Richard and Suzanne and Duncan's Big 2009 Road Trip
Stage 2 - Yooperocity
in Trout Creek, MI & surrounding area

(look for lotza pictures down at the bottom of the page)

Day 11 - Sunday, October 4th, 2009
Trout Creek, MI to L'Anse, MI & return
86 miles

We rolled out of bed after resting from our extended earlier travels and busied ourselves on this first full Upper Peninsula day. Food sounded like a good idea, so we headed across the highway to the Trout Creek Family Restaurant. Located in a converted old service station, this establishment offers locals and visitors a place to meet & eat, and we enjoyed the meal (and the Jilbert's ice cream afterward) and seeing some old-timers that Suz knew from long ago.

The next item on the day's itinerary would take us up to L'Anse, a town on Keweenaw Bay, an arm of Lake Superior. We drove along the rainy highways, viewing the fall scenery and even spotting another bald eagle swooping high above the color-changing trees. Once in town, we paid a long visit on Suzanne's mom, now residing in the very nice and comfortable Bayside Village nursing home. She was of course very happy to see, er, hear & touch us again, and had a small Hot Wheels gift for Duncan which he showed his gratitude with hugs strong enough to bring the nurses running.

While there, Suz's sister Vicki dropped by in between her 12-hour shifts at the local manufacturing plant to also greet us and to bring a very special gift - a perfect pumpkin grown in her own backyard. Vicki collects snowman-related items, as befits a resident of an area that gets white stuff 8 months of the year, and we bestowed some funny and fun snow-gifts which she sincerely appreciated. Then to the local IGA store for provisions for our week's stay, including local favorites such as meat pasties and Vollwerth's hot dogs.

Then the trip back to Trout Creek, accomplished in the darkness at 45 MPH or less - after too many deer-misses (and one bad hit back in '06), we are in no hurry to plant another ungulate in the front of the truck, and so we'd rather take our time and avoid any deer-induced sheet metal rearrangement. Made it back with one close sighting less than a mile from the house, and settled into our beds after a busy day.

(pictures at the bottom of the page)

Day 12 - Monday, October 5th, 2009
in Trout Creek, MI
0 miles

We spent this wet day at the house in Trout Creek, doing lotza loadza laundry and began assessing what would need to be done during our relatively short time here. Duncan could only stand being cooped up in the house for so long, and so he & his dad went outside for a while in between the periodic showers. Our kid, being your usual four-year-old, immediately made a beeline for the nearest low wet spot, and proceed to get gummy red Michigan mud all over his boots, his tricycle, his clothing, the porch, and anything else within reach & stomping distance - and having a most enjoyable time all the while.

Once the kid was somewhat de-muddified, he sloshed inside to help his mom make some fall collages for Grandma Lois using construction paper, rubber stamps and popsicle sticks. Suz made a picture-perfect fall scene, while Duncan interpreted his leaf-and-shape symbology as "a GIANT robot scorpion throwing bullets at the leaves". We're sure Grandma and her visitors will love them anyway.

The evening hours began with Duncan taking his pet elephant for another walk around the house, and then a high-stakes game of Candy Land (enhanced with real candy corn) engrossed the family for a while. And then more rest as the rain continued to fall on the weathered yet reasonably intact roof above our heads.

(pictures at the bottom of the page)

Day 13 - Tuesday, October 6th, 2009
Trout Creek, MI to L'Anse, MI & return
88 miles

This day's skies brought an all day rain - but we tried to not let it dampen our spirits as we made plans to head back to L'Anse for more U.P.tivities. The truck popped out of the driveway and onto the moist asphalt of M-28, as we entertained ourselves by singing silly songs and counting to irrational numbers.

However, in the wee burg of Sidnaw, we had an most unpleasant experience caused by someone else's impatience. As we entered town, there was a vehicle in front of us driving very slowly and veering back & forth (more in a "where is that address?" mode than a "hold my beer" mode, though), and we slowed accordingly to give them ample room. As we carefully watched the wobbling car ahead, the rear view mirror revealed a red pickup coming up from behind. Then we saw the post office over on the left, where we needed to stop.

