austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Want horse, I want sheep,

Friday, our last day. What was there to do but check out of the hotel and say our goodbyes to a peninsula that felt very much like home after so little time?

The obvious thing was to go back to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse, which we'd visited without realizing that there were stamps to be gotten there. Since we had the state-parks endorsement on bunny_hugger's car the visit didn't cost anything and gave us the chance to see that day's chipmunk. It's likely the same one we gave an apple core earlier in the week. He was doing an adorable meerkat-style sentry from the base of his rock.

With the stamping gotten --- I put one in my National Parks passport and will live with whatever penalties are incurred --- and the gift shop's Lego representation of the lighthouse viewed, we walked down to the shore and took in the view, and the feel of walking into the rocky beach in bare feet, and realized, horribly, that we'd failed to take any pictures of bunny_hugger's brother and his girlfriend, or even any of his hat. That's shocking and pretty terrible, especially considering how even one photo can bring back a whole day.

We drove back to Omena, to a small beach where bunny_hugger's family had often gone, and which we'd been around in passing. The beach was busy now, emblematic perhaps of how Omena's gotten more popular as a tourist spot. Omena and the whole area used to be popular tourist spots too; there was just this patch in the 70s and 80s when it was in danger of turning derelict, and that's when bunny_hugger's family best knew the area, and we're left trying to understand how the area ever managed to have hard times.

Returning to Omena gave us the excuse to visit its post office, with its sign asking people to please do their postal business there so they could keep the post office (bunny_hugger bought stamps, and yes, it was lighthouses, although of New England) and then to the general store which we'd finally caught while open. bunny_hugger got into a conversation with the woman tending the store about what the place used to be like, and both agreed there'd been a lot of changes. We got a bit of an idea about the ownership changes behind what had been the Harbor Bar, and how it had changed over the past three decades, although the woman simply could not be baited into saying anything one way or another about the bar's current incarnation as a restaurant targeted at my mother's college friends. We got some Stewart's orange cream soda, since Stewart's sodas are such a touch of my childhood, and some candies (I think mine were little chocolate cubes).

And we drove back south again to Suttons Bay, where the streets were of course torn up by construction. Suttons Bay did a lot to frustrate our driving through that week, but Michigan's been doing a lot of that. However, the garden stuff shop was open and in no danger of closing, and we were able to wander around and look at all sorts of stuff without the sense that we should really get going. bunny_hugger thought long and hard about buying a wonderfully ridiculous item --- a little statue, carved so as to look like a carrot itself carved to look like two bunnies --- and finally gave in and got it. They had an array of sculptures of plants-shaped-like-animals, but this was the best of them.

We had lunch at the VI Grill, which apparently goes back to 1871 and the days when it was called the Village Inn. It's apparently passed through a series of families for nearly 140 years of, it claims, continuous service, which is danged impressive. There's also a department store which has a centennial marker to indicate it's been running (and in the same location!) for over a hundred years.

(The VI Grill doesn't have this, but I just thought of it: the bar where bunny_hugger and I ate the first day that her brother and his girlfriend were in town, while we were waiting for them to set up their tent, blended into a sports bar and had separate doors, one painted Michigan State University green and one painted University of Michigan blue, side by side. From this far away I can't blame them being ambivalent in their loyalties.)

bunny_hugger lead me to the water wheel park, much closer to the main strip of Suttons Bay than I expected; I'm not sure how we overlooked it before. But it's a park, built around a tiny stream --- I mean one that ranges from one to two feet across --- that wends its way through town, above ground in areas like this, through tunnels as it gets closer to main streets, and apparently for the simple beauty of it they included a five-foot drop with a water wheel. And yet that wasn't the most amazing thing: up from the paddlewheel some, in a roughly stable pool along the stream's path, was a fish. A fish!

Where it came from is an awfully good question; I don't know where the water streams down from, but if it got through there it went through a lot of several-inch waterfalls; and it couldn't very well have gotten up from the beach since there's no leaping up that waterfall. And yet there it was, a wondrous and incredible thing that somehow found a spot to hide as we tried to investigate closer. Maybe the grassy sides concealed an overhang where it could avoid nosey humans; maybe it just went with the stream and took its chances at the waterfall. We had nothing but the amazing view of the thing to see.

We followed the stream to the shore, with a diversion to the twee gelato shop to get something frozen this time (the shop's got cutouts of various animals enjoying ice cream, painted in that folk-art-50s-with-creepy-eyes form, except for the more naturalistic raccoon that's propped up by the trash bins) and went to the beach there. There was someone walking a dog who was clearly torn between jumping into the water and being horrified that there was all this water, here, just sitting there and nobody was doing anything about it for some reason.

Also out on the lake was someone with a jetpack. Honest: the guy was standing on a kind of skateboard. It was connected to hoses and a jetski serving as tender, and the ski pumped water through the hoses to be propelled outward and lift the guy ten or twenty feet into the air for several minutes at a time before he tipped over and crashed into the water. (And he managed to correct several times.) As we watched this we were torn with conflict: this was neat to see, yet we smiled every time he took a dive, and yet felt bad that we were giggling at the physical comedy of it, and yet we also wanted one of whatever that thing is.

We took our last walks out into the water (I foolishly left my sandals on, which feels good at the moment but meant that later I just had the squishy cool wetness lingering under my toes), and made peace with our leaving the place (despite a series of fenceposts leading to the marina which spelled out a welcome, one letter per post), and started the long drive back.

There were consolations to the drive back, such as catching by surprise a great view of a valley which you'd think we'd have remembered from driving out, but which we didn't. Maybe we just got it in a vastly more flattering light this time. We wondered idly about things like how the lighthouse society considers structures that use the shape or ideas of lighthouses without serving any useful function, such as the lighthouse used at a Michigan rest stop that serves as kind of the marker between civilization and the north country; it's too far from any water to guide anyone usefully and it wasn't even lit when we visited. (The rest stop did have a map of the state Department of Transportation's construction plans for the year, which confirmed our paranoia: the state had planned to do major repair projects on all the important highways around Lansing. These were phased, of course, but there was a stretch of August and September when everything we might use was under repair, and they're not done yet.)

As we drew closer to home we had to stop at a gas station. Somewhere past the trees was something earning fireworks, and that's the festival air that was given to our last bit of vacation.

Trivia: Springfield, Massachusetts, was known as Agawam, the name of William Pynchon's plantation in the spot, before a town meeting of 16 April 1640. Source: The Old Post Road, Stewart H Holbrook. (Residents also thought they were in Connecticut when they settled it.)

Currently Reading: Sodom By The Sea: An Affectionate History of Coney Island, Oliver Pilat. This is indeed a very affectionate history, and I recognize many of its claims to fact as being currently accepted wisdom, although it's possible that this book (published 1941) was the source for many modern books. On the other hand it goes into things like details of how some of the shows or ride experiences and that's too often glided over these days.

Tags: traverse bay
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