Stalled in Stalwart, MI, and loving it

Unmatched as a trite cliché, The Road Less Traveled, is a shallow description for the experienced warrior, but hang on to little Willie for this one.  Several years ago, the Detroit Free Press featured the least traveled state highway in Michigan, the upper peninsula’s very own M-48. Stretching 22 miles (roughly the distance from San Clemente, CA, to Catalina Island only without the water) M-48 begins at a T-intersection, south of nowhere at M-134, meandering along a twisted pathway and terminating, northwest of nowhere at M-129.

Those DOT counters, the dual black rubber hoses stretched across the highway, calculated the high number in the summer, upward of 200+ vehicles a day.  Conversely, the low number during the desolate frigid winters, as low as 20 per day.

Think about it, less than 1 car per hour on a major highway.

Two ‘communities’, Goetzville, MI ( pop. 47) and the nearly extinct Stalwart, MI ( pop. 9)  are dots on the bucolic landscape; rolling hills, cedar forests, abandoned outbuildings, centennial homes, wild turkeys,dscn5442.JPG

Two Toms, roadside, in a dominance display

and endless cylinders of harvested timothy haydscn5454.JPG

The hay, prized feed for Florida’s thoroughbred horse industry, has high nutrient, mineral, and fiber content with little moisture = healthy nutrition and manageable manure output.  No B.S. here.

Agriculture is harsh and unprofitable, north of 45° parallel due to

  • short growing season
  • near zero topsoil
  • substrate of limestone

Fishing (salmon and whitefish), the hay, and cedar lumber remain the staple agronomy.

We rode today to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner presented by the Presbyterian Church women anddscn4010.JPG the rural Stalwart Fair, highlighted in a 2009 entry accompanied by the first family of Airstream.

The 105 year tradition is endearing for its simplicity.  No irritating calliope carnival midway noise pollution, youngsters quietly display poultry, rabbits, bleeting goats, beef and dairy cattle.  Green thumbs thrive on the vegetable competition and elderly ladies handcraft quilts, crafts, homemade cookies, pies, and jams.  Horseshoe tournament, pet show, and draft horses pulling three ton sleds,dscn3997.JPG

Tension and drama on the prairie

it could be, with little imagination, September 1910. Stalwart once had 2 grocery stores, a post office, and 3 schools.  Now the small fairground, the church, abandoned post office and cemetery, and a few scattered houses are all that remain.

Scenes along the waydscn5439.JPGdscn5457.JPGdscn5465.JPG

Fixer uppers and an entry greeting to a centennial farm

The people who have endured farming here for more than a hundred years deserve much more than a plaque. And, below, as always, hidden partially by overgrown brush, vintage aluminum awaiting reincarnation.


Needs attention and a little TLC

The Gogomain Bridge Walk, XIX Edition

Most of us practice local holiday traditions, often unpublicized and relatively obscure, that enrich an otherwise mundane existence.  The annual Labor Day Walk over the Gogomain River Bridge is no exception.

Begun in 1991, as a stylistic parody of the more pompous, famed Mackinac Bridge Walk, which, on the same day annually draws participants in the tens of thousands, politicians, media and other undesirable elements like people from Ohio, Arkansas, and Canada.

The Gogomain River (the Michigan DNR defines it as a swamp) bridge, 150′ in length, is isolated in a nearly uninhabited area, Raber Township, ten miles from the nearest “town”, Goetzville, MI ( pop. 47).

View looking east

On this Monday, for the 19th year, nearly 200 walkers (including dogs), prompted by the roar of a cannon shot at precisely 12 noon, embarked, enthusiastically, the entire length of the bridge.

Big boom in a small package

The walk finished at 12:05 PM.

The entire event is high-spirited; neighbors, families, and friends enjoying a tradition that is not exhausting or laborious, with no commercial interruption.

An unidentified Dad and a freeloader

Pre walk conference

Celebrities from upscale DeTour

No entry fee, no age limit, and the event organizer, the locally popular Petersen’s Country Store on the north Raber Road

offers classic art-deco commemorative T-shirts for only $12.  You can’t buy one unless you cross over the bridge…and leave your reckless life behind you. Everyone receives a certificate of participation, suitable for framing, at no charge,

L-R Jean Petersen & a customer, Lynn Spiher

From DeTour Village, Rene and Chad’s landmark, The Garage, provides a hot dog AND a 6 ounce Coke for only fifty cents.

Not a misprint, $ 0.50, no need to check your credit score here.

No Al Roker, no CNN, no Oprah, here they come, step aside.

This is not the Mardi Gras with beads and drunken frontal nudity. Nor Sturgis, SD, where tattoos outnumber teeth and Harleys.   Or the high-end cliff walk in Newport, RI, glamorized in another blog.  If moderately civil, you are welcome to join in 2011, the 20th anniversary, but don’t tell your friends. Let them live through you, vicariously, or it might become unruly, perish the thought.

The walk is just the salvo pre-empting next week’s highly anticipated Stalwart Fair, the Presbyterian Church turkey dinner, and draft horses pulling 7000 pound sleds.  It doesn’t get more exciting than this, and I only have one tattoo.

H I J __ L M N O P

For the musically inclined, bottle-fed on Sesame Street, the title represents the easily recognized second line from the Alphabet Song, minus a single consonant. A deeper meaning emerges during the holiday season, that special time when the DeBeers commercial and a third tier jewelry chain remind us that every kiss begins with K, alerting thoughtless, ignorant men to listen to a different tune. 

foreversolitairering2.jpghotbox_lovesembrace.jpgEven with hearing impairment, the hummed version of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” sounds like Big Bird on a bullhorn.


Hence, my personal disdain for the letter K.  

Locally in this fishing paradise, a 12 y/o entrepreneur markets earthworms to eager anglers under the catchphrase, “Kyle’s Krawlers”.  

Kute, you little runt.


Nearby, on M-55, we have the Kountry Korner Kitchen.  Maybe I’ll stop by for the menu favorite, korn on the kob.  

If I don’t hurl first.

How many miles can you drive before a billboard announces an upcoming KOA, with its kozy kamping kabins ? May I have 3-way hookup and a barf bag, please ?

Once, years ago, somewhere in rural North Carolina, we came across (this is from memory) Karen and Kathie’s Koffee Klatch, Kandles, Kurios, Kouture, Kurl salon, and fine Kuisine.  Alliterative hell.  You could smell the sickening sweetness of potpourri aroma for miles in every direction.

Made me want to puque.