So now the scene is set. We turned on our turn signal, decelerated even more as the car in front continued its erratic way, and prepared to make our left turn...

...and exactly when we turned, that's when the truck behind us chose to pass us both at very high speed - on the LEFT.

Thinking back, there was probably at least a good 0.025 inches between us and the other truck, but it sure didn't feel that way at the time (and remember the rain-soaked road, too!) The other truck sped off in a cloud of angry blue exhaust, and we completed our turn into the P.O. - feeling rather that way as well.

Once inside, Suzanne's cousin Pam working behind the counter was wondering what all the squealing tires & blowing horns were all about. We explained, and she agreed that was the kind of intentional close call that nobody needs to punctuate their day. The rest of our visit went much better, as she expertly displayed the latest postal products and caught us up in the local happenings.

The back out into the rain & into the truck ("please don't splash your mom, son - OK, not too much") to finish up the drive to L'Anse. Once there, we parked under the green & white sign of the Gambles hardware store, and inside found a few critically needed fix-up items and a death-dealing chemical or two along their well-worn shelves and wooden floors. Then next door to the friendly confines of the Nite Owl Cafe, where Duncan loved the superdooperlong fries with his yummy macaroni, with his parents also enjoying their warming and satisfying meals.

A stop in the IGA store for some pastries, then up the hill to Grandma's room, where we spent a pleasant afternoon discussing this n' that, while Duncan alternately waved to the tweeting birdies in the aviary (don't think they're on Twitter, though) and perused the small gift shop looking for a nice gift for Grandma - a very nice thought, but Mom explained that Grandma already has his love, which is all she needs (although the 24 hour skilled care at the home is a nice plus). And we bade farewell while there was some light still in the sky, hoping the improved visibility would help us dodge any deer that might be wandering onto the highway.

So let's get right to the second near-truck-trashing experience of the day. We were only about a mile from Trout Creek, with two sets of vigilant eyes spotting no four-hooved threats (up to that point). Then, with almost astonishing swiftness, three HUGE deer burst out of the woods along the shoulder, bounding at maximum speed directly into the truck's trajectory.

Now the Truckasaurus has good antilock brakes - but only on the rear. With the front wheels squealing on the very damp pavement, Richard desperately tried to bring the vehicle to a stop before broadsiding the wildlife, trying to remember that traffic safety factoid that swerving to miss usually results in hitting or rolling over something worse. The right fender almost brushed the hindquarters of the trailing doe, and we slid to a stop in the middle of the highway, exceedingly thankful that we hadn't killed either the animals, our vehicle, or ourselves, and wondering just when we wouldn't have something really exciting (again) to write about.

After that near-deer-death experience, we slowly rolled into the driveway and unloaded in a somewhat deer-addled state, hoping we remembered to bring in the groceries or anything else useful. Then some rest to try to put behind us a somewhat eventful day.

(pictures at the bottom of the page)

Day 14 - Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
in Trout Creek, MI
8 miles on bike + trailercycle

Much of this day was spent exploring strange, long-hidden places - such as the farthest reaches of the cupboards and drawers of the kitchen and bathroom. Each archaeological find was assessed ("hey, for an expiration date back in early '07, this cereal is actually pretty good") and either packed for transport or prepared for disposal or recycling. The boxes began to pile up, labeled appropriately with tags such as "fragile", or "possible hazmat", and we made a good start on part of our substantial cleaning-out tasks.

This is the first day we've had up here that the weather has been somewhat conducive to comfortable cycling, and so Richard sought to take advantage of it by getting out for a ride - and bring Duncan along for the fun. Ably helped by his pint-size assistant, Dad pumped tires, set up saddlebags, and hunted down helmets. And right when the bike was ready, the trailercycle was securely attached, Duncan was dressed & waiting, the water bottles were filled, the rear light was blinking, and the sun came out for the first time in many days, Richard went to his trusty bag, reached in the usual overnight storage pocket to retrieve his wallet...

...and found it wasn't there.

