It has been one and a half hour since leaving Flint and almost three hours on the road with nine to go when Mom and Dad decide to stop at the rest area near Standish, Michigan. Standish, incorporated the same year that the railroad reached town in 1871, started as a lumber town and sawmills with the only other business the farming of grains, hay, beets, and sugar. The town is named after John D. Standish, no relation to Myles Standish the English military officer that was on the Mayflower when it landed in 1620 to start New Plymouth in Massachusetts, however it is Myles Standish that I think of every time we stop here or pass by due to studies of the Pilgrims in elementary school. Pulling off Interstate 75 Dad parks the wagon, we get out, and Mom and Dad find a picnic table to spread out some goodies including summer sausage that Dad loves while siblings (Linda, Tad, David and me) race around the grounds a few moments then to the table to eat. Of course before leaving the all-important restroom break but I never go alone Dad is right there as I am fearful of falling in, black hole in the ground you never know.
One half hour later back on the road agriculture space transfers into a sparse woodland of pine, birch, and maple as we close in on West Branch, Roscommon, and Lakes Houghton and Higgins (if you use your right hand as a guide that is about mid-mitten) the latter two are fresh water lakes very popular all year around with fishing, boating, and camping. Houghton Lake is named for the first geologist in Michigan, Douglas Houghton, and Higgins for the first chief of the topographical department of Michigan’s Geological Society, Sylvester Higgins. One interesting sight that probably goes unnoticed to many motorists are rotten tree stumps along both sides of the interstate and across the landscape. Michigan once heavily forested with White Pine, Maple, and Birch trees was cut over as the nation moved westward the forest supplied the material that fueled this expansion and these stumps serve as a reminder of what happened, fortunately because of this today many forests are replanted for future generations.
Just north of Gaylord, Michigan is a billboard for the Call of the Wild Museum which has nothing to do with Jack London’s book of the same name well, it does have animals. Here is a gift shop of wilderness themed merchandise, stuffed bears, grizzlies, geese, and wolves but none of us show any interest so it passes into the background. Maybe it is the crampness of a car shared with six individuals or nothing of interest passing by but car bingo has become boring so we convince Dad to “shoot the rocket” which refers to the hood ornament that resembles a rocket. Lift off occurs when Dad, after checking the one side and rearview mirrors, stomps the right foot fast and hard onto the accelerator then the automatic transmission downshifts into passing gear that pushes us back into our seats and quickens heartbeats just as astronauts during blast-off. Something else Dad does but I think for low-key entertainment (particularly after shooting the rocket too much) is to announce when gas is down to a quarter tank, “Kids keep an eye out of a gas station as we are getting low.” Right then I have visions of the car coming to a sputtering halt on the side of I-75 and Dad walking to get gas however, this never happens as magically, and to my relief,
a Stuckey’s restaurant/gift shop/gas station one mile ahead. Yeah! This stop is taken advantage of as all of us get out for a light snack, burn energy, and stretch. Back on the road we pass a sign announcing: SEE THE WORLDS’ LARGEST CRUCIFIXION AT INDIAN RIVER, called the Cross of the Woods it is 31’ high and popular with tourists although not this carload as we continue north and now in the distance the twin towers of the Mackinac Bridge come into view. Dad exits I-75 at Mackinaw City four and three-quarters hour into the drive for a much-needed rest. Therefore, after a tasty sit down meal we are off to downtown following in the footsteps of fellow travelers, past and present, hunting for souvenirs and taking in the sights. A visit to Fort Michilimackinac and a stroll along the beach on the mitten’s tip give a superb vista of the Mackinac Bridge with its’ arching roadway above the straits of Mackinac.
About one hour later we leave Mackinaw City and our troll status behind as we are no longer “below the bridge” and head out across the fourth largest suspension bridge at five miles in length to a different world. Dad drives a portion of the span over the steel grating in the left lane and the humming sound created is much to the delight of all except mom because you can see through the bridge to the water below, the twin towers stretch 350 feet above the roadway. Mom never showed any discomfort but did let dad know when to change lanes; she was well aware of the importance of the thrill on a long journey.
To be continued…