Vacation: Unplugged


Laura and I spent the last week in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula visiting my relatives. We left Sunday afternoon and returned last night.

Sunday: Drove to Lansing, MILansing allegedly won the capital of Michigan by a single vote over Calumet, which is in the northwestern Upper Peninsula.. Spent the evening with the Wiitala family. Ate ice cream, played UNO.
Monday: Got up early and drove the rest of the way to my parents’ place. We left Lansing at 7:30AM and arrived at Messy Manor Ranch at about 4:30PM. Managed to not get eaten by Onyx, my parents’ German ShepherdOnce Onyx determined that it was not necessary to eat me, she wanted to play fetch at every possible opportunity. The dog is absolutely insane for her tennis ball, and will chase it all over creation for hours at a time, if given the opportunity.. Mom baked two large piesThe pies were baked in half-sheet pans, and I’d estimate them to be about 16″ x 22″. Dad claims to have eaten eighteen pieces of the rhubarb in the course of the next four days. I’m not sure this is possible, as I ate nearly half that many myself. The apple pie was also quite good, but everyone was rabid for the rhubarb..
Tuesday: Lazy, lazy, lazy. Also, Dad made about eight dozen cookies (oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip) because Mom wasn’t around to tell him not to.
Wednesday: See Tuesday. Brenda showed up a day ahead of schedule.
Thursday: Ditto. We did run into town in the evening to get some frozen treats (Lemon Chill, Bomb Pops) to soothe Laura’s sore throat.
Friday: The big trip into town. Breakfast at the Suomi restaurant, then a visit to Dee Stadium (the birthplace of professional ice hockey) to view the exhibit chronicling the history of Houghton County. Afterward, we went to a junkyard in a failed attempt to find a head for a Dodge Caravan, then took Laura to the emergency room at Portage HospitalLaura had a bit of a sore throat early in the week that developed into a very nasty, wet cough by Friday. At the ER, she was given some sort of inhaler, a prescription for Robitussin with codeine and a prescription for an antibiotic, the latter to be filled only if she got worse. She was feeling quite a bit better by Sunday, but still has coughing fits.. Then it was off to ShopKo to get Laura’s prescription filled. After that, we bought groceries, went to lunch, dropped by the Jeffers High School open house, stopped to see some relatives and went home.
Saturday: Karen arrived at 1:58AM. She drove in from Chicago after Brenda’s plans to visit her there fell through. Laura and I attended the all-school reunion dinner at Jeffers with my Mom, Dad, one uncle and two aunts. There were only three people in attendance who graduated between 1981 and the present. I didn’t know the other two.
Sunday: Croquet in the early afternoon followed by a cookout and birthday celebration at my aunt and uncle’s “camp” on Lake Superior. Dad was born on this day in 1939. The water was cold but certainly not too cold for swimming. Alas, my trunks were back at my parents’ place. To make matters worse, the flies were biting, which kept most everyone inside the whole while. Volleyball in the evening. The flies back at Messy Manor Ranch weren’t anywhere near as vicious as those at the lake. Adam and Brenda went back to the lake to watch the fireworks, but Laura and I skipped them due to exhaustion.
Monday: Drove, drove, drove. Thirteen hours and forty-one minutes from door to door. On the way back we saw one black bear (in the U.P., between L’Anse and Alberta) and fireworks from perhaps two dozen different communities (along the 80/90 turnpike and driving through Cleveland in Ohio). Average speed in the Upper Peninsula over a five hour periodIt took us precisely this long to get from my parents’ house in Toivola to the center of the Mackinac Bridge, including a stop in Chassell (not South Range) for gas.: 56mph.

Mom is very eager to clean out the attic, so I took four large boxes of comics back to Ohio. I’d guess that’s 800 or more comics. They’re not worth any money, but they sure bring back a lot of memories. My brother, Adam, and I spent a couple of hours sorting through the boxes separating his comics (Silver Surfer, The Flash, The Punisher, Amazing Spider-Man) from mine (pretty much everything else).

