We have nearly concluded our time in Michigan and began our week of respite yesterday. We are beyond grateful for the generous provision of this kid-friendly, well-appointed house we are staying in for time to process, recalibrate, and rest. Kindness and generosity are themes that remain constant along our journey, and Michigan has been a steady supplier of both.
Michigan has kept us on our toes with weather. We had to abbreviate two days’ travel distances due to rain and wind. We pulled over at a motel just as the day’s deluge began (and continued well into the night with plenty of lightning and thunder). More rain was forecast the next day, but with punishing winds accompanying it. (Lake Michigan produced 5-6 feet high waves during the storm!) As we pulled into our campground that afternoon and speedily set about making camp before the storm hit, a neighboring camper walked over and invited us to his site for lunch. He told Old Man that he has bike toured before and understands the challenge of trying to set up camp and put together a meal in quick succession after a day’s ride, and assured us that they had plenty of food to go around. I was a bit skeptical. There are six of us, and under normal conditions we have healthy appetites. When biking we can really put away some food. And, who just happens to have enough excess food prepared to feed a family of six with no notice?! So I directed the kids to be conservative with their portions, focus on the generosity of the gesture, and should we leave hungry we have food of our own we can eat afterward. That was wasted breath on my part. This campsite, occupied by at least a dozen guys, who were on their annual fishing trip, was most hospitable with food and conversation. The kids adhered to my ‘conservative portions’ directive, but once it was apparent that there was no shortage of food they ate, and ate, and ate. Pulled pork sandwiches, corn on the cob, deer sausage, fruit, chips. The guys half-jokingly asked us when our last good meal had been… As we concluded our gluttony, complete with melted butter smeared on our cheeks and corn in between our teeth, the storm hit and everyone packed up and hunkered down in their respective campers and tents. We rode by their site when we departed the next morning, where everyone cheered on our journey.
My cousin’s family linked up with us the next day at Ludington State Park. It had been a while since we had seen familiar faces, so it was a more than welcome treat to hang out with them. We walked to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse together, they spoiled us with homemade desserts (that enabled more gluttonous behavior), and assisted our journey the next day by ferrying our trailers and panniers to that night’s Warm Showers host. The baggage ferrying was a huge gift because that day’s ride was longer than originally planned (almost 50 miles!), since the weather over the two previous days forced us to cut short our intended mileage.
That night’s Warm Showers host was on 40 acres of land that they are actively turning into a farm. In their short tenure on that property they have achieved a lot! An immense vegetable garden, chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, the beginnings of a flower garden, and investment in their local church community with monthly Old Time Jam potlucks. Their friends were very welcoming, the troop of kids were great playmates for ours, the food was tasty, and the music enjoyable. The highlight of the evening was when one of the guests lent Sissy his violin. She was a bit rusty at first, but quickly recalled some fiddle tunes (her Seattle teacher would be so proud!), to which our host accompanied her with his banjo. She was super puffed up by the opportunity and the subsequent praise from the audience. Our host later let our kids sample his instrument zoo, to include a lap dulcimer. The next morning, our kids helped feed the ducks and chickens, and even got to hold a couple of ducks. After we departed, Otter reminisced on all the farm fun he had and informed us that he is best suited for country living.
We engaged in some agritourism, and visited a Dairy Farm. The tour perfectly targeted elementary age kids, allowed them to pet calves, and concluded with milk samples. We ended up eating lunch at the farm’s café and over-indulged in the included bottomless cups of milk (no risk of osteoporosis for us in the near term!). How can you not when they have chocolate milk on tap???
Our next Warm Showers host is also a cyclist. His biking experiences made for great conversation and gave us a better window into Michigan life. He and his wife treated us to pizza for dinner, their grandkids played with ours, and they both saw us off in the morning, to include a drive-by honk.
We left their house in pursuit of blueberries. There was a U-pick patch not far off our route, and the diversion was a nice break from the mid-day heat.
We then arrived at our most recent Warm Showers host with surplus blueberries in hand. That night’s host’s son has toured by bike, and they offer hospitality in reciprocation for those who offered it to him on his journey. Our route overlapped with his for a stretch, and we discussed the similarities and differences of our paths over a bountiful dinner and dessert. Lil’ Mo cozied up to the hosts and worked her cuteness and charm to the max. They supplied the kids with paper and colored pencils, which joyfully occupied them for the remainder of the evening.
We picked peaches the following day. We are limited in the weight and volume we can tow, so the kids did not get to pick to their hearts’ content. Peaches are not something we can usually get because the ripening process consumes too much volume for too long and creates too much opportunity to get banged up on bumpy roads as they ripen (and so far Michigan is the WORST for road conditions! Who knew that a “mended” pot hole could be worse than the pot hole itself?!). However, we made an exception for this occasion and went to great effort to gently store them, and the kids might as well be filmed for commercials as they eat their sweet, juicy, self-picked peaches. Tango has since put his landing-location vote in for Michigan because he really likes playing at the beach, hunting for frogs, and picking blueberries and peaches. I think our warm weather boy might vote differently if he knew what winter holds here.
We successfully kept the campground critters out of our stockpile of produce, and chugged along with our bounty to a friend’s house. They were away on vacation, but allowed us the use of their house in their absence. Lil’ Mo was in heaven with all the preschool age toys in the house, which kept her contentedly busy for hours uninterrupted. I reveled in having a complete kitchen at my disposal and cooked as much as possible.
The overnight stay at their house warmed us up for domestic life during our current week off. I joyfully put together a meal plan and shopping lists (some might call my behavior a bit manic) to maximize our access to a refrigerator and an oven, and take a break from our touring stove-top dinners and tired lunches. The Bigs are tickled to each have their own bedroom for our stay here. Opening the re-supply boxes sent here ahead of our arrival has felt a bit like “Christmas in August”. The Littles refuse to wear their new shoes outside so they can continue to wear them inside and admire their pristine newness longer. Among the boxes awaiting us here was a care package filled with books and activities for the kids, generous gift cards, snacks, notes to the kids from their Seattle friends, and relaxing bath salts. We are blessed by people near and far, and those blessings most definitely prop us up when morale is down. The week ahead will involve us NOT eating peanut butter and jellies, oatmeal, or Pop-Tarts; sorting through the supply boxes we sent ahead here; running errands to fill any remaining inventory holes; visiting with friends and family willing and able to meet us here; some beach time; and hopefully some time to pause and reflect on the last four and a half months as we figure out our route going forward.