Trout Lake 2 – Michigan

August 31, 2010

My nomadic and solitary life of salad eating came skidding to a stop. For the next 4 days, I was a sedentary and social eater of meats.

Eddie and Brenda, and their friends Joe and Patty, were fabulous hosts. Eddie’s prowess with a fire pit and grill was repeatedly on display. Following the pork tenderloins, we had fish, roast beef, sausages, and elk burgers. Plus a bunch of abalone that my brother John had “caughten” in California. To accompany the above meats, Brenda and Patty provided a steady stream of appetizers and salads.

This was only my second time to the Midwest. (The first time was for a Greek wedding in Cleveland, which was a total blast.)

One thing I knew about the Midwest was that they play a card game called Euchre. I knew this because Euchre was one of the first games we put on When I asked, “Why are we doing a game I’ve never heard of?” the answer was, “They play it a lot in the Midwest.”

I must have turned up my nose at that because I never did end up playing Euchre on pogo.

Brenda and Eddie’s house is in the upper peninsula of Northern Michigan … on a lake. So it’s impossible not to think of the currently popular Kid Rock song about summertime in Northern Michigan – the one where he’s “smoking funny things” and “making love out by the lake.”

I didn’t smoke funny things.

I didn’t make love out by the lake.

But I did play one heck of a lot of Euchre.

John and I were partners. Eddie and Mike were our opponents. Brenda and Sara were annoyed. (We played a bit too much.)

Other activities included boat rides, fishing with JoJo, bocci on the lawn, teaching JoJo how to shoot a pellet gun, beer pong, and the wearing of funny hats. There was also a tinge of drinking.

One day Sara spent the entire day taking pictures of Desiree for her high school senior picture. They did photo shoots on the grass, the beach, the hammock, and various other places throughout the yard. I know that they spent the whole day doing this because I could see them in the corner of my eye while I was playing Euchre.

Mr. K had a great time and was well-behaved.

Mr. K was Brenda’s name for Kettle.

Kettle was not the only dog. The Breddies have a German Shorthaired Pointer named Daisy who would spend roughly 8 hours a day tromping through the lake looking for fish. They also have a Shitzu named Gerdy who sits around and looks fancy. In fact they call her “Fancy” more than “Gerdy.”

Kettle didn’t search for fish – alas, he wouldn’t even go in the lake. And he never looked fancy – quite the opposite, he could usually be found lying in a hole he dug in the sand to keep cool. But he enjoyed being around people he knew, especially Mike, and the large sloping grass backyard made for a great play area.

Joe and Patty had just completed their home at the neighboring lake, after working on it for 4 years. Joe drove me over with his quad and gave me a tour of the house and the area.

Located just 40 miles south of Canada, this wooded area with several small lakes used to be a vacation spot for the car industry big wigs in Detroit. Joe and Patty’s house was impressive. It was built using SIP construction. That stands for Structural Insulated Panels. The walls are made with panels that are about a foot thick and filled with foam, so the house is super insulated. Half logs were then put on the outside so the house looks like a log cabin. Joe and Patty did all the finish work themselves.

Joe was so friendly and proud of his home that I had the warm fuzzies throughout the tour.

And the brunch that Patty served us all at their house the next morning took the warm fuzzy thing to a whole new level.

On the last day, Eddie and Brenda took us to Miner’s Castle for a picnic lunch. Miner’s Castle is a dramatic rock formation that juts into Lake Superior. After lunch the gang would be heading to the airport.

But Kettle and I aren’t using airplanes this trip. Just the Mini. So we said our goodbyes and hit road.

Going southeast.

Oh, and one more thing …

I love Euchre!

The Breddie’s backyard
Run, Kettle, Run!
Patty-Joe-John-Desiree-Eddie (Brenda playing pool)
JoJo and DaisyJoJo and Daisy
John preparing his abalone
Mike and Cap’n John in deep waters
Sara and Patty driving too fast
Eddie, the role model
Mike and Kettle at play.
Mike at work
JoJo’s catch
The tour
Joe the tour guide
BroJoe-Mike-John-Eddie-Me. Guess what we’re playing.
Haircut from Brenda
Sunset at the Breddies

If someone were to ask me my favorite place, I would probably say that it’s my family’s cabin in the mountains. So when Eddie told me that his favorite place was his family cabin on the lake, I could relate. And when he told me that it was in the direction I was going (which was Washington D.C., by the way) and that he’d be honored if I stayed there on my way through, I was both touched the gesture and excited by the opportunity.

