GUEST COMMENTARY BY MITCH MACKAY
Everything above that charming but challenging line depends on the weather.
That’s not to suggest that weather is more predictable elsewhere but the 45th tends to be predictably unpredictable.
If and when someone has become acclimatized via local birth and raising or transplanted for a few decades the quirks become more or less acceptable–except for the transplants who leave after the first winter.
Even Gordie Howe left Traverse City after a decade because his circuitous trips back to Detroit became too onerous as he aged.
You learn not to schedule appointments or plan shopping trips too rigidly because of the unknown weather factor.
Sure, as some younger persons exclaim, you can navigate snowy icy roads with caution and traction wheels and suspension, lots of stamina and adrenaline, but as we age this becomes rather grueling.
They say of course that you simply call a wrecker if you have snow troubles but when the dispatcher of routing tells you it’ll be a 4-5 hour wait before she can get a truck your way you have some reconsidering to do.
A simple low fluid mishap can ruin your whole day.
Not to suggest that Detroit from which many of us come has better weather, just that they have a long history of coping with it in a way to expedite such mishaps, 24-hour auto parts conglomerates, 24-hour wrecker service, even 24-hour auto repair facilities.
And snow plows, a dearth of which this north country is well known for.
Oh, we have them, working days/hours only.
They do a remarkable job but the ice and snow and wind find favor with the gods before snowbound man.
The aspect of being snowed-in has its charms and rewards, tis true, unless a circumstance should arise in which it is found there’s need of breaking that mesmerizing solitude and rapport between man and comfort while gazing at the howling blizzard out his window, wine glass at hand.
Then it is that want of a pack of smokes becomes a contest between man and ravenous beast.
You might get those smokes but you might concomitantly get stuck in a ditch or wrapped around a tall oak tree.
The county road plow driver who radioed the sheriff finds little pity for you as his aunt’s nephew the deputy peruses ways to increase the take for the day in tickets, fees and fines, questions that empty bottle on the backseat and so on.
Once one becomes acclimatized to the weather patterns, though, life is pretty good here.
North Country they call it.
Compared to Detroit and other points due south this is certainly true but if looking at a map of the Western Hemisphere we find that the 45th parallel is indeed halfway between the Equator and the North Pole, hardly more north than south.
It’s the mostly rural nature of the topography that secures the difference in perception.
They call us “trolls”–under the bridge–we here in Northwest Michigan but there’s also a Northwest Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, and a vast range of country north of the Canadian border on up.
It’s all relative.
In truth the season to perambulate this country is in June through August. Surely there are diehard adherents to the winter season with its hunting, snowmobiling, ice fishing, winter sports et al, real nuts about all that to the point of preferring winter over summer.
But for the lovers of sun and warm water, winter is a challenge and can be a deadly one at that.
Many tales reverberate about old couples frozen in their stuck vehicles when the gas tank ran dry.
It’s great fun to visit the attractions locally that are mostly unheralded but offer glimpses of a simpler time.
The sand dunes of Lake Michigan, the state forest passages, the rivers, small lakes, the Ironton Ferry, Dead Man’s Hill purview, two-lane roads through tree bower cover, Chain of Lakes waterway, Grand Traverse and Little Traverse Bays, Charlevoix’s inlet to Lake Charlevoix as viewed from the Weathervane restaurant overlooking as the bridge rises to accommodate watercraft, boats in all harbors, &c &c.
All this is mostly free unless you feel that $2.50 is too high a price to pay for a ride across the narrows of South Arm lake nee Pine Lake via the Ferry at Ironton on M-66.
Of course you can dine at the accommodating bistros @ cost if you have an arm and a leg to spare but you can do that anywhere.
We know when the season kicks off by the insurgence of vintage autos, RVs, boats on trailers and as some used to believe the cost of gas locally.
It’s a great place to live considering the alternatives in this chaotic world.