The Continuing Adventures of Rose and Lauri on the Road in America
Day 1 June 13, 2005
The day started when the clock radio squawked to life at Mother said we needed 6+ hours to get to Manitowoc for the Badger Ferry across Lake Michigan. I did not want to drive through Chicago if we could avoid it. This was one alternative. So, it was a really short night with maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep.
I got up and washed my hair, brushed my teeth and cleaned my face while Wes made coffee. Breakfast was a bowl of Cheerios and a mug of hot coffee. I couldn’t think about any more food than that at that hour.
I packed the cooler, collected my purse and the laptop computer and waited outside for Mother. I had taken everything else over to her house Sunday night and loaded her car so we did not have to take time in the morning. Mother pulled up about . Although the birds were cheerfully chirping, a light rain was falling, dampening my spirits as well as my body. I quickly tucked the cooler, purse, computer and a bag of odds and ends into the back seat, bade Wes a fond farewell and slid into the driver’s seat. The first leg of the driving would be mine as usual. Mother said she wanted me to drive so she could sleep. Yah, right!
It continued to rain intermittently as I cross first the Minneapolis downtown area and then St. Paul. Traffic was light in the pre-rush hour dawn. I crossed the St. Croix River and we were in Wisconsin. I continued to drive until we reached Menomonie where I needed a potty break and we both decided it was time for food. A McDonalds just off the freeway took care of both needs, and we were back on the highway in just a few minutes munching our egg McMuffins. It was not gourmet cuisine, but it filled our tummies.
We left Interstate 94 and headed east on US 29. Mother drifted off for a badly needed nap. I drove as far as Wausau where I pulled into a gas station for another bathroom break and to switch drivers. I needed a nap, too. I closed my eyes and woke when we were about 25 miles from Green Bay. Mother had made good time on the four-lane divided roadway, so we were slightly ahead of schedule. I navigated her through the interchanges around Green Bay where we picked up Interstate 43 heading south. Mother was not sure which of the three exits to Manitowoc to reach the car ferry dock. So, she exited at the middle one and soon found signs directing us to the lake front.
We pulled into the first check point shortly after (plenty early for the required check in time) where a dog was sniffing for explosives (I assume), and we were queried about carrying firearms. Of course, we were not armed. We were, we discovered, one of the first cars to arrive for the departure. We had to check in at the ticket office and pay for the remainder of our round trip passage. Since we will not have access to the car while we are on the ferry, we had to take any belongings we wanted to have for the four-hour crossing. I dug out my supply of Dramamine “just in case.” I also collected jackets, bottled water and breakfast bars. It would be an hour or more before we could get lunch on board the ferry, and I was hungry again. I stowed the laptop in the car’s trunk so it would not be too temptingly visible in the back seat. We munched our breakfast bars and read the Minneapolis Star Tribune Mother brought from home.
Finally, it was time to board. Mother along with several other older people with mobility challenges were offered the use of a chair lift up the first two flights of stairs. I lead the way up the steps to the mid-level deck. Mother managed to climb a short flight of stairs to the upper deck where the café was located. For lunch we split a barbecued pork sandwich that came with French fries, a small dish of coleslaw, a bowl of soup and dessert for $7.50. It was plenty for both of us.
We settled back to enjoy the ride across the lake with no toll booths, traffic or construction. The lake was pretty smooth, and the ride was very relaxing. Mother decided to tackle the crossword puzzle in the newspaper, and I sat in the sun doing some journaling as the Wisconsin shoreline receded from view. Overhead, I could hear a flag flapping in the breeze created by our 18-knot speed. It was such a wonderful way to get from Wisconsin to Michigan. I chatted with a woman from Michigan who was traveling with a lady friend. They spent almost 2 weeks in Minnesota where the friend has two sons living. Since I had no sunscreen protecting my skin, I ducked back inside after about 20 minutes.
We arrived in Ludington about 6 p.m. Michigan time. Everyone exited from the ferry via the same stairs. Mother decided to venture down the steps without the power chair. We took our time, and she was fine. We found a bench to sit on as we waited as the cars were removed from the ferry. Since we were one of the first cars on, we were one of the last ones off. Mother was starting to stew, wondering what we were going to do if the car was gone. Of course, it was not. We got directions to our motel from a woman waiting for her husband who works on the ferry. She also recommended a few places to eat.
We had no difficulty finding the small motel where I had made reservations. There are several motels in the area and all seemed to have vacancies. I headed for the office to register and discovered they had our room reserved for Tuesday, not Monday. But, that was not a problem since they had vacant rooms. We have a ground floor room with small refrigerator, microwave oven and a fully handicapped accessible bathroom for $43.20, tax included. It was a real bargain.
The Motel Ladies also recommended a few places to eat, one of which was the same one suggested by the woman at the ferry dock. It was called The Grand Hotel. We were warned that it did not look like much, and indeed it did not. In fact, had it not come with such glowing recommendations, I am not sure either of us would have walked in the door. But, the Mexican food, specialty of the house, was delicious and reasonably priced. We split chips and guacamole, a chicken burrito smothered in tomatoes and cheese (onions on the side) and each had a frozen margarita for $18.04 plus a tip. The drinks were served in wide-mouth pint jars and cost $4.50 each. We even got a beer glass full of the leftovers from the blender just like getting the mixing can if you order a malt in many places. We managed to eat our burrito although we were both too full for any dessert. The waitress gave us a paper bag to take the leftover chips along. They will go well with sandwiches some day.
Mother has showered and is in bed. I am going take a quick shower, my night time meds and turn in too. The alarm is set for 7 a.m. That is going to seem mighty nice after our early start today. Our day two destination is Niagara Falls. I discovered my 35mm camera battery is dead, so in addition to gas tomorrow I need to find a place to buy a replacement battery..
"Go confidently into the direction of your dreams. Live the life you always imagined" Thoreau
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.