Their place is located near Eddie’s hometown of Roger’s City, on Grand Lake, about a mile from Lake Huron. Grand Lake isn’t exactly tiny, it’s a few miles across, but “Grand Lake” seems like an odd name given that it is right next to the 5th largest freshwater lake in the world. Then again, Trout Lake, where I just came from, doesn’t have any trout in it. I think people around here like to mess with travelers … kinda like the Iceland/Greenland thing.

Anyway, to get to Grand Lake, we drove south across the Mackinac Bridge, which meant that we were officially leaving the Upper Peninsula (“the U.P.”) of Michigan. Eddie says that you need to live in the U.P. for 8 years to officially be an Uuuuper – pronounced Ewper. I only have 8 years less 4 days to go!

We arrived at the cottage. Sometimes Eddie and Brenda would call it a cabin, sometimes a cottage. Now that I’ve been there, I can say for sure that it’s a cottage. It was small and low to the ground, it had a sagging roof, and, here’s the clincher, it was red.

The inside was quaint and comfortable, the outside pleasant and picturesque. The porch looked out onto to the lake and a little dock. I loved it so much. It was storybook.

For the first time this trip, I wished that Kettle was a girl.

(and human)

(and not named Kettle)

But that wasn’t going to happen, so at night I did yoga on the porch and got all hot and sweaty that way.

I spent two days at the cottage getting caught up on work. (When I say work, I should really say “work” because I’m developing a computer game with my friend, Bill, and there’s very little that’s work-like about it.) On the first day, Kettle and I watched ducks. On the second day, we watched the weather change.

I did take a bit of time to play tourist and visit the nearby Lake Huron lighthouses and the county fair. My hope was that, by doing so, I would have something interesting to tell you about.

It didn’t work.

So let’s get back to the cottage.

While at the cottage I received emails from my friends in Houston and D.C., both politely waving me off for a week. So instead of having a week to get to D.C., I now have two weeks.

Then, completely coincidently, I got an Instant Message from Bill, who had been viewing my Michigan location on Google Latitude.

“You should go to Montreal.”

Bill is not just my friend and programmer – he’s also my quasi travel agent. He says he likes seeing my picture on the map and trying to make it move a particular direction.

“Great idea,” I said. I pulled up a map. The shortest route to Montreal would be to keep going down towards Detroit, then cut across past Toronto.

But Bill was on a roll …

“You should go through Sudbury.”

This would instead mean going north and crossing the border up at Sault St. Marie. Although that path would entail some backtracking, it did look like a nicer drive, and it was not much longer, and I wanted to let Bill move me around …

So, as it turns out, the cottage wasn’t in the right direction after all.

But it was totally worth it.

Even though I went with a dog.

Pondering the Mackinac Bridge
Now that’s a cottage.
Our arrival
My porch
Kettle’s dock
A lighthouse with a real house.
Alpena County Fair
AK and the Outlaws
Not so sure about the purple sky.
Storm Watch

Sault Ste. Marie – Michigan

September 4, 2010

I had to take Kettle to the vet.

Don’t panic.

I had to take him because, in order to bring him into Canada, I needed proof that he had had his rabies shots. I didn’t have that paperwork with me, and he was due for his shots anyway, so we were off to the vet.

Unfortunately it was the Friday morning before Labor Day weekend, and the vets kept saying they were booked until Tuesday. I started calling places in Roger’s City, where I was, and kept calling further north along my route to Sault Ste. Marie.

I was having no luck until, finally, with only a few miles to go before Canada, I found a vet that could take us. They were in Sault Ste. Marie and had a 3:40 opening. I had just enough time to get there.

Everything went fine. In addition to his shots, they tested for worms and other stuff, and it wall all negative.

There was one surprise, though …

I got Kettle about a year ago from Rocket Dog Rescue. I saw an ad on Craigslist pleading for someone to foster him because his current foster home could no longer keep him. Scoop had died several months before, and I was ready for a new dog, so I volunteered – knowing that I would probably be taking him forever.

The thing was, he looked a lot smaller in the picture, and I was quite surprised when I saw how big he was. I live in a condo with no yard, and a 70 pound dog would be a bit much. So my plan was to introduce him to my friends with yards.

But no one bit.

The people at Rocket Dog Rescue had told me that if I wasn’t going to keep him that I should bring him to their adoption events on Sundays and help find him a home. When Sunday rolled around, I convinced myself that it would be best to find him an owner with more space. It was hard – he was such a good boy – but I didn’t feel like Kettle was particularly happy with me. He did whatever I wanted, but he was not expressive or playful, and he never made a sound. Not one.