At some point during the week, we were visited by the Toivola Volunteer Fire Department’s new pumper truck. Several members of the TVFD drove to East Jordan to pick up the truck earlier in the week. My father has been a member of the TVFD since its inception, and the entire family has been involved in various events sponsored by the fire department. The firemen were very excited about acquiring this new truck, and I suspect some of them slept in cots at the firestation that entire week.



8 responses to “Vacation: Unplugged”

  1. Thagg Avatar

    Sounds like a good trip, outside of the sore throat issue.

    I saw a dog toy being marketed for hyperactive dogs last week. It’s a wrist rocket modified for tennis balls with a ‘clip’ underneath for an add’l 3 or so balls. Of course, you would still have to pick up the slobber soaked tennis balls, but I wonder if it has a better range than the tennis racket they now use.

    Rhubarb pie. ‘Nuff said.

    Driving through the UP brings you back to a more civilized time. A time where things weren’t so rushed, and you could stop and smell the roses. The peaceful scenery causes childhood memories to flood to your mind. You can point out to each other wildlife not often seen in the urban areas.

    None of that seems to matter when you are fifth in line behind another logging truck or double bottom dump truck doing a whopping 45mph, and the lead car insists on at least 2 miles of clear road before tentatively pulling out in a vain attempt at a pass. HEY!!! TRY THE PEDAL ON THE RIGHT!!

    I rant. Therefore, I am.

    South Range is a bit outside the most efficient route out. Couldn’t make it to L’anse for gas? Besides, it would give you an excuse to grab some monster cinnamon rolls at the Hillside. Perhaps you have already taken your bride there?

    When I called with birthday greetings, dad confided you had made his day. Something about cussing out his digital camera/photo filing program. I guess he wrassled with it for some time, and at first you weren’t having much better luck. He did say in the end you were able to finally tweak it to their liking. You rock!

  2. KJToo Avatar

    The trouble with Onyx is getting her to let go of the ball so you can throw it (or hit it with the tennis racket) again. The easy way is to have two balls, as she’ll drop the one she’s got as soon as you move to swat the other. I thought our game was done when I accidentally whacked the tennis ball into the blown-over barn. She didn’t even hesitate, though. She just ran around to the back of the barn, through the doorway and grabbed the ball.

    I had initially planned on going through South Range in order to get gas, as I wasn’t sure we’d make it to Chassell (much less L’Anse). As we approached Painesdale, I started wondering what time the 4th of July Parade runs through South Range, and whether such a thing would slow us down considerably, so I decided it was best to shoot for Chassell.

    Upper Michigan is a bit of a shock to the system when you’ve been driving 77mph for the past several hours. Traffic wasn’t too terrible, and I made good use of the five passing lanes between St. Ignace and the Enga-diner (for those who have not traveled this route, the road is two lanes for fifty-plus miles, with five mile-or-so long sections that have a designated passing lane). The passing lane in Brevort (or is it Epoufette?) shouldn’t really count, as the speed limit drops to 50mph just as the passing lane begins, which is right about when you want to be doing 70mph to pass that train of cars.

    There was a bit of a … misunderstanding between myself and the software that came with mom’s camera. Certain expletives were uttered, much to dad’s delight. In the end, it all worked out well, though I still think that some of the features are ass-backward. I still need to write dad an e-mail explaining what exactly I did. Dad, don’t delete that folder labeled “Album” in your “My Pictures” directory…

  3. KJwon Avatar

    You had rhubarb? I hate you.

    I recently returned from a 4,700 mile round trip motorcycle ride to the Grand Canyon – one thing I DIDN’T see was rhubarb pie.

    I DID see some stretches of road MORE boring than I-75 thru the Lower Peninsula, however. I still feel your pain for having to endure it … twice. Unless you did an alternate route?

    So, did you wind up going swimming ‘commando-style’ since the trunks got left at the ranch? Woulda been worth the drive just to catch that moment on film.

    Congratulations on averaging 56 mph thru the U.P. Must be some kinda new record.

    Dad was still chuckling about your camera software encounter when I talked to him on the 4th. Crappy software aside, I like the picture mom took of the house with that camera.