Now given the deer-disturbed events of the previous evening, many things might not have gone as smoothly as usual - but that old beat-up wallet doesn't typically get the urge to wander on its own. A retracing of activities determined that the last confirmed wallet sighting was at the Nite Owl Cafe yesterday - but Richard clearly remembered (he thought) placing it back in its Usual Proper Location afterwards. The truck was thoroughly searched, even in the spots that a wallet-sized object might slide during a deer-induced panic stop, but was not seen (but many other things were discovered, like a couple dozen Legos, a few other missing tools & toys, and some brochures & souvenirs from some fun places on last year's epic journey). The house was then upended, but no wallet - not even in the freezer. Locations in L'Anse were contacted via telephone, but they very nicely told us that no lost wallets were seen wandering the streets.

The afternoon light wouldn't last forever, and every reasonable place had been searched multiple times, and Duncan was wondering just when Dad was going to get this bike ride underway. So, the two guys suspended their seeking for a while to pedal the backroads of the Trout Creek area. Under the fall foliage they passed, looking at the tidy (& a couple not-so-tidy) houses, and seeing more than a few places where nature was beginning to reclaim what was once a good-sized bustling sawmill town. They dropped by the White Door general store to say hi & pick up a snack, and stopped by Aunt Iris & Uncle Freddy's house to meet the fuzzy kittycats and for Duncan to create several unique compositions on his great-grandparents' electric organ. Then across the road to the playground at Abbott Fox Park, where the sturdy steel swings, bars, and slides allowed Duncan to swoop and scamper, while his father watched in a paternal manner and continued to dwell on possible wallet-hiding sites in his mind. Dunc even paid his homage to the lumberjack heritage of this area by successfully (on the 4th try, anyway) walking the length of a log in balance beam style, as the rush of the water from the mill pond dam could be heard in the distance. The boys then headed home right before dark, hoping the wallet had decided to wrap up its vacation without wrecking ours, but as the bikes were being put away the news from Suz was that the billfold was still sadly in the 'vanished' category.

An hour or so later, Richard was lying in the bed, going over in his mind for the 347,658th time where that wallet might have gone off to. He shifted a bit, and noticed a gap appearing between the footboard & mattress. He peered within, and... you guessed it - a small black wallet was revealed. This was more than a bit puzzling, as this area had been most thoroughly searched multiple times earlier in the day. So, to our rational and scientific minds, the only reasonably valid explanations are:

  1. Alien abduction
  2. Phasing between alternate universes, or
  3. Whatever the Yooper version of 'gremlins' are called.

Still a rather joyous moment to find it (but the wallet did feel oddly cool, like having been transported thru deep space for most of the afternoon...?)

And after the family members were fed & bathed, and we settled in for a quiet evening of rest, yet another incident to keep up the wackiness quotient of the trip. As Richard was putting on a pair of fuzzy socks to ward off the night cold, something else small, cute & fuzzy chose that very moment to scurry across said socks and head down the hallway. After a few moments of pursuit, we cornered the mousy little guy in the bathroom ("We have you surrounded - step away from the bathtub - keep your paws where we can see them") and took him humanely into custody for an early supervised meese-release into the outside darkness.

(pictures at the bottom of the page)

Day 15 - Thursday, October 8th, 2009
Trout Creek, MI to L'Anse, MI & return
89 miles

Someone wanted cookies for breakfast. Someone didn't get cookies for breakfast. That same someone decided to raise heck for a while - but didn't get cookies anyway (no, it wasn't Richard). Duncan instead settled for cereal, and was happy. Just another day with a rambunctious kid in the small house in the woods.

The calendar says this is another even-numbered day, so it means another trip to L'Anse. But it was nice to make the trip this time in a bit more pleasant (although still rather cool) weather. We began with a short drive to the edge of town to visit the Trout Creek cemetery, where many generations of Carlisle ancestors have been buried. For some reason, the changing colors on the maples were particularly vivid here on this day, and we marveled at nature's display while also paying our respects to those laid to rest in this place. We also had a chance to spot an uncommon sight - a freshly dug and open grave, awaiting a body whose soul has passed on earlier in the week.

