Boy, let me tell you, the drive back up to Garden was something!
It all started really when I departed Indy to head down to Tennessee to see the Knoxville branch of the family. Aunt Cate and I had had a joint birthday celebration the day prior, and between that and back-to-back football games, it’s possible that I’d slightly overindulged in the bubbly, so with that and the wind, my 6 hour drive was about to become an 8 hour one. I was already nervous because I knew I was going to be enduring the Cumberland Gap later on in the drive, and as one might surmise, I’m not a fan of the twists and turns or the sheer drops involved in mountain passes. I did have the foresight before I got to the Gap to grab my gym chalk out of its bin to help with the anxious sweaty palms situation that constantly plagues me, and I have to say, chalk is now head of the class as far as necessary things in the front of the car. It worked beautifully.
Less than 24 hours after arriving in Knoxville, I got a phone call that I needed to be back in the UP by Friday, so I turned around at the 36 hour mark and started making the journey back north, all the while eyeballing my weather apps to determine whether I could make the slightly shorter journey across the Mackinac Bridge (originally it had predicted snow storms and high winds when I’d be crossing on Thursday, but when I departed my sister’s house on Wednesday morning, it looked to be clear with lower winds incoming), or I’d need to go back up through Illinois and Wisconsin, although I was prepared to take 294 instead of 94, because never again will I do that route through Chicago.
I will say that the northbound journey back through the Cumberland Gap is better than the southbound. While the curves are the same, the drops on the northbound side are not quite as extreme. The driving conditions were pretty ideal, and I left at the exact right time to miss rush hours at every major city that I’d be passing through en route to my cousin’s place in Canton. As always, cousin time is the best, and as an added bonus, we got in the holiday spirit by watching my favorite Christmas movie, Bad Santa. Tell me you didn’t see that one coming.
As the karma gods would have it, it sleeted plentifully overnight, and I knew what kind of morning I was in for when at 6am, I took a slip on the back deck while waiting for Gatsby to drop a deuce. By 6:30, I was back on the road, initially thinking it wasn’t too bad. And it wasn’t until just before Flint. It was at that point that I started noticing some discoloration on the road, indicating large patches of ice on the highway. Let’s keep in mind that I’m already in my wheeled sailboat, and while I’m not sure if a ProMaster is front or rear-wheel drive, I do know that it’s not AWD, which is the only way I’m even semi-comfortable driving in winter conditions.
A preemptive side note: I’m about to refer to a road surface as ‘gratey road’ and what I’m actually talking about is the way the pavement is slightly grooved in what I’m told is in preparation for road resurfacing, so that when you drive on it, it has a wobbly sensation similar to when you’re driving over a grated bridge. There were many, many miles of ‘gratey road’ to contend with, in addition to the sleet and ice. Fun!
I got to the Saginaw Bridge during the mid-7 o’clock hour, and it’s already a bit of a daunting bridge. It’s curved in its entirety, and, in my opinion, way higher up than it needs to be. I never want to feel like I’m on a roller coaster when I’m actually driving my car (or van) on a stupid bridge. And on this particular morning, it was also an entire sheet of ice without a smidge of salt or sand to be seen, so as I was driving (approximately 35mph) up up up, all I could think about was a story that Uncle Larry had told me about a bunch of cars trying to go up a hill in the winter and basically sliding back down if they were without AWD, so I was absolutely certain that if I slowed down too much, I’d be sliding backwards down the bridge. My fear didn’t get any better on the descent, because it too was entirely compromised of black ice, and everyone ahead of me was tapping their brakes (and their ass ends sliding to and fro when they did) because there were three cars that had spun out at the bottom. Where, oh where, is the chalk?!
I was ever eyeballing the weather app (as I went 45mph as weather dictated, since it started snow squalling multiple times, for extended periods, anticipating an arrival sometime during 2023) to keep tabs on what was happening up in St. Ignace, and was distressed to see that the winds were picking up and the likelihood of snow increased seemingly exponentially each time I checked.
