By Ken DeLaat
For nearly each of the last 46 Octobers I have had the good fortune of accompanying LSC (Lifetime Spousal Companion) Lil on a road trip.
The first one was our honeymoon.
Yes, on a sunny Friday in October four and a half decades ago she and I wed (though why she introduces me to people as her ‘current husband’ continues to baffle me).
This year we were heading out to take in a bit of a fall tour. About a month or two ago we spoke of a time to venture forth in search of the autumn splendor of Up North country. Eschewing September dates as too soon and latter October times as already filled with obligations, we chose to depart in the first week of the month.
As a public service to those who might be planning to head north for an autumn adventure here are a few impression acquired from our quest for color.
Our first destination was winery country and if you’ve been anywhere in the NW part of our peninsular paradise of late you’ll have likely noticed the presence of more than a few wineries.
It reminds me of the burgeoning bevy of breweries in our Metro sister to the south where if you fall down in the downtown area you are likely as not to hit one.
They are everywhere with a rich variety of names that range from elegant French influenced monikers to geographic influenced titles to creative twists.
Favorite title? ‘45 North’ located at the parallel signifying the halfway point between the equator and the north pole.
Favorite winery? Black Star Farms.
Lil remembered this place from a trip she took with friends many years ago and it did not disappoint. The young lady at the serving table was likeable, knowledgeable and possessed more than a dollop of charm along with what one might call a generous pour. The vineyard was breathtaking as were the grounds including the riding stables. Though only ever a wannabe horse person, the setting spawned an age old and familiar yearning acquired during a childhood heavily influenced by a steady diet of westerns at the movies and on the tube.
It was the last after several stops and armed with a few purchases we moved on to our hotel located on the outskirts of the Beauty by the Bay.
A word about Traverse City.
Having visited this appealing town from the late 50’s through their 70’s boom era and subsequent spurts of what seems to be gargantuan growth I am still impressed by the charm it possesses for a visitor.
TC gets the whole tourist thing and accommodates it with the right kind of downtown, a blend of eateries, shopping opportunities and entertainment venues including the impressive State Theater smack dab in the center of the city. Their outlying areas are, of course, riddled with strip malls and the usual franchised businesses seen on Alpine or 28th street but downtown remains retail-oriented and exudes what can be loosely described as a contemporary quaintness.
Cambria Suites proved to be an ideal stopover for several reasons.
They have a shuttle that runs downtown so one is freed from both the traffic as well as the buck an hour parking meters (when you can find them). The desk guys were uber accommodating making reservations at our favorite downtown eatery (Amica. Food to die for.) and arranging the shuttle to carry us there.
And then there was the shower.
A huge personal factor in rating places we’ve stayed has to do with the shower. Sometimes places seem to scrimp a bit with regard to this essential amenity and to be honest I gotta say this colors my experience.
This one was the bathing enclosure that will one day grace our home if found to be constructionally feasible. If not we’ll have to move.
Large with an open entrance a glass half door and nicely tiled with a water source that brought a full and luxurious rush of H2O.
It was exquisite.
Well, when your LSC is browsing through the multitude of selections at the wonderful bookery that goes by the name Horizon after an appetizing array at Amica? And suddenly you are struck by the notion that the shuttle service ends at 9pm? And you relate this to her causing a most unwelcome premature break in the browsing?
So after delivering the warning and cutting Ms. Lil short by perhaps an hour or so in experiencing that unique and wonderful late night ambience that thrives in a truly fine bookstore I made the mistake of double checking with the driver on the way back as to how long the shuttle runs.
“Midnight. We can pick up folks as late as midnight.”
Yep. That all too familiar look of resignation wrought from a near half century of being wed to one with questionable thought patterns and rather severe organizational limitations.
And speaking of those limitations, the next day we spent walking the downtown area and I discovered a glitch in my packing procedure.
Currently in possession of my 4th pair of identical brown loafer type Merrell shoes the newer ones somehow got mixed up with a pair of the much older ones. When it comes to shoes I tend to buy infrequently and wear them until the soles have transformed into thin leather strips with no discernible tread. The difference between one of these nearly decomposed models and the newer version is pretty dramatic when doing a bit of walking and still it took nearly the first hour of wondering why I seemed to be striding with a noticeable limp to realize I was wearing one old and one new shoe. One would not think this situation should make much of a difference but I am here to testify as to the fallacy of this line of thinking. It was as if my whole equilibrium seemed shaken.
We shopped several shoe stores with Lil on the hunt for a particular style and make that was not to be found in any of the plethora of places we visited on this trip. Somewhere near the halfway point of this process I found a display shoe identical to the ones I had recently purchased.
Word of advice here. When asking about purchasing just the shoe off of the display rack and not its mate while tossing in the possibility of it being half price as well as marked down for being a display item? Be prepared to garner some rather quizzical looks and a request delivered to the store manager is unlikely to be granted.
Thus, having been resigned to doing without the most comfortable of my non sandal footwear, I considered chucking the old one out of pure frustration.
Somehow this connected to a possible reason one sees orphaned footwear along the road, a mystery that has puzzled the more inquisitive among us for years. I considered bringing this up later when we were back on the road but not long ago there was this kind of pledge of sorts made about discussing the theory behind the shoe conundrum or even making announcements of discoveries when my passenger is knitting or napping.
Besides, whole shuttle thing was still fairly fresh.
Beyond the whole shoe thing, the shopping, the shower and the oenophilist indulgence here’s a word about the color on our color tour.
Mostly green at that point. Mostly green.
Next: The Tunnel, The Bridge, and Homeward Bound Bounty
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