Thursday, May 22, 2008

Family Automobiles IV

Continuing with the 1985 Michigan History article:
We stayed several days in Sault Ste Marie. One day we picnicked on Whitefish Bay some fifteen miles southwest of Sault Ste Marie. Just as we were finishing our lunch, a car drove around the picnic area carrying a man with a megaphone who warned that any people who were returning to the Soo should leave because a fire was approaching the road back. We went back faster than we had come, and I fervently hoped no tire would go flat.
We left the Soo early one morning to catch the ferry. Our parents had decided to return by way of the East Michigan Pike along the Lake Huron shore, so we headed for Cheboygan. Here we saw the last of Lake Huron for some time. Not far from town we came upon a two-tracks-in-sand-road like the one on the Mackinaw Trail. This one continued for thirty miles.

At one point a fire showed up ahead close to the wheel track. It looked pretty hot. I stopped the car while we discussed whether to stay in track or try an uncertain detour off the road. Dad observed that the wind, blowing mostly from the west, would blow  most of the heat away from us. (It happened that the fire was on my side of rhe car anyway).I backed uo a couple of rods to get a flying start, and we got past with only a brief blast of heat.
In this two-track stretch we went through the only real forest on the entire trip. It was possibly virgin, since I remember seeing no stumps, and some of the trees were quite large. In this forest we had the only rain of the trip. It began lightly, and we were able to get the side curtains on before it turned into a regular cloud burst. I began to fear running into mud since the soil was not pure sand that was on most of the unimproved roads. Still, the soil had enough sand to swallow up that frog-strangler of a rain.

In this same wooded stretch we came upon a three-way fork in the road. Dad and I got out to figure out whch one to take. For the first time we had a real fear of being lost. We had seen our last house a few miles out of Cheboygan and, incredibly, not a single car. One fork was obviously little traveled. The other two looked nearly the same, and our final choice was largely a guess. A few miles farther on, somone shouted, "a house!" There were more houses, then we rolled into what looked like a metropolis---the tiny hamlet of Hillman.

The twenty-four miles from Hillman to Alpena over a graded road seemed like a trip down a boulevard. I felt more tired from keeping the car in the tracks as we twisted and turned, dodging trees and stumps, with only brief rest stops than on any other stretch of the trip. But I recovered fast on the way into Alpena.
NEXT: Two days to home.

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