To add to the joy of the day is that since gas prices are still in the range of somewhat outrageous, I’d eyeballed Gaylord as my fuel stop prior to going into the UP, since they had pricing at $3.89 and everywhere else was over $4. At 60 miles from Gaylord, my ‘miles remaining’ gauge indicated that I had 90 left, but being the nervous nelly that I am, I stopped somewhere along the way to grab 2 gallons of gas to the tune of $4.19 just to ensure that I had enough to get me to Gaylord. The indicator indicated that I had over 1/3 tank to get me there, so I just kept preemptively chalking my hands and continuing on. At around 10 miles to go, my ‘miles remaining’ flatlined, adding some extra angst to the day, and being that I was now in a race against the incoming weather, I stopped at the nearest gas station and filled up with whatever price they had to offer me (I don’t remember what it was at this point, but wasn’t $3.89). Note to self: gas gauge is unreliable, and subtract 25% from however many miles the indicator is lying to you that you have left.
The weather during the remaining drive in the lower Peninsula was horrendous, but delightfully, it was clear at the bridge and thereafter, and waited until I’d been in Garden for about half an hour before dumping all kinds of shit up there. I coaxed Jack into taking me back to Kitch-Iti-Kipi to see it during the snow, and while it was a lovely time (and kudos to him for taking me, since I’m sure it wasn’t high, or anywhere, on his list of things to do that afternoon), it wasn’t snowy ENOUGH. It also was grey and overcast, as it usually is when there is precipitation, so the water wasn’t as turquoise as it normally appears. So basically, I’m now waiting for a bright and sunny, yet snow laden day to go make the pics that I envision in my head a reality. The bright side of that is……..
I just closed on a house in the UP! That’s right, I’m about to be a Yooper. I’d started sort of loosely looking over the summer, during my fourth stay on the Garden Peninsula, and when my realtor, DJ, took me out in mid-October, I finally found one that instead of having to talk myself into, I loved from the get go. It’s small and adorable, and doesn’t need any inside work done, just a new roof sometime next year. Thanks to the crew at Veteran’s United, I was able to make an offer and close on that bad boy in less than a month (it was originally scheduled for 12/2, but that phone call that I received in Knoxville was that the closing was moving up, but I couldn’t give that away too early now, could I?). It was honestly the easiest home buying experience I’ve had to date.
I felt some apprehension, since it’s a big thing to do by yourself, no matter how much experience you have, and also, I can’t help but think of my last (and failed) attempt in Whitingham. In reality, it wasn’t necessarily a failure, but more like the pulling back of the bow before launching the arrow, since it did catapult me into something I’ve wanted to do (the camper van) for a really long time. But I did lose a lot of money with that house, which at the time, felt like a massive failure to me. And extra money right now would go a long way in that whole new roof thing.
Today is Thanksgiving, and the Gatsbhole (Jacks incredibly spot-on nickname for the pup) and I are spending it at a vineyard (we went to sit outside the library earlier to use the internet to watch the Lions lose), and I didn’t start out in the best of moods. This is my favorite holiday, and I usually spend it with loved ones. I wanted to stay in Garden and spend it with Jack and his mom, but as is usually the case, I had to eyeball the weather over the bridge, and yesterday was the most favorable day to cross, so I opted to do that and have a more leisurely journey back to Gatsby’s Getaway instead of going at breakneck speeds during the holiday weekend. So I was feeling a little sad and a little lonely (and very, very tired), but then I decided to ponder the life I have (and reframe it like James taught me – what an ADVENTURE).
I thought of something that my friend Jeff said, when I was mulling over whether to sell that house in Whitingham or not (I can’t even believe now that it was up for debate, but sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees), and that was that if you don’t like where you’re at in life, pivot. You’re not stuck with the life you have. If you want to be, that’s fine, but if you’re not happy with what’s going on, then start making moves to alter it. This year hasn’t turned out at all like I expected it to, but I wouldn’t change a second of it, because right now, I’m happy with where things are going and excited about the possibilities of things to come. A fine sentiment to have on this Thanksgiving.
Now finish your turkey and let’s welcome in the fat man…..Happy Merry!