    BTW, why is mom so earger to clean out the attic? There’s some really cool stuff up there, if you can stomach the layer of flies to get to it.

    Hope Laura’s feeling better.

    You had rhubarb pie? I really hate you…

  4. KJToo Avatar

    On the way up we took 23 to Lansing and then 127 (?) to I-75 south of Gaylord. Not exactly exciting, but the 70mph speed limit makes up for the lack of diverse scenery. On the way down we took I-75 to 23 to the Ohio Turnpike.

    I wound up not swimming at all, unfortunately. There will be no video of the Great White Whale beaching himself on the shores of the big lake they call Gitchi gummi (that’s ‘goo-me’ for you fans of chewy, fruit-flavored bears).

    That picture mom took is very good, but the picture Adam took of the field is incredible. Dad’s got it set up as his Windows wallpaper, but I forgot to steal it. I didn’t realize it was a view from behind the house until I registered the power lines. It really is quite a photo. I’ll have to convince dad to send it to me.

    There’s a ton of cool stuff in the attic! I think mom should be restrained or hypnotized or something so she leaves it alone until we can all pick through it at our leisure. I’m not sure what her goal for the attic is, but maybe it will eventually become a quiet room: someplace in that house you can go to be completely free of country music.

    Laura’s feeling a bit better, but still coughing. Now I’ve got an itching in the back of my throat and have started coughing a bit, so she’s probably passed it on to me just in time for the weekend. Joy.

    Yes, rhubarb pie. Yum. I can feel your hate…

  5. mtwiitala Avatar

    Sorry to hear about Laura having the sore throat. Yes, the stretch of 127 to I-75 is very unexciting – too flat in some places.

    Did you manage to get your Spider-Man comics – especially the one of Peter Parker having HIS picture taken? What a trip down memory lane.

    And you feel nothing but sorrow from me over rhubarb pie – or maybe it’s just the fact that my mom and dad couldn’t make rhubarb pie to save their lives. Always thought of the stalks as red and green celery – not another one of my favorites…

  6. KJToo Avatar

    I think Adam wound up with most of the various (Amazing, Spectacular, Web of) Spider-Man comics, which is okay by me. There are more comics in the attic, they’re just not in comic boxes. I’ll have to do an inventory of what I took in the next couple of weeks. Right now, they’re still sitting in the back of the MVoD.

    I know what you mean about the rhubarb/celery connection. I don’t much care to look at rhubarb in its unprocessed state, as I cannot stand celery. It’s one of the few foods that cannot be improved by adding liberal amounts of melted cheese. Nonetheless, I do love me some rhubarb pie.

  7. Thagg Avatar

    I wonder if Dad will still be chuckling in the late summer when we go? I understand, mind you. It does feel good when the IS/local/family guru gets confounded just like you over some computer issue.

    And back to rhubarb. Mix it in with strawberries and you’ll find yourself thinking “Pumpkin? Hmmm, I used to know what a pumpkin was”.

    Oh, we may want to check the climate that rhubarb is known to grow in. The Grand Canyon, in spite of all its splendor and photo-ops, may not support rhubarb growing. Especially in the more Southern regions. Maybe there’s not a lot of Finns there for that reason. Could be the lack of Vollworth’s hotdogs and pasties also.

    Mom has had it ‘in’ for the attic as long as I can remember. She pitched a whole mess of stuff out the window into the dump truck one year.

    I wonder if there are any ROM (?) comics left. I collected those for awhile, along with some Amazing Spiderman and Batman.

    Thanks for the birthday wishes.

    No swimming in the Big Lake? My Favorite Canadian did swim once on a dare. She has mellowed considerably with time. No longer will she step forth into the water. At least there is a dearth of Greenpeace/PETA types in the area to try and push you back in.

    Oh, well props and engines call.


  8. KJToo Avatar

    I don’t mind being confounded as long as I’m eventually able to un-confound myself.

    I know I saw a few issues of ROM Spaceknight (which was an excellent comic, despite being based on a toy) in at least on of those boxes. Maybe this afternoon I’ll bring the boxes in and sort through them to see if Adam snagged the ROMs or if I’ve got ’em.

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