The rest of the northeastbound drive was uneventful, except for a bit of hungriness afflicting the truck's occupants. A visit to the Hilltop Cafe certainly solved that problem - Richard had a huge juicy steak the size (and somewhat in the shape) of the Upper Peninsula, while Suzanne & Duncan had heaping helpings of Italian-style fare. And if you think the entree portions are big, the award-winning rolls are even more gigantic, with titanic quantities of yeasty yumminess.

And so it was with great fullness that we proceeded into town, where a visit to the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store finally turned up those ice cube trays we'd been looking for (and in pretty colors!), and also gave us some ideas for a Halloween costume or two. Then next door to the Snyder Pharmacy, which Duncan remembered as "the place I got my police car!" (last year). No Wheel-Os or other amusements were purchased this time, but it was nice to just pop in and enjoy that small-town drug store experience.

Then over to the Bayside Village, where another visit was paid on Suzanne's mom, and we even created a bit more space in her room after we wrestled her La-Z-Boy electric boosting recliner chair out of there - to most observers, it looked as it the recliner was ahead on points, but we finally pinned it in the bed of the truck.

Once that task was complete, we headed over to the Holiday station to fuel up under their rocket-style logo, and then to drive back to Trout Creek slowly through the intermittent showers. No deercidents this trip, but you never know what those antlered delinquents are plotting for next time...

(pictures at the bottom of the page)

Day 16 - Friday, October 9th, 2009
Trout Creek, MI to Bruce Crossing, MI & return
24 miles

We awoke to the sight of a deer browsing in the front yard of the little house. It could just be a pleasant woodland scene, but we have our suspicions - is that deer just an attractive spy sent to tell the others when to jump out and surprise us later?

But soon our attention turned from front to back, as we intrepidly explored old sheds in the yonder regions that had lain undisturbed for decades. Many of the items were uninteresting or unsalvageable - a rusted old cylinder head, a burned-out motor, a treadmill exerciser missing its belt. But some true treasures were unearthed as well, including some 60s-era board games and Suzanne's grade-school Barbie thermos.

Once this round of stuff-hunting was done, we saddled up and headed west a piece to the town of Bruce Crossing, where the Loggers Alley stands a few feet from the junction of US 45 & M-28. Loggers' Alley is a 6-lane bowling center with a bar up front (or is it the other way around?), and although we'd often planned to roll some balls here, this time we were determined to actually strike. There was also another motive for our visit - a small reunion of Suzanne's Ewen-Trout Creek Class of '81 friends had somehow come together via the marvel of 21st-century social networking tools, and so it was that several familiar faces came through the door to hugs and smiles. The bumpers (a pair of corrugated flexible pipes) were set out in the gutters for the benefit of the kids, and we rolled away and pounded the pins (well, a few of them fell, we think). Then Eric, a boy slightly older than Duncan, showed our son a few tricks on how to get the tavern's claw machine to successfully select a couple fuzzy prizes, and then a spirited game of pool (cue-free, to save the felt) entertained the young'uns for a spell.

Once the gang of gals broke up and the last embraces were hugged, we headed back to Trout Creek to pay a family visit on Aunt Iris & Uncle Freddy. Although the kittycats were more interested in snuggling in the warmth of the heater, the doggie more than made up for it by barking & excitedly chasing Duncan 'round the room. Then some twilight play in the slightly chilly air of the town park down by the old mill pond, which reminded us that perhaps we should have packed another layer of clothes (we were expecting 50s & 60s based on forecasts from 2 weeks ago). But we bravely carried on in the great outdoors and survived to make it intact back into the cozy house.

Oh, and speaking of cozy homes - it appears our resourceful little rodent friend has made an encore appearance. He doesn't seem to be too much of a bother yet, but one wrong nibble or encounter, and you're outta here again, mouseroo...

(pictures at the bottom of the page)

Day 17 - Saturday, October 10th, 2009
Trout Creek, MI to L'Anse, MI & return
93 miles

"It's snowing! It's snowing!" was Duncan's first words upon awakening this morning, and sure enough, a look out the window revealed that white stuff was definitely falling out of the sky. As soon as the little guy was dressed, he zoomed out the door to cavort & frolic. And since we were all outdoors anyway, the parents took the opportunity to rearrange the inside of the trailer to accommodate some of the items departing with us - which did briefly result in the trailer performing a tail-stand (oops), but was soon restored to its normal orientation without mishap.

