinner time we’d found our Mickey, she was as beautiful as her every picture, friendly, soft and she made a fantastic road trip partner on the way home. We got to know each other over the next 1,600 miles back through Green Bay and on to Bloomington, Minnesota. The trip home was long; we were all tired of the ride by the time we reached the end of our trip. At one point none of us felt comfortable enough in one particular Bate’s like motel we ended up in for only a few hours to really get much sleep; it was really old, unkept, overly worn in and well, just kind of scary. So we hit the road again, this time though the fog was so thick that the visibility was limited to about three to four car lengths over much of the trip before Sunday afternoon. So we took it slow, and wouldn’t you know it that at the first stop for gas that morning we ended up with a flat tire. Here is a tip, before heading out on a long road trip make certain you can get your spare tire out from underneath your older model vehicle. It turned out that the contraption that held our spare tire up under the back end had rusted in place so as not to allow me to lower it down for use.

We ended up calling our road side service, and this would have worked out fine except that the rep for the service sent the actual service person to the wrong town in Michigan…over a hundred and fifty miles to the South of our location and it took a few hours for this to come to light. Apparently there are two towns which sound alike; Manistique to the North where we ended up and Manistee to the South where our service guy searched for us at three thirty in the morning. Eventually we got things figured out and after sleeping for a few hours in the cab of our truck in the parking lot of a gas station we were lucky enough to have a young man free the spare tire on our vehicle with a torch so we could get back on the road, then he directed us to his dad’s shop in the next town where he fixed our flat and remounted for us. They couldn’t have been more helpful and soon we were back on the road for home. If you are ever near the Hiawatha National Forest in Rapid River, Michigan, stop in at TKL Repair and say hi, if you are a Chevy fan you’ll enjoy seeing the old, beautifully restored Chevy pick-up trucks in the shop.

Back at home our new pal Mickey was running with tail wagging through her new back yard, she was happy, it might be the big yard, it might be the attention she is getting from the two of us or it might just be that she’s not still sitting in that ‘ol pickup truck. If the weather were nicer and we’d had more time there were plenty of places we could have stopped and explored more, the coast line of Lake Michigan is beautiful, lined with Birch trees and pine trees and rolling sandy dunes, with lots of cute little towns and many wonderful people and pretty, cool, blue water.

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