A Week in Michigan and a Small Tribute to Aretha Franklin

Last week I was in Michigan.  The remarkable thing is that of the fifty states there were four that I had never been in.  The other three are Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.  It’s unlikely that I will ever visit any of those three.

We have longtime friends who are from Michigan, and we planned a trip to the places that meant something to them, and while we couldn’t go to all of them we filled up a week.

We landed at Detroit, but never saw Detroit, and drove by signs to Flint, but didn’t go there.  I hear the water is bad.

Michigan, at least the eastern part of the state is flat to slightly rolling, crisscrossed and dotted with small lakes and streams and covered with mostly evergreen forest.  There is nothing spectacular about the terrain, and Mackinac Island where we spent a couple of days is just a hump rising out of the water.  It is important for historical reasons.  It sits at the confluence of lakes Michigan and Huron and near the Mackinac straits out of Lake Superior.  There is a fort on the top and it has been both a National and State Park.

The Indian name for the Island was Michela Mackinac meaning Big Turtle. Mackinac is pronounced and sometimes spelled, Mackinaw.

Midland, where one of my friends grew up is at the confluence of three rivers.  The most interesting thing about Midland is that it is the home of Dow Chemical and sports the Tridge, a foot bridge that forks to span three rivers.  Our friends met while they were young professional canoe racers there.

Frankenmuth is not exactly my kind of place.  It is done up in Bavarian Village and has the largest Christmas store in the world and a huge restaurant that specializes in home style chicken dinners.  The town is genuinely German.  Ancestors of the folks who decided to go Bavarian settled the place and were Bavarian.  Christmas music and yodeling fill the air.

I’m sort of a low-places kind of guy and I enjoyed having breakfast at the Broadway Lounge in Midland where you can get beer with a really excellent breakfast, and lunch in Hell.  That’s right, Hell, Michigan.  We had lunch at the Hell Saloon.

How to Survive in Hell, Michigan

We also had lunch one day at the Legs Inn. Don’t ask me where it is exactly.  It is near Mackinac Island and it is built of stones from Lake Michigan.  The interior was decorated by the original Polish owner in driftwood, antlers, and other things he described as “nature’s oddities”.  It is a good place to get Polish food.  I had something called "Almost a Chicago Dog" with some sort of Polish pasta.  The dog was good.  I wasn't impressed with the noodles, but I'm not really a pasta person.

Mackinac Island is an interesting place.  We got there by crossing the “Mack” bridge to St. Ignaz on the Upper Peninsula, and then taking the ferry to the island.  Except for an ambulance and a firetruck, there are no motorized vehicles on the island.  Transportation is by foot, bicycle, or horse drawn vehicle.  There are Belgians and Percherons everywhere pulling wagons, and there are cabs pulled by less hefty and speedier horses.  In addition to horses there are fudge shops.  I counted nine.  Everything smells of either fudge or horse excrement.

Cooling Their Heels


The Windermere

Food Porn

Whitefish Beure Blanc at

The Pink Pony

on Mackinac Island

I rode on the back of a tandem bike around the perimeter of the island, 8.2 miles, and found that it is true about riding a bike.  I found that my balance returned almost immediately and I was able to ride with no hands.  Seriously, it was the first time I had been on a bicycle in perhaps thirty years.

Tandem Bike

A bystander as this was being taken said,

"Cute.  Matching shirts."

On the 8.2 mile road around the island

Dodging hikers, bikers and horse drawn wagons

All of the places were interesting, but every place on earth has some intrinsic beauty.  What I discovered was that the people in Michigan were friendly and easy to talk with.  True, they talk funny (even infants had strange sounding baby talk), but they seemed to be the salt of the earth as my father-in-law who went from Arkansas to Detroit in the 1940s in search of work described them..

I don’t know whether it is my time of life, or a poor memory, but it seemed that Michiganders are friendlier than people in some other Midwestern states.  People make a place, not trees or rivers or deserts or mountains.

I had beer with breakfast at the Broadway lounge.  When in Rome…

It is a coincidence that we were in Michigan when Aretha Franklin died.  Born in Memphis in a house on Lucy Avenue that is abandoned now, her family moved to Detroit when she was two, and that's where most people think of as her home.  A lot has been written about her and I won't say more.

When we heard I got out my iPad and listened to Aretha Franklin for a while.  She was 8 months my senior.

Thinking about America in 1942 when we were both born, we could have been in the same town, even adjacent neighborhoods, and never met.  Neighborhoods were segregated as well as schools and churches. So much has changed, and so much hasn't.

RIP Aretha.  Catch you on the B side.

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Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on August 19, 2018 at 10:55am


Comment by Rodney Roe on August 19, 2018 at 6:05pm

Thanks for visiting, Jonathan.

It was a whirlwind trip with few glitches.  We bought new, fairly inexpensive, wheeled duffel bags marketed as carry-on luggage.  The airline made us check the bags.  On their way back to Overstock tomorrow.  Back on weight watchers immediately.  Too much good food and drink.  It's good to be back in Georgia in August with the window cracked listening to the cricket's chorus.  It's been that interspersed with periodic downpours.

Comment by koshersalaami on August 19, 2018 at 11:03pm

Sounds like a good trip.

You might eventually want to check out the other three states. Well, two of them, I don’t know much about New Hampshire. Vermont is beautiful, rural, a lot is old, very green in summer, snowy in winter, and sometimes spectacular in fall. Hilly and mountainous, but not really big mountains. Distinctive accent though not everyone has it. Very liberal for such a rural state. Like Bernie. 

Maine I’ve been to the coast of and that’s kind of wild and rocky. Distinctive accent there too. It has the tallest mountain on the East Coast, by which I mean physically on the coast. 

What New Hampshire does have is Mount Washington with some of the most severe weather in America, cold and windy enough to test things there. Also tall for east, tallest mountain in the northeast, over a mile. In fact about a thousand feet over a mile high. I think elsewhere on the East Coast you’ve got to go to North Carolina to get heights like that. 

Comment by Rodney Roe on August 19, 2018 at 11:27pm

Thanks, kosh.  It may have been broken, but Mt. Washington held the record for the highest winds recorded on the planet at one time.  Yes, I would like to visit.  A magic carpet would be handy.  Charlotte to Detroit was only about an hour and a half by air.  My wife agreed to drive a group of older women from the Missouri Ozarks on a fall foliage tour in the 1980s and went through all of the New England states in the process.  The little old ladies drove her nuts with their backseat driving, but she said it was all beautiful.

I did not know that Maine had such tall mountains.  Acadia is a crossword puzzle word.  I knew the word before I knew the National Park was in Maine.

Comment by koshersalaami on August 20, 2018 at 6:46am

It’s not that the coastal mountains in Maine are tall, it’s just that they’re actually coastal. 


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