the journey north, part 2

I decided to go ahead and narrate the second half of my M22 road trip while it’s fresh in my mind. When we left off, I was standing atop Old Baldy Dune in the Arcadia Bluffs Natural Area, having a bit of a spiritual experience. That was my only outdoor adventure of the day, the rest of which was spent mostly eating. In fact, I spent a good portion of this trip eating. But I think I balanced this activity out pretty well with walking. Every day of the trip, I took a long walk if not a full-blown hike.

On the way to my next planned stop, I went into Frankfort, my new favorite town, and stopped at the Crescent Bakery, which I had seen the day before. It’s a popular spot; there was a line out the door when I stopped (granted, it’s a small building). I had a dirty chai (chai tea latte with a shot of espresso–I always feel like I need to explain that) and a cinnamon sugar cake doughnut that was good but not quite up to the standard of Mama’s Crockett’s, which is one of the things I miss most about the Lynchburg area.

Next, I made my first of two stops that day in Glen Arbor. M22 goes right through the center of town, and some of the most popular shopping destinations on the route are here, creating a perfect storm of foot and car traffic. Fortunately, my destination, the M22 Store, has its own parking lot. You can rent kayaks and other outdoorsy equipment here, but I was there to shop the merchandise branded after the famous route. I bought an M22 sticker for my car, which has previously played host to stickers for the Blue Ridge Parkway and Route 12, the road that spans the length of the Outer Banks. I also bought a raglan shirt that I think is supposed to be for men, but I chose it because the M22 logo is small and subtle, meaning that I can probably wear the shirt to work.

The other thing I wanted to do in Glen Arbor was get a piece of cherry pie at Cherry Republic, but I decided to come back for that after lunch, which I planned to eat at the Village Cheese Shanty in Leland. When I arrive in Leland around noon, it was crowded as well; I had to park several blocks away from Fishtown, the Lake Michigan-side historic district that is primarily made up of small, weathered board shanties, such as the aforementioned cheese one. The VCS is small, hot, and crowded, but it’s really good at sandwiches. I ordered the Leelanau (name of the county where Leland is located, as well as Leland’s other lake), which is a roast beef sandwich with veggies and local fromage blanc–a soft, spreadable white cheese with herbs. I enjoyed my sandwich on a bench away from the crowds, from which I could see the lake.

Then I headed back to Glen Arbor, which by this time was so teeming with pedestrians and cars that it was starting to stress me out. I parked along a residential street and then walked to Cherry Republic, which consists of a restaurant, a store, and a “tasting room.” I didn’t want to wait for a slice of pie in the restaurant, which looked busy, so I bought an entire freshly made (still warm) pie in the store. Why not? I carried my cherry pie to the Cottonseed, an upscale (read: expensive) women’s clothing boutique whose front-porch end-of-season clearance section intrigued me. I found a light ivory-and-tan striped dress (with pockets!), basically the perfect summer dress, which I wore to work yesterday in defiance of the rule about wearing white after Labor Day. Next, I went to Leelanau Coffee Roasters and got a chai freeze and carried it down to a little strip of beach where I took yet a few more views of the lake (some lake–I lost track of what I was looking at) for my Instagram followers.

By then, it was mid-afternoon, so I decided to head toward my lodgings for the night. I followed M22 North to the point where it turns around and becomes M22 South. I didn’t stop in Northport, the town on the point, but continued to Sutton’s Bay, where my hotel was. Sutton’s Bay marked the farthest point of my trip; I didn’t follow M22 to its terminus in Traverse City (I decided to save that for another trip). In Sutton’s Bay, I stayed at the cute M22 Inn (another old-style motor lodge) and ordered a pizza from Roman Wheel, which makes the good, greasy pie you expect from a small-town pizzeria. I ate that and a slice of my cherry pie while watching Fear the Walking Dead in my hotel room.

On the last day of my trip, instead of taking Siri’s recommended fastest route back to Grand Rapids, I decided to retrace my route along M22, stopping in places that I had enjoyed to get in one last visit (like Frankfort; this time I walked out on the pier to Frankfort Light, which is a rather forbidding, prison-esque lighthouse) and in places that I didn’t love the first time, to give them another chance (like Glen Arbor, which was much more peaceful when I stopped for a coffee early in the morning on Labor Day). I also stopped in Northport this time just to say I’d been at the tip of the peninsula; their waterfront area is beautiful, and Barb’s Bakery has good cream cheese danishes but doesn’t take credit cards on orders under $10 (but checks are accepted).

I enjoyed this trip immensely, and I can’t wait to go back “up north,” as the phrase goes around here, in the fall to enjoy the beautiful foliage for which the area is famed.