(Since then, I’ve learned that it takes a dog about 3 months to feel comfortable with a new home, and that their personality gradually comes out over that time.)

So we went to the adoption event. On the way there, while stopped at a red light, I was startled by a loud, deep “Woof! Woof!” from the passenger seat.

I then saw that there was another dog on the corner. Kettle was barking at it. It wasn’t a vicious bark, but it was formidable. He was clearly telling the other dog, “This is MY car.”

Kettle was starting to feel at home.

I almost turned around right there.

But I forced myself to keep going, to find someone who wanted a big dog. So we joined the Rocket Dog staff, the other foster parents, and all the dogs on a street corner in the Castro. People would stop by, and we would talk about the dogs.

The problem for me was that I was fighting back tears the entire time.

And not always successfully.

I kept having to take Kettle for a walk to compose myself. Finally, I made my decision, and I walked him back to the Mini.

And here we are.

But where were we?

Oh yeah, the surprise at the vet.

I turns out that my 70 pound dog is now 96 pounds!

96 pounds!

Apparently he wasn’t done growing.

If he grows any more, I’m going to have to get a different car.

Back to the Mack
Our Vet
Like it or not, we’re going in.
Let’s go – this guy isn’t going to show.
What are you going to do to me?
Please make him stop.

Sault Ste. Marie 2 – Michigan

September 5, 2010

My last post wall about Kettle and nothing about Sault Ste. Marie.

I just didn’t feel comfortable talking about a place I didn’t know how to pronounce.

I was initially pronouncing it (in my head) “Salt Saint Marie.”

But then I saw that the town had a nickname of “Soo”. Clearly this was a clue for people like me.

Sadly, I wasn’t sure how to pronounce “Soo.”  So … I was guessing “So Saint Marie”.

But then I heard the guy on the radio say it.

It’s pronounced “Sue Saint Marie.”

Having established its pronunciation, I have chosen 3 additional things to tell you about Sault Ste. Marie.

1. Half the city is the U.S. and half is in Canada. The two sides are divided by the St. Mary’s river and connected by the International Bridge. I believe they pronounce the city’s name the same way on both sides.

2. Sault Ste. Marie has locks. Lake Superior is a bit higher than the other Great Lakes, and the adjustment takes place along a stretch of rapids at Saulte Ste. Marie. (“Saultes de St. Marie” is old French for St. Mary’s Rapids.) Locks are cool. You’d think that the process of moving a ship from a body of water at one level to a body of water at a different level would require something really complicated. But locks are actually quite simple. Unfortunately, if I were to try to describe how they work, they would sound complicated. So I will just tell you that the locks at Sault Ste. Marie are called “The Soo Locks” and that they are the busiest canal in the world, as measured by tonnage.

3. Sault Ste. Marie has an unfortunate structure called the Tower of History. It was created with some religious goal in mind, but it looks like we let the Soviets build us a tower to watch over Canada. Despite all that, I paid the $6 and took the elevator to the viewing area. It’s fun to look across a river into a different country.

There’s more I could tell you about Sault Ste. Marie, but  that would be more than three things.

On the logistics side, Kettle and I spent two nights at a motel (it rained most of the time), and we did some provisioning. For produce, I had to settle for a normal supermarket, but I was able to stock up on nuts and dried fruits at a cool little health food store.

See you in Canada.

The Soo Locks
Across the street from the Soo Locks
Oh, Canada
Oh God, protect us from Canada
Fruit Stand

Sudbury – Canada

September 6, 2010

Sudbury. It’s a mining town.

For most of the 20th century, Sudbury produced 90% of the world’s nickel. Because nickel is used to make stainless steel, Sudbury was critical for the West’s war efforts and for the subsequent boom in stainless steel stuff.

Question: for what items has the most stainless steel been used?

Hint: they are often not included with everything else.

But let me back up.

I quite enjoyed my drive from the Soo to Sudbury. I was in a good mood to start with, and it only helped when I ran across a store the size of Walmart that specialized in Italian Sausage. Further down the road we stopped to run around on a Lake Huron beach and walk through a quaint town called Thessalon.

We stayed at a motel in Sudbury, and the next morning I did what any self-respecting Sudsbury tourist would do …

I went into a mine.

A place called Dynamic Earth conducts a tour down in a real mine where they show how mining has been done from 100 years ago until now.

It was pretty interesting.

The answer is kitchen sinks.

