To Paradise, then Dah Road To Hell, and Back

June 26, 2013 08:12 – 08:12

Note: but not the real Hell, MI. It’s way south of where I was yesterday.

I’m at the Comfort Suites in Escanaba, where the internet speed is 20/5—the best I’ve seen on this trip so far. I would’ve been in Marquette, except that Marquette hotels didn’t seem to have cancelable reservations. I usually won’t make reservations for which the cancelation deadline has already past. If I’m hopelessly far afield at 4 pm, I like having the flexibility to say “Whoops!” to any plans I might’ve made.

Yesterday was an odd day. I began by driving to the Soo Locks. It’s changed dramatically since I was there in 1973. There’s now a federal installation that’s surrounded by ominous yet beautiful fences.

Fortunately, there are open gates, so you can ultimately see the locks from aloft.

And, here’s the Soo Crew, hard at work.

Leaving Sault Ste. Marie, I set a course for Tahquamenon Falls State Park. When I got there, I was in the park, but no falls. So, after driving about 10 miles into the park, I stopped to look at maps and other sources. I ultimately found Upper Falls in my Garmin’s list of places, but not under Parks, but rather under Historic Landmarks. Okay. Lesson almost learned.

I guess this particular lesson was almost learned so that I could discover The Fish House, where I had lunch. I had their whitefish fish-and-chips “dinner”, which was exquisitely fresh. My only complaints would be that salt and black pepper had been integrated into the batter/coating. I hardly ever add pepper to fish, and very little salt. The fries had been peeled—never a good idea, IMO—and salted as well. Honestly, there are some things that should be left to the customer.

After that delicious lunch, I followed the signs and my Garmin to the Upper Falls, which are beautiful. Tahquamenon Falls is home to some of the largest mosquitoes in North America. Many bites were enjoyed by the mini-wildlife. I guess their view was different from mine. Here’s a shot freeze-framed at 1/6400 second, taken from the brink view.

And here’s a shot from high above the brink.

And here’s a middling shot from the brink.

And, here’s what you see from the Brink View when looking downstream from the falls.

Leaving the falls, I naively set my Garmin for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Cue the ominous music… I didn’t look for multiple entries. Refer back to “lesson almost learned”. The lesson? Look for multiple entries, and drive to the one that mentions “Visitor Center”.

I was following the roads, when a road whose name started with Dah (never a good sign) suddenly turned to wide hard-packed dirt road. “Okay,” I thought, “but it can’t last long”… expecting each new turn to yield a paved surface. The hard-packed surface narrowed and turned into sandy dirt at many points, with deep ruts that required extreme navigation techniques to avoid bottoming out. Picture the phrase “back woods” and you begin to understand my sense of panic and doom. Oh, Crosstrek… how I longed for your sure-footed AWDness. About 30 minutes into the Bataan Death Drive From Hell, my Passat and I had taken quite a beating, so I set my preferences to avoid unpaved roads. This promptly led my Garmin to trying to get me to the nearest paved road. Alas, there is no “Avoid Non-Existent Roads That Might Have Once Been Deer Trails Whilst Trying To Find A Paved Road” setting.

Another half hour later, I gave up, and turned around, so to speak, and tried to go back the way I came. I.e., when you find yourself in a hole—stop digging. To facilitate recreating the path of the hole into which I’d dug myself, I turned off the unpaved avoidance setting. An hour later, I finally found myself on the paved portion of the infamous Dah road, turned the unpaved avoidance setting back on, and set a course for my reserved hotel in lovely Escanaba Michigan. Dah Road to Hell isn’t paved with good intensions. It isn’t paved at all! I never did see the Pictured Rocks. Maybe next time.

So, I’m in Escanaba, Michigan. The temperature this morning was in the upper 50s. I didn’t feel it, mind you, because I was asleep, and the highway-facing window was closed. But, just knowing the 50s was there is nice. I’ve discovered what I already knew, however, and that’s that to get temperatures in the 60s or 70s here, you need to be right on the coast. On the interior, it gets well into the 80. And, that’s why I’ve decided to drive further west today, ISO the other side of the nearest friendly cold front… or sufficient elevation that compensates for the fact that it’s late June. Going where the weather suits my clothes, as the song says.

Meanwhile, for dinner last night, I picked up some stuff from the local super market, and nuked it in the microwave. Between shopping and dinner, however, I drove to a peninsula, and took a short 2-mile walk through a beautiful park by the harbor.

And, here’s a little of what I saw. I saw sailboats sailing.

And I saw the sun setting over the harbor.

And a lovely lighthouse.

So, that was yesterday. Today, I’ll set the Garmin for Minneapolis, where I have a reservation (cancelable, thank you) at the Cambria Suites. Hopefully, I’ll find a hiking trail or two en route.

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