Tour du Lac

I drove around Lake Michigan last month (April 2022). Map of the journey:

On my first night of the trip, I visited Michael Hollywood’s Hootenanny to tell a story and play music at the North Street Cabaret in Madison. The next day I headed into Michigan’s upper peninsula and stayed in an off-the-grid log cabin in Menominee County. An angelic bartender at The Halfway Bar & Grill in Cedar River offered me guest privileges at her husband’s “camp” (as she called it) for three nights. It was quite a generous gift for a total stranger. I walked into the bar and someone asked who I was and if I was traveling through. I said I was looking for a place to stay and a place to play. The bartender offered me free lodging right away.

The cabin has been standing for three generations. It has a waterwheel to charge a battery for emergency electricity. A powerful wood-burning stove kept me warm at night. To stay at place like this was precious. It was the sort of serendipitous surprise that magically appears sometimes while traveling.

The Halfway became home base while I was in the U.P. The bar was on the waterfront, and I returned there from my cabin in the woods every day. I went hiking one afternoon with the owner’s friends and family. The bar had a stage, and I played music with a few others during one of my three nights.

I learned that people in the U.P. are called Yoopers, and all others in Michigan are “trolls” because they live under the Mackinac Bridge. I crossed that bridge into troll country after my log cabin experience to stay two nights at a friend’s guest house in Traverse City. On the first evening, I told a story at The Workshop Brewing Co. about accidentally hiking the Appalachian Trail last summer in Pennsylvania.

Traverse City was the final destination, and the show at Here:Say was my reason for the trip. I wrote the Appalachian Trail story a week before leaving, and I was basically workshopping it until I arrived for the performance in T.C. I practiced the story in Madison and then rewrote it and read the revision to my hosts at the cabin. For me, this is the best way to do creative work. It’s a good way to connect with people too.

Someone during my Tour du Lac asked if I’m a leather tramp or a rubber tramp. I understood the reference. It’s a line from Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. I was a rubber tramp this time. I had my car packed with camping gear, a guitar, a mandolin and other essentials. Next time I might tour on foot.

~ James

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