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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Before We Get Started

Straits of Mackinac -- water, water everywhere --
If a story is told backwards, from the end to the beginning, so that both writer and reader finish where it started, maybe -- this is what I’m thinking – it will remain in reading minds with everything yet to come, anticipated rather than left behind, and that way nothing in the story will end. Because with today July 1, the first official open day of 2020 for Dog Ears Books (very late this year, and with many cautionary measures in place – please see here), I am loathe to say good-by to our little, all-too-short, pre-season road trip to the Upper Peninsula.

My favorite!
Our last stop on the way back south to the Mackinac Bridge was Lehto’s Pasties, where we got one “hot one” to share for lunch and two frozen to take home. No, that wasn’t the very last stop, though, because half a mile or so down the highway is a rest area, and that was where we ate our lunch at a picnic table high over the Straits of Mackinac.

Mary's magical garden
Back up the way apiece, we had stopped at my friend Mary’s country bookshop, First Edition Too on Worth Road, where the Artist enjoyed Mary’s magical garden setting and visited with her husband while I shopped for books (a Frank Waters; a biography of Cochise; another copy of Parnassus on Wheels; and a paperback study of Max Weber), caught up with Mary, and was introduced to her beautiful chickens. I never leave First Edition Too empty-handed but always carry away treasures, and the day could not have been lovelier, the garden pleasanter, the bookshop more inviting, or our peaceful welcome more satisfying.

Entrance to a wonderland

Bookseller behind plexiglass

Chickens behind chickenwire

Handsome master of the harem
Coming down from Lake Superior, as we’d passed through Seney on M-28 before following an assortment of inland roads down to Epoufette, I’d been delighted to see a pair of sandhill cranes by the side of the road. Lovely, rich color they were, the stately birds we have known over the years from southeast Arizona to the southern coast of Ontario. I was also still marveling at the waving sweeps of daisies and islands of orange and yellow hawkweed everywhere, wildflowers I associate with my Leelanau home and never realized were also in the U.P., since our visits there are generally fall getaways or, longer in the past, winter treks to Minnesota. At the motel where we stayed in Grand Marais, I was charmed to note that the management (did John do the mowing, as well as check-in?), when keeping the lawn neatly trimmed, had mowed around the colonies of flowering hawkweed, just as I do at home. And of course the bright, brilliant, floridly perfumed roses – at any time of year, they capture my attention.

At home in Leelanau County, sunrise is over the woods, sunset over Lake Michigan, straight across. In Grand Marais, the sun comes up at one “end,” as it seems, of Lake Superior and sets at the other, never touching the far northern horizon. I slept late, for me, but was up in time to see sunrise and read a while and go for a walk with Sarah before the bank opened and I could take care of the business that had occasioned the trip.

Sunrise, June 29, 2020

To our eyes, unaccustomed to the bustle of summer’s longest days on Lake Superior, the town seemed very full of people. (ATVs, I noted, are the snowmobiles of summer.) More people picnicking this year, naturally, with only one restaurant/bar open (and too packed for us to brave the crowd there). The campground was full to overflowing, and one enterprising entrepreneur has opened a little espresso coffee shop in a beautifully restored VW bus on the same street as the campground entrance. She had just closed up shop for the night when we walked past on our Sunday evening promenade.

Espresso! In Grand Marais!

Our friends at the West Bay Diner are not yet open for the season, still working on figuring out how they will manage this year for COVID-19 safety and without regular help, but Ellen and I had a nice visit on the shady end of the deck Sunday afternoon, where Rick joined us for a while, also. Such hard-working people! Though I’m impatient to have Ellen’s fourth novel in my hands -- to sell it as well as to read it, her books being such a delight to share with my own bookstore public -- I’m glad for her sake that publication has been put off until 2021, as this is a very difficult year for authors with new work coming out.

“Is the town busier than usual this summer?” I asked Ellen. “Are there more people coming north this year?”

No, she said – things are relatively quiet this year. In a normal year, it would be “crazy busy” at this time. This isn't crazy-busy? We didn’t know. In prior years, for over a quarter-century, we have been too busy in Leelanau to take time to drive to the U.P. at the end of June.

But yes, we got a room, where Sarah was welcome, also. Right on the ground floor, with all amenities and comforts, looking right out at the pretty little harbor. 

Looking back from Coast Guard Point to our motel in town

The only other stop we made on our way to Grand Marais had been the quiet fishing harbor at Naubinway. I love a working harbor with serious fishing boats, serious and workmanlike even on their day off, a quiet Sunday. It was good to enjoy that calm oasis before rejoining traffic on U.S. 2.

I’d been concerned all the way up about our chances of getting a room for the night, as vehicular traffic seemed very heavy to us. So many people parked along U.S. 2, families enjoying the beach there at the top of Lake Michigan! Never had we seen so many people there! Just as, earlier, passing through Oden, we had been shocked at the line of vehicles towing and waiting to launch boats, as well as trucks and empty boat trailers lining the highway past the launch site. Not the quiet little lake I’d always thought, apparently. But then, September is a world apart from summer’s longest days.

Not all is hustle and bustle in and on the way to the Upper Peninsula, however. It is still possible to find relative peace and quiet in little lost-time islands along the way, and we are hoping that September 2020 brings us another few such days, as the couple we had passed all too quickly. Too quickly but very, very happily.

Open? I don't think so....


BB-Idaho said...

The photo of the restored VW bus looks like our old one..maybe it is!
Odd, but fun vehicle, with a steering wheel flat like a city bus, a
heater in name only and greatly underpowered. We often took two cars
on river canoe trips and the high centered bus was great for overgown
trails and ruts. My wife commuted in Mpls and on the sub zero days came back on the freeway looking through a hole in the inside ice
she rubbed constantly with her mitten. But she had a romantic affair
with the ridiculous vehicle. One Monday after a weekend of canoeing,
we left the 16 footer strapped atop. She returned from work and zipped into the garage with her usual elan. WHAM! The whole neighborhood came out to see if it was a meteor strike. The history
of the event left both garage and VW with a tell tale 'impression'.
All joy must end and the vehicle wheezed its last on a little rise
in the highway near Lake Mille Lacs. Last rites included just enough
$$ to get to a tiny town 15 miles short of home..a whole other story.
Traded the bus in a Chevy station wagon, serviceable, but too
suburban wife for Mrs. B. The bus was re-motored and I lost track of
it in the mid sixties. Did it end up in the UP? (hint- there should be a canoe dent on top someplace)

P. J. Grath said...

Oh, how well I remember the "heater in name only" in VW buses and being bundled up as if making a winter trip in an open horse-drawn wagon! Your wife's adventure with the canoe and garage is a new one, though. I wonder where your old bus is now. We didn't get the history of this one, but maybe next time we can find out it it belonged to you in a former life.

Jeanie Furlan said...

I love your independent bookstore owner! The store looks just like my favorite one in Brooklyn called ‘Unnameable Books’ which has new and used books plus events such as speakers and writer forums. On Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn, NY. A great place! How funny to see that old VW van, and to remember how they had such quirks. Here in São Paulo they were ubiquitous when I first visited in 1975, and what I remembered was the engine noise - it was loud and evident because the high-rises ricocheted and amplified the noise. Those vans are still around, battered but serving well those who have persevered! Hey BB, I hope that the black & red one is yours!!

P. J. Grath said...

Idaho, Michigan, Brazil -- what fun that we are all connected, isn't it? Jeanie, do you know Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn? The owner, before she had a bookstore but only the dream of one, used to blog about her bookstore dreams, so I became acquainted with her in the blogosphere. Again, connections -- though I have never in my life been to Brooklyn.