Friday: 07 July 2017
These new trips often bring back memories of trips taken in the past, and this one is no exception.
Back in 2010 we launched Betsy's retirement with a 3 week road trip up to and through Michigan. That "3 Weeks in Michigan" trip was one of our most memorable. Although I have to say they just keep getting better and better.
That was 7 years ago.
Back then we were ERTing together in Betsy's well worn but reliable Subaru Legacy Brighton.
2010: "Ready to Roll" and "Fern Heaven" in the Yooper.
We bought the venerable Sube used in 2000 after a cell phone talking moron blew through an intersection and T-boned our then Mazda 323 hatchback. This happened near Appleton, Wisconsin on the way back from the UP of Michigan. We were on our way to a B&B in Appleton to celebrate Betsy's birthday. Needless to say we didn't make it.
The wrecking yard owner told me he was surprised the driver had survived given the condition of the vehicle
The Mazda was the first new car Betsy and I bought as a married couple. We had many fun trips in it and we had a lot of fond memories associated with it.
We had just put about $1200 into the car and now it was totaled. We got lucky that time. Betsy had some broken bones in her foot and I had whip lash. Betsy had to wear a boot for I don't know how many months and I had nightly agonies which conjured up being on a torture rack.
And then came the legal stuff. What fun...
So, here we go again, another 3 weeks in Michigan. This time we will check out a few new areas we have never managed to get to or did not know about. This will include 3 islands, some new hiking trails, at least one museum, some new beaches and who knows what all!?
Tomorrow morning we leave bright and early for the first leg of our trip, an overnight in Grayling in the north central lower peninsula.
We will be staying at a local mom and pop motel. It will be a short visit but we hope to at least find some place interesting to unwind from the drive and have Happy Hour with some of the locals.
See you soon...
Mike and Betsy
Saturday: 08 July 2017
Greetings from Grayling Michigan!
Grayling is surrounded by Grayling Township. It is located in the middle of Northern Michigan. The highways I-75, US 127, M-72, and M-93 make it the natural 'gateway' to much of "up north," as it is known to locals and many visitors.
Grayling is perhaps most famous for hosting the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon in July of every year since 1947. The city is named after the Grayling species of fish once abundant in the Au Sable River, although the species has long since been extinct in the area.
Michigan Grayling Only a Memory
"You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone," sang Joni Mitchell, a folk singer from the 1960s. This is an especially appropriate sentiment regarding the sad-but-true story of the grayling. Once a native fish species in Michigan, these fish now reside on the list of Michigan's extirpated species.
Michigan's grayling were described as being especially lovely fish. Slate blue in color, they sported a particularly distinctive and graceful sail-like dorsal fin. In the 19th century, northern Michigan's streams literally teemed with them and lore has it that anglers from that time could sometimes catch three fish with one cast. Early historical accounts tell of grayling that "lay like cordwood in the AuSable." With our state as their only Midwestern home, Michigan grayling were descendants of fish that found a niche and thrived in our state's waters after the glaciers of the Ice Age receded.
Happily, not all of North America's grayling have suffered the same fate as Michigan's population. These sleek fish can still be found in small pockets of the western United States and up in Alaska. They actually thrive in the waters of Canada's western provinces.
Source: 2017 State of Michigan - DNR
We left the house in Wheeling at about 6:15 am. I had already been awake since 3:00 and up at 4:00.
We got the final items loaded in the van, laptop, coolers and a few personal items and then were soon headed west on I-70.
Happily our route took us near Akron Ohio where as luck would have it a local radio station was broadcasting their weekly Saturday morning Polka show. So we got over an hour of groovy accordion playing, some of which reminded me of Myron Floren who was often featured on the Lawrence Welk Show.
Here is Myron in action!
Myron Floren (November 5, 1919 – July 23, 2005) was an American musician best known as the accordionist on The Lawrence Welk Show between 1950 and 1980. Floren came to prominence primarily from his regular appearances on the weekly TV show, where Lawrence often referred to him as "the happy Norwegian".
He was highly regarded by bandleader Lawrence Welk, who was an accomplished accordion player in his own right. Floren functioned as Welk's principal assistant and second-in-command. In Floren's autobiography Accordion Man, written with his daughter Randee Floren, he recalled handling road manager duties when the band traveled, including hotel arrangements and other logistics. He has been seen in a hosting role of repeats of The Lawrence Welk Show on PBS.
Our route in Michigan took us through Flint so we stopped and filled all our water containers with the good stuff.
We rolled into Grayling at 3:30 and got ourselves checked into the River Country Motor Lodge. The "River" in the hotel's name alludes to the Au Sable which runs through the township.
Now that we are talking about the Au Sable River, let's see what WikiPedia has to say.
