TAHQUAMENON FALLS STATE PARK, Mich. – On day 5, our family was still well ensconced in Canada, at a KOA that even Greg himself had to admit was “nice” for a KOA.
That is high praise.
The day dawned with big plans for our group, as usual. The whole lot of them piled into their truck and headed for downtown Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in pursuit of culture. And that culture, dear readers, took the form of the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre. Housed in the former hanger of the Ontario Provincial Air Service on the St. Mary’s River, it was where the bush planes came for necessary maintenance and repairs. The exhibits were dynamic. Many of them held the interest of the kids for an extended time. There was even an interactive movie in which our family got to “fly” on a bushplane flight, complete with wind blowing, fire, rough weather, and lake landings.
“It was pretty nice,” said Greg.
Again, high praise. In fact, that is about the height of exuberance this reporter has ever found Greg to emote.
Michelle, on the other hand, was more effusive.
“They had wreckage in there, and the stories behind the wreckage were just fascinating,” she opined. “I marveled, just MARVELED at what these pilots had to do, at the risks they took, at how tiny most of the planes were and the conditions in which they had to fly – it was simply amazing.”
Here are the photos:
After the bushplane museum, our family decided to eschew the Canadian lock visit (“Eh, you’ve seen one lock you’ve seen ‘em all,” they agreed), and went to some chain restaurant for lunch.
“Yeah. Not a big fan of chains,” said Michelle, “but this particular one had a build your own salad thing, and after several days of rich food and restaurant eating, I was in desperate need of some plain old veggies, so I was a big proponent.”
Ethan ate chicken wings. BBQ-style. And he ate them. And he ate them.
“It wasn’t the quantity that was the issue,” Greg noted, “it was that he has replaced his sister as the absolute bar-none slowest eater on the planet. The rest of us were finished with his lunch and if I remember correctly, he was on hot wing #2. So yeah, he got the rest of them to go, and away we went.”
The family returned to camp and spent a lazy afternoon with Ethan bikingbikingbiking, Laurel readingreadingreading, and Michelle and Greg alternately trying to raise Ethan on the walkie-talkie and sending Laurel to go find him (which, of course, resulted in a big screaming fight in the middle of the campground).
There was nothing to do for it but to spend the $8 Canadian Greg had in his pocket (change from another evening) on candy they either cannot find in the United States or haven’t seen in many years.
And so a Canadian candy feast was held, which dramatically lifted spirits. Laurel had clamored for months for Canadian Smarties, having heard about them from some dubious source among her classmates. When asked who gave her the idea, she claimed not to remember.
“And she probably didn’t,” Michelle said. “ Just ask her. She told us today she has a very short memory.”
“True,” acknowledged Laurel.
So how were the Smarties? Well, the kids certainly downed them with no issues at all. However, Michelle felt differently. “Those are nasty,” she said. “Yes, sure, they are candy-coated chocolate, just like M&Ms. But they sure as hell don’t taste as good as M&M’s.” So what were her favorites? “Well, the KitKat Chunky is just like all the KitKat bars put together in one big bar; the CrispyCrunch is quite a bit like Butterfinger, so yeah, that was good. The Oh Henry! is like a Baby Ruth but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen Oh Henry! back home. On the other
hand, I haven’t paid attention so it may be in every store in St. Louis. And the Coffee Crisp was like that old Brach’s coffee hard candy, but it was built like a KitKat. So there you go.”
Well, if that isn’t a well-rounded review, this reporter doesn’t know what is.
Day 6 found the family spending a good hour or so waiting anxiously at the Canada / U.S. border.
“I don’t know why we were so worried,” Michelle said, “It’s like, to where will they deport us, you know? Hi, we’re U.S. citizens trying to return.”
Even so, this border crossing was far more anxiety-ridden than the crossing into Canada. The border agent asked Greg all manner of questions, including whether they had produce (yes, and Michelle described it), what they do for a living, why they were in Canada, where they were in Canada, how long they were in Canada, if they bought anything in Canada, etc., etc., etc. At one point, Michelle swears she saw Greg’s hands shaking like a leaf. He denies it.