 

activities that are surprisingly fulfilling to do alone

You won’t believe #3! (just kidding–that was me making fun of clickbait)

  1. Hiking. I have recently become fond of solo hiking. This past Saturday morning, I hiked Sharp Top, a popular local peak, as my quarterly three-hour “solitude retreat.” I enjoyed the experience very much, partly because it was early in the morning (I got to the summit at 8:00 and stayed up there for about half an hour), which meant that there was still mist hovering below the nearby ridges and a cool breeze blowing. But a large part of my enjoyment consisted in being alone, except for the few people I saw along the way. When I hike alone, I can set my own pace, and I’m more aware of my surroundings, which is good not only for practical reasons (I can pay attention to where I’m setting my feet) but also for more esoteric ones (I can hear the different bird calls in the woods). I can also stay at the summit for as long or short a time as I want, without having to take the obligatory group photos. Don’t get me wrong; I love hiking in pairs and groups, but if you’ve never thought of hiking as a solo activity, perhaps it’s time to consider it. Two words of caution: 1. Choose a hike where you won’t get lost (Sharp Top is pretty foolproof, though I did accidentally take the bus shelter path instead of the main hiking trail the first time I hiked it alone–duh), and 2. MAKE SURE SOMEBODY KNOWS WHERE YOU ARE GOING. If you don’t think that second piece of advice is important, watch 127 Hours.
  2. And that’s a great segue into my second item: Going to the movies. Think about it: You’re not going to be chatting during the movie anyway, at least I certainly hope not. So why not go alone? That way, you don’t have to feel obligated to share your Sno-Caps or Cherry Coke. And it’s dark, so nobody is going to be looking at you thinking, “Look at that sad person who couldn’t find anybody to go to the movies with.” And even if it weren’t dark, nobody would be thinking that anyway. The only bummer about going to the movies alone is that you don’t have anyone to rehash the film with afterward, but if it’s something you’re pretty sure only you will enjoy, it’s better to go by yourself than to go with someone negative. And if it’s a movie you know others in your circle will be watching eventually, seeing it alone gives you some time to contemplate it before discussing it– a bonus for introverts.
  3. Eating out. Okay, this is one I’m still dipping my feet into. I have not yet eaten at a full-service restaurant (i.e. with a waiter) by myself. If you have, I’d love to hear about your experience. Also, I haven’t gotten to the point of being able to just sit there and enjoy the food without reading a book or looking busy on my phone. But I’m sure there’s value in giving my full attention to what I’m eating, just as there’s value in giving my full attention to my surroundings while hiking. Normally I’m a big advocate for sharing food with other people, and I know that solo eating often has negative causes (e.g. loneliness) and negative effects (e.g. overeating), but I think it can be a good thing if done mindfully. Even in public!

Let me know if you’ve had experience with any of these solo experiences and/or if there are other activities you enjoy doing alone!

This is my brain on the first day of classes.

Although I warmed up by teaching an intensive class last week, nothing ever really prepares me for the first day of a semester.  Today, after teaching a maxed-out children’s lit class (there’s a waiting list–not because of my popularity, but because it’s a required course for education majors), conducting a meeting while hungry (I hate that), and answering the emails that kept pouring in–plus the ones I neglected over the weekend–I barely have enough brain function left to make a cup of tea, let alone craft a memorable blog post.  But I think it’ll be easy enough to list some of the things that made me happy over the weekend and today.  So here we go.

  1. Saturday-Sunday, I went camping, backpacking (though I barely carried the pack a quarter of a mile, since our campsite was so close to the car), and scrambling up a popular local rock face known ominously as Devil’s Marbleyard.  Although I love hiking and being outdoors, I’ve rarely camped and never backpacked. Fortunately, I was with a friend who is a certified wilderness EMT and adventure guide and I don’t know what else, so she showed me how to set up a tent, boil water for hot chocolate (very important) in a Kelly Kettle, and wash dishes with hippie soap (it seriously had hemp in it) in a freezing cold creek by the light of a headlamp.  The part I was most worried about was staying warm at night, but with a zero-degree sleeping bag and a lot of those Hot Hands packs that are popular with hunters at this time of year, I was downright cozy.  As for scrambling up the rock face, I just pretended like I was Frodo or Sam traversing the Emyn Muil–just without the elven rope.
  2. Last night I went to see Hacksaw Ridge (side note: I went out last night wearing leggings as pants, and I was regretting that style choice all the way to the theater and thinking, “Wow, I’ve really let myself go.”  Immediately after getting there, I saw at least three women wearing leggings as pants.).  If all you’ve heard about Hacksaw Ridge is that Andrew Garfield has a bad accent in it (he really doesn’t, though, and he is adorable), you should give it a chance.  It’s about Desmond Doss, a WW2 medic who refuses to carry a gun due to his religious convictions and past traumas, but ends up saving dozens of lives in one night, under relentless attack, through his (figuratively) insane work ethic and (literally–almost) insane fearlessness.  It was especially poignant to watch the film in Lynchburg, VA, where Doss grew up.  (We actually drove on the PFC Desmond T. Doss Memorial Expressway while coming back from the mountains yesterday.)  If you think you’ve seen enough WW2 movies, see this one anyway; you’ve probably never seen one about a conscientious objector.  They tend not to make movies about conscientious objectors.
  3. After the movie, I rushed home to watch the second half of the Steelers-Chiefs game.  I rarely write about football on this blog, and I won’t take the time to start now, but since I’m listing things that have made me happy, I’ll just say that I’m happy that the Steelers won–and, like all good Western Pennsylvanians, sick with apprehension about next week.
  4. Finally, my students, as they so often do, have made me happy today.  My children’s lit students seem to think I’m a comedienne (I try), and most of them appear to be totally on board with the Walt Disney World-style character breakfast I’m planning for the last day of class.  Meanwhile, a student from last week’s class sent me a Harry Potter article and a recording of Neil Gaiman reading A Christmas Caroland he told me that I’m currently his go-to person to discuss Harry Potter with.  Just what I’ve always wanted to hear.

Time to go outside and try to clear my head with fresh air.