“Even when you’re awake you’re worlds away”

17 Sep

Road Trip Journals Part Two: Michigan

“Well of course there isn’t a McDonald’s.  They’re practically Canadians up there!” my mother stated simply as I moaned about my sore rear, cramped knees, and dire need for a sugar-free vanilla iced coffee.

It had been roughly five hours since the last time I had stopped the car, and I was to drive until I hit a full seven hours before I found a McDonald’s.  In that time, I had driven the entire span of the Upper Peninsula.  Having been warned about their shady looking rest areas by Paige, the reason for this extremely long drive, I was diligently waiting to see those golden arches before I pulled over.  You see, the rest areas I drove by were all placed back in the woods and from what I could ascertain from the road, equipped with a picnic bench and outhouse.  Traveling on my own I thought it best to avoid these barren, shielded areas set out of the bright sun that was lighting up the stretches of beach.  

Essentially, the U.P. is quite a boring drive when done all in one go.  Luckily, this view redeems the drive entirely (please excuse the smudges from my filthy windshield as, at this point, I had driven over 1000 miles):

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        Getting into mainland Michigan with night quickly falling was no problem; finding Paige’s apartment on a street barren of street numbers in the ink black night with a dead cell phone, however, posed a slight challenge.  As she opened the door to greet me, Paige looked equal parts shocked and relieved.  I remain thoroughly convinced this event redeems most if not all of the incidents involving me getting lost.

       While in Alpena, I read voraciously, ate decadently, and wandered freely.  With a thriving albeit quaint downtown, breezy peer, and plenty of park benches the town was the perfect place for me to unwind from all of the stress I’ve been placing on myself as my departure nears.

I realized I cannot wait to garden in Ukraine.  Most families have a garden with which they supplement their food supply, and I am aching to help someone with theirs if not dirty my hands in one of my own.  Paige took me out to her parents’ farm house where we picked fresh apples, fed her horse who dribbled on my shirt, played peak-a-boo with barn kittens, then went inside and enjoyed margaritas.  Just when I felt as if I were floating a few inches off the floor from the fabulous icy treats, we sat down to an absolutely amazing dinner with equal caliber conversation.

It was before dinner, however, that I stumbled upon my sudden longing for a green thumb.  Paige decided to dig up some home grown carrots while we were out by the garden.  Tugging at the carrots, earth unyielding, she grabs a tool out of the barn which she slams into the earth and twists in a hearty circle.  The entire section of the earth gives way, revealing the dark, damper soil underneath flecked with the now loosened carrots.  As she hands them to me, I make sure she’s busy with the unfamiliar tool before I breathe in the smell of damp earth and spicy, fresh carrot.  The peppery smell unique to fresh vegetables like tomato and carrot is intoxicating.  The sheer strength of my petite friend was not all that was impressive; the naked confidence she had with the soil and garden spoke volumes of her relationship with the outdoors.  My pride for her mixed curiously with the envy caused by my own gardening ignorance.

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Altogether, Michigan smelled beautifully of deep, dark lake water, peppered soil, and the dust that rested in layers in the back rooms of the museum where Paige works.

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