Half an hour later, the sun was shining, and Trout Creek's first snow of the year began to disappear - won't be the last, as this place will typically get about 20 feet of the white stuff before next spring. We hope to be back in Phoenix long before the first 12 inches shows up.

Our initial destination was Trinity Lutheran Church in the center of town. Today's pilgrimage wasn't for ecclesiastical purposes - actually, there was a photography exhibit there this day showcasing the work of several shutterbugs from the region. Suzanne showed our son all the places she'd remembered from Sunday school and potluck suppers, and Duncan scampered somewhat reverently up the stairs and around the lobby as the guests viewed the artwork.

A short way down Trout Creek's main street is the White Door grocery, which Suzanne remembered from many visits as a child. We walked along the shelves laden with sundries and supplies, and found a perfect souvenir T-shirt for our little guy to commemorate this year's visit. The back into truck and eastbound for looting and pillaging action at the flea market in the neighboring town of Covington. $2 gets you an IGA grocery bag, and anything you can fit in there is included in that price (and no extra charge for the lampshade over the head!)

Then on to L'Anse, where Duncan absolutely insisted on dragging his dad out for a picnic on the colorful wooden choo-choo train play structure at the waterfront park - never mind the trivial fact that the wind chills were in the low 20s, with a stiff breeze coming off the lake. The food we'd brought had been warm at one time, but was a little bit cooler by the time Mr. Duncan the conductor/engineer/dining car waiter was able to set the table service. Still was a memorable and enjoyable experience, definitively pronounced the "bestest picnic ever!" by our son, and we're sure we can laugh about it later on those 110 degree days back home.

Meanwhile, Suzanne had a better idea by hanging out with her mom in the toasty-warm room at the Bayside Village, talking about family matters and just generally enjoying each others' company. After a while, the very cool dudes showed up from their picnic fun to warm up and say hi, and we all just relaxed with da grandma for a precious hour or so.

One last trip to the IGA to cash in a few of our cans and to see Vicki's son Peter (out of creme horns? egad!), and then waved farewell to L'Anse for 2009 and commenced the twilight drive back to Trout Creek (again, fortunately, no deercidents) to prepare for an extraordinarily busy final U.P. day.

(pictures at the bottom of the page)

Day 18 - Sunday, October 11th, 2009
in Trout Creek, MI
2 miles in truck, 3 miles on bike+trailercycle

We awoke again to another light dusting of snow - but no chance to play, as it was long past time to get all that oft-delayed packing and loading completed - along with a bunch of laundry and oodles of other pre-departure activities. So we spent most of the day busily around the old house figuring out what needed to be persuaded to get into the truck and trailer and what needed to remain.

Howabout a pasty for lunch, hey? You betcha - it's a Yooper tradition! We devoured the meat & veggies encased in a pie-like crust, and then got back to our looting and pillaging, as the irrepressible Cousin Margie came by (with her strong & quiet husband Emanuel in tow) to snag a piece of furniture from one of the bedrooms.

We wish we could say that Duncan was perfectly behaved today, but all the frenetic activity around him seemed to get him wound up into quite a state. He ran loudly from room to room (and even thru the "secret closet passageway") a few zillion times, and it finally took a trip on the trailerbike with Dad to the town recycling drop-off to get some of his wiggles out.

Late in the day, cousin Pam called and asked if we wanted to take a break from all the packtivities with a nice dinner with the family. We agreed, and did indeed enjoy some excellent turkey & stuffins, as the deer in the back yard walked right up to the patio door silhouetted in the sun setting behind the pond.

But more packing action still awaited us, and so we headed back to the house to burn the midnight oil, and continued to wrap up what might be our final visit to this little house in the big woods.

Yooper scenery pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version in a new window)

Family & friends pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version in a new window)

Food & fun pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version in a new window)

Fuzzy animal pix!
(click on 'em to open a larger version in a new window)

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