We left St Ignace and headed south across the Mighty Mac, The Mackinaw Bridge, to the lower part of Michigan. The entire bridge is 26,372 ft long, 28 ft short of 5 miles long. It is the fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world.
There are days when the winds cause the speed limits to be reduced or even close the bridge. This time and the last two times we crossed the bridge the speed limit for semis was 40 mph so that is what we did. And all three times the outside lane was closed for maintenance (painting). Susan was glad we drove on the inside lane away from the edge of the bridge but the inside lane of the main suspension section is also an open grating road surface. Probably for the wind to go through and for rain and snow drainage. In any case, it is a noisy road surface. We are still here, we made it.
East Jordan is 25 miles or so inland from the east shore of Lake Michigan. It is right at the end of the South Arm of Lake Charlevoix and a small river feeds that end of the lake. It is part of the bigger Lake Charlevoix which empties into Lake Michigan at the small city of Charlevoix.
East Jordan is pretty small and its primary claim to fame was the East Jordan Foundry where they recycled almost anything iron or steel and made cast iron manhole covers, street drains, and lots more. The foundry was right on the edge of town on the lake and made quite a racket at times. A few years ago the foundry moved to a new and modern facility several miles from town. The old site is now quiet but the new site makes even more of these cast iron things.
And East Jordan has a nice municipal campground. Perfect for us to visit Amanda and Douglas who spend the summer here in their motorhome. And they have cabins too so Ted and Karen drove up from the Cincinnati area as well. We went sailing on Douglas and Amanda’s boat, walked, played Quiddler, tossed bags of something in a Corn Hole tournament, went out for dinner, made dinners to share, and did a big pancake breakfast. More than anything we had a chance to be together, to share our time, to reinforce the bonds that make us such good friends.
Amanda and Douglas make and sell jewelry at select craft shows, one was the weekend before we arrived at South Haven a couple hours south of East Jordan. It was the International Blueberry Festival. The last time we were there blueberries were plentiful and cheap. Amanda brought us 2-10 lb boxes of fresh giant berries. They cost about $30. We had blueberries with everything including pancakes, a blueberry crumble, and especially oatmeal in the morning. All that was left were spread out on cake pans and frozen. They freeze well. We can hardly get enough blueberries.
Here they are watching an intense Corn Hole match – and making jewelry at the same time. Well, Amanda was busy.
Ted and Karen drove from the Cincinnati area. They stayed in a cabin at the campground. They brought what cooking and coffee-making equipment they needed so they were all set. And Ted brought his growler, filled with local craft beer, necessary for the big match.
We tried the local pizza shop one night for dinner, it was pretty good. We have discovered that local pizza preferences and tastes vary widely across the country. What is popular in one area may not be quite what you like.
We went into Charlevoix one day too for a bit of exploring. Charlevoix is a small town on the east side of Lake Michigan. It was a popular destination for the privileged Chicago wealthy who came to stay in fancy resorts or, as many did,
to build large homes in neighborhoods made up mostly of other wealthy owners. Most of these homes are still there. They came mostly by railroad, much easier than driving. These neighborhoods are primarily on a bay on the west end of Lake Charlevoix where there are now, and likely then as well, large marinas for big boats.
The bay is connected to Lake Michigan by a channel that is crossed by a Chicago-style lift bridge. I am sure it was simply a creek or small river that made the connection long ago and was finally dug out to make a regular channel with a lighthouse to mark the entrance.
There is a small sailing school that we visited on the bay too. People, mostly kids, start in small boats with one per boat and move up to bigger boats with two people on board and then bigger boats. Lake Charlevoix has lots of big and fast power boats but is a very popular sailing lake.
Douglas and Amanda have a 22 ft sailboat. They were hemming and hawing about buying it. It was for sale in Iowa. I told them to buy it or I would, and they did and immersed themselves in sailing jargon, techniques, and best practices. They have become competent sailors now.
Here we are in a calm state. We cannot remember the good ship’s name but we kidding called it the SS Minow. Most of our sail seemed to be at a death-defying angle to one side or the other. I think Douglas was trying for a new world speed record.
We had a great time, maybe I did more than Susan, but fun to share some time with Douglas and Amanda and their new passion for sailing.
We drove around to the east end of Lake Charlevoix for an early supper at a brewery/pub. The food was good, the company was the best.
We sat around the campfire in the evenings spinning yarns (nautical speak) and other tall tales, mostly remembering all of the great times we had shared over the several years we have known one another. None of us “live” near each other so we have to choose to make the effort to get together and share some time.
A couple of years earlier while we were in Fredericksburg, Susan and I went to the Garrison Brothers Distillery in Hye, TX about halfway to Johnson City. They make exceptional Bourbon. Ted and Karen enjoy a glass of bourbon on occasion. My last occasion was in 1984. So I decided to get a bottle to share with them. It was two years later in East Jordan when we first pulled the cork on that Small Batch bottle and began the process of sniffing and sipping and enjoying over a couple of evenings. I was keenly aware it was bourbon, it packed a wallop. Somehow with plenty of help from Ted and Karen, we managed to create an empty bottle memorial for that visit.
None of us knows what the future holds and while this trip ended with the joy of good friends sharing time we will never see Ted again. Just three months later Ted died, his heart just stopped. All of the heroic efforts to get it to restart just weren’t enough. It was shocking news, very hard on our dear friend, Karen. We miss Ted dearly.
Today is the day to renew connections, commit to getting together, call someone when you think of it, dust off memories, and celebrate all we hold most dear, what we are most grateful for. Our loved ones, our family, our friends. These are the people that get us through every day, every situation, every one of life’s challenges.
Ted was a critical foundation stone for me getting through my cancer treatments. He left us before they were complete but with the commitment and determination to see it through.
From a song by Jackson Browne, “For a Dancer” …
Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
More Later, Much Love,
Roger and Susan and Maggie