In a nutshell–can’t wait to go back next year.  I loved it, the kids loved it, Steve will learn to love it.  Probably.

For those who weren’t paying attention, we went up the the Traditional Ways Gathering near Ashland, Wisconsin on the Bad River Indian Reservation.  It is far away from here.  Initially, we thought we’d split the trip more or less in half and crash with relatives in Ohio.  In the end, though, we realized it would make more sense to drive as long as possible on the first day so that we didn’t arrive too tired to set up camp.  Each kid had an ipod loaded with songs and books, Steve and I had a stack of Terry Pratchett books on CD and one actual book we had started on a previous trip.  I read that until my voice gave out (didn’t talk normally for about 2 days) and then we switched to CDs.  It makes the trip bearable, having funny books and silent children.  We aren’t afraid to stop a lot to stretch legs, get drinks, etc, so it does add on some time, but well worth it in mood.  Going in, we decided to go North at Michigan, cross the Upper Penninsula, and enter Wisconsin at the top.  We arrived at the top of the MI mitten around dinner time.  It was really nice to see the terrain change to Aspens, birch, and pine.  We have the occasional sad, straggly birch in someone’s yard here, but they really are at their best in great numbers.  So pretty.

I remembered the Mackinac bridge from a childhood trip as terrifying, but we crossed into the UP without terror.  It is a seriously long bridge–the longest suspension bridge in the world, I think?–but I’ve become jaded crossing the Chesapeake to Delaware.  St. Ignace, on the end of the UP is so cute you could die.  It looks like time stopped in about 1964.  There are very few chains of any sort.  Most of the fast food appears to be something called “pasties.”

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If we hadn’t just had a heavy and somewhat nasty meal down on the mainland, I’d have checked them out.  Emily says I didn’t miss anything, that they’re just mediocre, poorly cooked dough w/vegetables (or meat) inside.  But still, they were EVERYwhere, so I was curious.  Note the great sign.  Googie signs were the norm, with lettering of fake birch logs a close second.  Lots of Native American kitsch, like gift shops with tipis on top. Sadly, it was late, so we didn’t stop in here:

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Most interesting to me was that almost all the motels were the kind that drifters live in in these parts:

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Look!  It even has color TV!

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I didn’t take these pics, as it was nightfall when we were coming through.  Bless the internet.  So we didn’t stay at THIS motel, but one that looked just like it (and really? It may have been this one, I don’t remember the name and they all looked much the same).  By us, a motel that looks like this usually has a rusted out pick-up truck and a Nova with one red door parked in front.  Here, it was just normal traveller cars.  Steve was willing to push through until he dropped, but realized that we might not find an open motel office at 2 am, so we stopped around 11.  The eNORmous guy in the office (so big he wheezed when he moved. And was surrounded by bags of snacks like he was Comic Book Guy) seemed happy to see us and when Steve asked how much a room was he said, “….50?”  So Steve wisely asked to SEE said room, to make certain the blood stains were mostly scrubbed up.  But they were perfectly clean, almost big enough to turn around in, and not so perfumey that I got a migraine.  Just a wee headache.  I left my pillow there by accident.  grr.  But in all, well worth 50 bucks.

Oh, the other thing they have on the UP?  Bugs.

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I still need to wash that off and give it back to Bev…

We ate at a  little local place for breakfast, not particularly good, but the people were nice and had that cute accent.  Then we set off across the rest of the UP.  did you know that the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is 900 miles long?  Neither did I.  But it totally is.  And unless you are in one of the 5 cute little towns, it is nothing but trees.  And if you miss your turn and head South instead of West, it is even longer.  I swear the second day seemed twice as long as the first, but we finally made it to the camp around 2.

It looked like rain, and we still had to go check Steve into his bed and breakfast (he forgot his wallet at home, so I needed to come along and prove he wasn’t an axe-murdering identity thief who fancies small Northern Wisconsin towns) and buy some groceries.  Emily showed us where they’d saved us a spot, and I slapped the tents up and shoved all of our crap into them in case it rained while Steve and I were out.  Then I abandoned the children with people they barely know and went shopping.

Steve’s B&B was aDORable and I got to use a flush toilet one last time.  Bye bye running water!  We went in to the local co-op and got the eggs, milk, and cheese curds that are crucial to any camping trip.  Ashland is a cute town, hard to tell if it’s coming or going, though.  It has that poverty/hipster mix that can throw you.  Pawn shops and art galleries.

We got back (where WERE you!?!) and I set about the odious task of setting up camp from chaos.  it was hot and it made me cranky.  Ben and Ezra (our camp mates were friends from Minneapolis [that I met on the interwebs], Emily, Michael, Grace,and Ezra) couldn’t get along for 5 minutes, everyone wanted me to tell them where something was, the kids were changing clothes to get in the lake and then again when out, giving me the wet sandy things…I felt like maybe I’d made a huge mistake.

Evening Circle made me feel a bit better, making it feel like I was really at this place I’d been looking at pictures of for months.  I still felt a bit off, though.  Steve took his leave after the circle and I tried to just enjoy the campfire on the beach.  We turned in around 9:00 and I fell asleep to some podcast or other, still feeling like it was going to be a loooong week.

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