“Whatever,” Michelle said. “Clearly I handle interrogations by suspicious cop types better than he does. ha! hahaha!”
And for those of you who know the couple, that is probably not far from the truth.
No matter, however, our travelers managed to make it through, even bypassing inspection (though they did see others accompanied to inspections by the agents). After a stop in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan to stock the trailer, they hightailed it west to Tahquamenon Falls State Park, stopping briefly along the way for lunch at Brown Fisheries Fish House.
“AMAZING,” Michelle gushed.
“This might be the best fish I’ve ever had,” said Greg.
Wait. What is this? Greg was almost enthusiastic about something? And this reporter scooped it? SWEET!
At any rate, folks, it is true. Brown Fisheries goes out on Lake Superior each and every day in pursuit of whitefish. Once those fish are caught, they bring them back and fry those puppies up and sell them until they either a) run out of fish (at which point they close) or b) run out of people to eat it (at which point they smoke up all the extra and sell it, or make it into chowder and dip the next day).
Ethan, being the subversive little man he is, ordered chicken.
And then he took forever to eat the chicken.
“Making me nutso,” Michelle grumbled.
Naturally, our group purchased a full pound of smoked fish to carry along with them. After all, they are back in the U.S., and don’t have to worry about what food they can and cannot take across the border with them.
But not ones to remain stationary for long, they rushed off to Tahquamenon Falls and set up camp, and turned right back around to head for Whitefish Point and its Shipwreck Museum.
How was it?
“It was SWEET,” relayed Michelle. “We watched a movie about the Edmund Fitzgerald, the most recent freighter to go down in Superior. We saw various lighthouse lenses from around the island. The kids and Greg walked down the beach but I’m weird about sand in my shoes so I didn’t, but HEY THAT IS OKEYDOKEY because I got a good picture, right? Then I got a little bummed because I kinda wanted to see this cranberry farm before they closed for the day so we rushed down there and I got some salsa and jam.”
Whew. Here are those photos:
And then what?
Michelle: “Well, then Ethan saw in the brochure that we’d forgotten one of the places in the museum – the Coast Guard’s U.S. Life Saving Service boathouse, so we rushed back up there to check that out. I mean hey, why the hell not, it’s vacation, right? Right!”
So our family did just that. And it paid off. While in the boathouse, the director of the museum came in (“He was in the MOVIE about raising the Fitzgerald’s bell,” Michelle whispered). He was so engaging in explaining what life was like for those late 1800s rescuers. He demonstrated some of the equipment, such as the breeches buoy – a sort of lifesaving device reminiscent of a zip line – and he answered several of Laurel’s questions.
“Anybody who can engage an almost-13-year-old is a winner in my book,” Greg noted. “Oh, and apparently there is a big market for her hat up here in Michigan, or at the very least on Whitefish Point. Everyone was fascinated by it.”
And how did Greg feel about the museum?
“I thought it was cool.”
“It wasn’t as boring as I thought it would be.”
“It was all right.”
Michelle sighed. “These people,” she said. “I swear. Do you know how hard they are to please?”
It was nearly closing time when our family left Whitefish Point and returned to camp, a little bit smarter and a whole lot poorer. “Yeah, we stopped at the gift shop there the second time we were there,” Greg said. “Oops.”
The day ended gloriously with a taco dinner and a fire.
“Can it get better than this? Tacos and fires? Hard to beat!” Michelle asked. “I don’t know, let’s see. We’ve got a 5-mile hike scheduled for tomorrow. AWESOME!!!”
Laurel and Ethan sighed in unison.
As for Greg, he knows better than to moan and groan about a hike. In fact, he might even enjoy it. But if he does, and you ask him about it, don’t expect him to be all gushy or anything.
And there you have it. I didn’t check the exact odometer mileage, but it’s sitting around 900 miles.
Will post more soon, gentle readers, creativity willing and the internet don’t stall.