Saturday, October 8, 2011

Road Trip

Writing provides many unforeseen benefits. I'm working on a book set in Alpena, Michigan, a place I've never visited except virtually (the wonders of Google Earth!). The story involves a sailboat, and a florist shop, so I decided a trip to observe the setting was necessary. My partner decided on a scenic tour or mini-vacation, and made plans for a long road trip on secondary roads across Northern Michigan. We confirmed reservations at a motel for the night and for a dinner at a local restaurant, filled the gas tank, and took off.

The weather was miserable; rainy, cold. However, Michigan, when the trees are in the height of fall color, provides inspiring sights I hoped to see. During our trip the trees had just begun to change color, but it was amazing to see where areas further north were far ahead in fall color than our home woods. Northern Michigan is also very rural, an area hard hit by the recession. Many fields held pumpkins, bales of hay, plantings of winter grains, and many houses with for sale signs out front. Others looked as if abandoned for years. What makes someone leave a house to molder into a dangerous trap? I love looking at them, dreaming of reclaiming the irreclaimable, wondering how much can we abandon?
Love gables, especially decorated ones.
We stop for lunch at a small town pub. I'd say bar, but the sign proclaimed a 'pub.' Not expecting much, I discover the onion rings wondrous.  As an onion ring lover, the last ones I remember reaching this perfection were at a food shanty outside the Tahquamenon Falls area in the U.P. An event so long ago I'm sure the shack has turned to dust. Another place that served perfect onion rings was the Outside Inn in Camdenton, Missouri, also long ago. That's a pretty low great onion rings count. You might be familiar with the type of onion ring: huge Vidalia white onions, sliced thick, covered in a homemade beer batter and deep fried to flaky perfection; so unhealthy. We shared one side order with our sandwiches.

Alpena was a surprise, too, larger than I expected with the usual box stores on highway 32 entering town from the west. Located on Thunder Bay in Lake Huron, Alpena is roughly straight across the state from Traverse City. The area has unique features for a small city including a ship wreak museum, where I discovered Lake Huron the site of over a hundred shipwrecks during the nineteenth century. Some of the sunken ships are tourist attractions for scuba diving enthusiasts.. We stopped at the first lakeside park and discovered city parks cover much of the Lake Huron beach front. The water was as grey as the sky and freighters set course through the bay to escape Huron's even rougher waters. The city owns a large marina with a walkway along the bay where I took this photo:
Northern Michigan Friday
After observing things about the area I wanted to know, we packed up the next morning. The day was brilliantly sunny but with a shivering cold wind coming directly from the north. We took off down Highway 23 and cut off through Huron National Park, stopping to see the Au Sable River. Now dammed in several locations, the river floods the plains it once flowed through, but a remarkable overlook gives breathtaking views. This seemed the perfect ending to a short road trip to explore a book's setting  
Northern MI on Saturday -- the Au Sable Overlook.
Stone House Farm from Champagne Books.
Rhobin's Rambles


girlygirlhoosier52 said...

if you ever get to the Marshall, Michigan area - Schulers' restaurant & pub is awesome!!

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Wonderful descriptions. I'll look forward to that next setting.

Rhobin said...

I have been to Schulers and I love it! Marshall is a great location.

Big Mike said...

I took a trip to the Outer Banks 2 years ago and fell in love with the place. So much, I developed a story (RIGHTEOUS FURY) to be released next year. Now I wonder if the trip was tax deductible (g).

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year, (2008 and 2009)