Friday afternoon, we packed up our car and pointed it north for the meandering kind of vacation we’ve grown to love.
Our loose plan, to recreate a spontaneous college road trip we’d undertaken with friends in the dead of winter 33 years ago, left plenty of room for improvisation. We packed some memories, along with a good supply of skivvies, and relied on both to keep us entertained and comfortable as we rolled along.
Lured by a glorious sunset and a Big Boy Restaurant, we made our first stop in Manistique, Michigan. We hadn’t seen those checkered overalls in a good many years, and felt very nostalgic about the whole visit. I joked about my Brawny Lad, bought a couple of souvenir banks and grabbed a few children’s menus, with their old school comics, for the road.
Next stop, St. Ignace (which I still don’t pronounce properly), just in time for fireworks over the Mackinac Island Bridge, where we enjoyed the night in the hotel part of the charming and reasonable Voyager hotel/motel.
We caught the morning ferry over to Mackinac Island, and reminisced about all the cool adventures we’d enjoyed on that island in the past. I first went as a kid with my family and we rode bikes all over the island. Then, Vince and I took our kids, and accidentally discovered a pizza restaurant/bridge museum that made all of our days. My sister and brother in-law Nancy and Steve got married on Mackinac Island, and inspired a whole lifetime of memories with that wonderful celebration, and Vince and I made a couple of trips across the Mackinac Straights to enjoy the island ourselves.
This latest trip worked out perfectly for us, we walked all over the island, idled safely under a leaf umbrella during one summer storm, and caught the ferry back during a second downpour.
With no plans at all, we drove over the Mackinac Island Bridge and headed south through Central Michigan, where we eventually discovered the hilariously charming and very Bavarian city of Frankenmuth.
The next day we went to church in Flint, Michigan, attended a great party in Ortonville, Michigan, and made our way through Chicago and up to our favorite Bed & Breakfast, le Chateau Biskupic, in Mequon, Wisconsin.
After a guided tour of the fascinating Freistadt, courtesy of our host/brother in-law Steve, we hit up a surprise party in Milwaukee for my sister Kathy’s real 50th birthday and then we headed home.
Several of our stops will require their own posts, but, in the meantime, here are a few life lessons we gleaned from our 1,120 mile cruise:
- Big Boy did not die, he just relocated (like Prince Fielder and Jarred Abbrederis) to Michigan.
- Mackinac Island is perfect in any season, even during a torrential downpour.
- Hotel/Motels are just fine places to rest your head (as long as they’re super clean), but family pit stops are the best.
- If you invite us, eventually, we will come…
- …and we’ll celebrate with you for almost any reason.
- You can’t go back in time, but you can carry with you all the wonderful memories you’ve accumulated through the years and those memories will make your travels forward even sweeter.
- If you can drive 1,120 miles in the dead of winter with your college sweetheart and your goofy friends in 1985 and return to campus still laughing, you really should get married because the rest of that journey is going to be pretty spectacular.