The Au Sable River in Michigan, United States runs approximately 138 miles (222 km) through the northern Lower Peninsula, through the towns of ** Grayling and Mio **, and enters Lake Huron at Oscoda. It is considered one of the best brown trout fisheries east of the Rockies and has been designated a blue ribbon trout stream by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. In French, au sable literally means "at the sand." A 1795 map calls it the Beauais River.
I first became familiarized with the towns of Grayling and Mio after talking to my dad about a vacation Betsy and I were going to take to Michigan. That was probably in the early 1980s. At this point I am not sure.
Anyway, my dad was a life long birder and his life pretty much revolved around bird watching. When he heard we were headed up that way he suggested we include the area around Grayling and Mio on our stops.
Why? A bird of course. But not just any bird. We're talkin' the Kirland's warbler here!
Photo source: WikiPedia
Kirtland's warbler (Setophaga kirtlandii), also known as the jack pine warbler, is a small songbird of the New World warbler family (Parulidae), named after Jared P. Kirtland, an Ohio doctor and amateur naturalist. Nearly extinct just 50 years ago, it is well on its way to recovery. It requires large areas (> 160 acres) of dense young jack pine for its breeding habitat. This habitat was historically created by wildfire, but today is primarily created through the harvest of mature jack pine, and planting of jack pine seedlings.
Since the mid-19th century at least it has become a restricted-range endemic species. Almost the entire population spends the spring and summer in Southern Ontario or the northeastern Lower Peninsula of Michigan in their breeding range and winters in The Bahamas. A small population breeds in Wisconsin.
Long story short - Betsy and I took my dad's advice and did indeed get to see this rare bird. Not surprisingly, the bird was perched atop a Jack pine and it was singing its heart out. A thrilling moment for both of us and my dad was delighted we got to see the bird.
OK. I think that is enough reminiscing for today. Let's get back to 2017!
After we got sorted out at the motel we drove back into town to have a look around. Here are a few snaps of our short visit.
Click on the photos below for a larger image.
The VFW is adjacent to the Au Sable Park where we found the beautiful river.
You can definitely say in Grayling "a river runs through it". Here is the Au Sabel just before it ducks under the Rt 93 highway bridge. To the left is Au Sable Park which was busy, busy, busy with "Rely for Life" walk/run. Many booths were set up to alert people to the evils of tobacco and other such killers.
We took a short stroll along the river which was quite pretty. The water was swift moving and crystal clear.
The sign was in Au Sable Park. What it does not mention is the real cost of such extraction of resources on public lands.
Across from the park this new fly fishing shop and restaurant had been recently built.Once upon a time when we used to take more back road ERTs we would often try to find a local watering hole for our Happy Hour. So we decided to see what Grayling had to offer along these lines and in doing so we stumbled upon Spike’s “Keg O’ Nails”.
Harold “Spike” MacNeven opened Spike’s “Keg O’ Nails” for business the day after Prohibition ended (May 29th, 1933). Spike held a contest with a $20.00 first prize to name his new business. The winning entry “Keg O’ Nails” was submitted by Grayling resident, Laura (Welch) Smith, and reflected the areas lumber and timber heritage.
During the first decades of business, baseball names such as Birdie Tebbetts, “Dizzie” Trout, Pete Fox, and “JoJo” White worked in the tavern during the off season. World famous boxers, “Kid” McCoy and Jack Dempsey, were friends of Spike. Dempsey visited Grayling, addressing a local civic club and visiting children.
Spikes “Keg O’ Nails” has occupied the same location since 1933. After the original building burned to the ground, Spike immediately rebuilt a new tavern with an attached bowling alley. This building also burned and was replaced with the existing structure.
Source: © 2017 · Spike's Keg 'O' Nails
How convenient Spikes was just a minutes walk from the park and the river stroll.
It must be Happy Hour!
Rarely do we see Sam Adams Cherry Wheat on draft. They even garnished it with a cherry.
Spike's is a pretty small place and most of the tables and booths were occupied.
This was above the dining area. I thought of Joe and Char who know how to hook 'em and how to cook 'em!
When I saw this on the wall next to the bar I knew Ryan would love to see it.
As we were walking back to the park we heard the tail end of a smokin' guitar rift. Both of us were surprised...
...Surprised indeed to the see the Roscommon High School Steel Syndicate playing some kick ass music and really rocking the place. The lead guitarist was on fire! What a surprise.
Here are a few more pics of the Steel Syndicate.
This kid was amazing. I loved it. We moved in close and really enjoyed the show.
On our way back we stopped for a snap of this now defunct motel. The name is a nod to the one time Kirtland Warbler craze that, like all the hub bud in the Big Thicket for the Ivory Bill, is all but gone.
Then it was back to our nest for our MickyD's salads and a quiet evening in the room.
Tomorrow we will be up at the crack of 4:00 so we can be on the road at 5:00. We have an appointment we cannot miss...
Seeya later, perhaps in a few days...?
-Mike and Betsy