Apology to the lyricist of “Ramblin’ Man”, we’re on US 41, imagining the early 1950s before Ike and the interstate system. This road is a north/south noodle, perpendicular to the overly glamorized Route 66. Having grown up less than a mile from 41, and only minutes from the view of Lake Michigan’s southern tip, this old highway is a mess; potholes, so deep, the water drains into the South China Sea, or at the least, burns a hole in your patience.
From the Indian Reservation in L’Anse, Michigan to the southern terminus in Miami, the most disgusting city north of Havana, the road is a life sentence with little punctuation. Perhaps an apostrophe for NFL fans in Green Bay, but little else. Highway tedium in search of a mood detector. Anxiety, depression, and aggression beg for the release of serotonin, unavailable from the Walgreen’s or CVS that litter the highway.
Headed north in Baraga County to the starting line in Copper Harbor, MI., however, is a traveler’s dream: 79 miles forward and 79 years backward in time. Copper Harbor is in a time warp; souvenir shops with local items made of cedar, the departure dock to Isle Royale N.P., and the ubiquitous physical adventure travelers. Helmeted.
You recognize them, shrink wrapped like colorful sausages, wearing plastic cycling shoes. They drive an aging Volvo station wagon with kayaks on the roof and mountain bikes on the trap door. Bumper stickers; Dukakis/Bentsen in 88, Greenpeace, ‘ I brake for mountain goats’. With temples beginning to grey, each armed with a personal electronic device, they leave behind the fingerprints of apps, the footprints of consciousness. No one has told them the news.
Roll over Beethoven.
We’re not ‘riding the dog’, as the title might imply. This is the first non-medical trip in five years, the Excella awakened from slumber and performing flawlessly, taking a vacation from retirement. Think of it as a 30 year old Airstream on a Medicare Advantage plan.
A stop for a nap in Champion, MI., pop. 297, is a highlight, the horse-pull capital of the Upper Peninsula. The only saloon, featuring a sign, both neon and alcohol-free, was closed years ago. The maple trees are tinged with yellow and red…fall arrives early north of 46º.
Headed north to Houghton, at 45 rpm, we’re off to tell Tchaikovsky the news…….