First of All –
- First time towing the boat in nearly a year
- First time seeing Uncle Louis and Aunt Laura in 13 years
- First time stopping at a completely full motel
- Rogers City
- Hubbard Lake
- Miles Driven today: 310
- Total Miles Driven to date: 3,001
- Hours Underway: 8
- Fuel: 30 gallons
- Morning House Battery Reading: 14.3 (plugged in)
- Wind Speed: light; Wind Direction:
- Daily High Temperature: 93
- Water Temperature: 72
It’s time to haul out off the water and officially end the cruise. I motor the final 200 yards over to the boat ramp, back the trailer down into the water, and pull out. The boat looks weary from all her miles. Scuffed rub rail here, some new gel coat chips at the chine there, stains above the water line and white blotches below, and then there’s that broken skeg at the bottom off the outboard. She definitely looks like she’s been on a 6,421 mile long cruise. The mast lowering process goes smoothly and without difficulty, but it all takes time. It’s 11am before all lines are secured and everything is ready for the homeward drive.
We begin with a substantial detour. We will drive southeast, along the Lake Huron shore to Rogers City, and then turn south toward Ossineke, where Sandy’s Uncle Louis and Aunt Laura live. They’re both 91, the last of Sandy’s aunts and uncles still living. They live at the old farm, which has been in the family since 1862. The actively farmed land has been separated and sold off, but Louis and Laura still live on 4 acres, near the big red barn which Sandy remembers from her childhood visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. We swing into the driveway and we see Louis, sitting outside in the shade of a huge willow. Sandy gives her uncle a big hug as her aunt walks out of the house to greet us. In anticipation of our visit, Louis has gathered up some old photos to view, and we have a wonderful time chatting and looking at the old pictures. Louis is a remarkable guy, a real World War II hero. He was in the 4th Infantry Division. He came ashore at Normandy on June 27 and was in continuous combat for 5 1/2 months, fighting in the hedgerows of Normandy, in the battle for St. Vith, participated in the liberation of Paris, and was severely wounded by shrapnel during the terrible battle of the Huertgen Forest in November, 1944. He was part of a group which was sent behind enemy lines to gather intelligence on German positions, and it’s amazing that he survived the war. Now, he’s among the shrinking few veterans from that entire war to be still with us. Three of Sandy’s counsins drop by while we’re there, adding to the enjoyment of the visit.
The time passes all too quickly, but by 4:30 we’re saying final goodbyes and pulling out of the driveway with the truck and boat. Getting back to the main north/south freeway from Uncle Louis’s place is easier said than done. We take a series of small county roads, jogging left and right and skirting sizeable Hubbard Lake before getting on a road which takes us due west, toward Grayling. We fuel the truck and grab dinner in Grayling, and then head south on the freeway, hoping to make miles before stopping for the night. I figure on staying in a motel, since it’s a hot evening, and I don’t think we’ll come across a conveniently located campground in the fading hours of the day. It turns out that finding a motel is much harder. We see a turnoff with one of those generic lodging signs, however, we see nothing but forest along the road, and pass it up. I turn off at the next sign, but the sign at the offramp says the motel is 8 miles off the highway. We turn around and go further. Surely, on the edge of Grand Rapids we’ll find something. I take the first exit at Grand Rapids with a lodging sign, but we have trouble finding the place, a Comfort Inn. We have to ask for directions before pulling up a hill and parking. It’s after 10pm and all I want to do is check in and crash. I ask the clerk for a room. She says “Do you have a reservation?” When I reply “No” she apologetically informs me that they’re fully booked. Four stories high, hundreds of rooms, and they’re all full. Amazing. I fire up the truck and on we go. I see a symbol for a rest area just beyond Grand Rapids, and figure we’ll settle for that. Unfortunately, Michigan DOT only provides rest and relief for eastbound travelers. I reject the idea of parking at WalMart, but do find a sign for Holland State Park. I turn off and start following the signs for the park. It’s a long drive, but we finally get there, and are relieved to see that there is no locked gate. I pull in, and the place looks jammed, with campers in every site, as densely packed as a shopping center parking lot. Discouraged, we drive around the loop, not expecting to find anything, but at the far bend we see a vacant site. More importantly, it’s large enough for me to back the boat in and get off the road without having to unhitch the truck. It’s 11:30pm, but we’re finally stopped for the day.