Wasn’t expecting this
Like a Panther, Kettle is.
We’ve been tailed!
He doesn’t like water, but loves bridges and docks.
My fellow miners
Miner Me
One of the world’s only underground mailboxes.
This got rolled around the mine.
The Big Nickel

Pembroke – Canada

September 7, 2010

The drive from Sudbury to Pembroke was nice, but something bad happend.

I ran out of Econtalk podcasts..

Despite the name, the Econtalk podcasts are interesting, easy to follow, and cover a fairly wide range of topics. In general, the conversations highlight the effectiveness of ideas and solutions that emerge on their own, as opposed to ones which are centrally designed and imposed.

So I’m going to download more …

The corner store
A dock along the way

Ottawa & Montreal – Canada

Kettle and I had a big day ahead of us. Our goal was to drive to Ottawa (the capital of Canada) for lunch and sight-seeing, then make it to Montreal for dinner.

Of course that didn’t stop us from pulling over to walk across a bridge.

Not just any bridge, but the longest covered bridge in the province of Quebec. Longest, but not widest, and we had to hurry across the 110 year old bridge lest a car force us to cling to the side.

It was worth the risk because, as I’ve learned during this trip, Kettle is passionate about walking across bridges.

Or running across, as was the case with this one.

You may have noticed that I said that the bridge was in Quebec.

I was going from Pembroke to Ottawa – both are located on the Ontario side of the border with Quebec. To get to Ottawa, I had the choice of taking the main highway, which runs on the Ontario side, or a more rural road, which was on the Quebec side.

I chose the rural road, which had two important results:

a) We discovered and crossed the aforementioned bridge.


b) We ended up on the road to Gatineau instead of Ottawa.

Based on my iPhone GPS, I was going the right way. But all of the road signs were saying how far Gatineau was ahead, with no mention of Ottawa whatsoever.

I tried to find Gatineau on my phone’s map, but to no avail.

So I followed the signs to Gatineau, out of curiosity if for no other reason.

Turns out that Gatineau is the city adjacent to Ottawa, on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Although the parliament buildings are located in Ottawa, Gatineau is considered to be part of the “capital region.”

Google Maps didn’t think it was worth mentioning Gatineau, and the Quebecois sign makers didn’t think it was worth mentioning Ottawa.

Globalization, meet Provinciality .

I like Ottawa. It’s beautiful, historic, and diverse …

On the street where I parked there was a store called The Bible House: Christian Books, Music, and Gifts. Directly across the street was a store calledVenus Envy: Books, Sex, Health.

Funny, I didn’t feel comfortable going into either one.

But I had no problem taking pictures from outside.

We (well, I) had a nice lunch at a bistro, then we walked around the spectacular Parliament Hill. As we were leaving, we came across a dozen teenage girls all dressed up in colorful jester-like outfits.

I asked if they would pose for a picture with my dog. They were quite enthusiastic about it and gathered around Kettle.

Which scared him.

But the girl with the leash held on tight, and the photo shoot was a success.

Finding a motel in Montreal that would take dogs proved difficult, but we found a place outside of town near the airport. I was about to pull into the motel, when a woman crossed the street in front of my car.

She was holding a yoga mat.

I looked in the direction she was going, and sure enough there was a yoga studio right across the street. I took this as a sign, so I quickly checked in, changed, and went to the class. It was a Bikram class (aka Hot Yoga), which I had not done for a long time. But I managed to not pass out in front of a room full of Canadiennes.


By the time I was ready to go to dinner, it was late, we were still 20 miles from town, and there was a lightning storm.

But our goal was dinner in Montreal, so braving the weather we drove into town, parked, and went to the first place I found, Brasserie Alexandre, where I enjoyed a French Onion Soup and glass of wine.

So it ended up being a serendipitous day – I found a dream bridge for Kettle to cross, got a photo with a gaggle of colorful girls, was literally led to a yoga class, and ate at a restaurant with my name on it.

The next day we walked through Old Montreal, stopped at a veggie/fruit stand, then headed off to the city of Quebec.

Do you see this?
We can make it!
That was fun. Let’s go back!
Stage Right
Stage Left
Are you done yet?
Kettle, Dignitary
Kettle, Dog.
View from top of Parliament building
Zoomed In
I tried to get him to look at the camera, but he wouldn’t turn his back on them.
Notre Dame de Montreal, avec un chien
Random Street in Old Town. Not so random dog.
How am I supposed to read that?
Cooler’s full again

Laurier Station – Canada

September 9, 2010

I didn’t quite make it to Quebec.

By the time I got close, it was getting dark, I was tired, and there was a huge storm cloud looming ahead.

So I pulled over and stayed at a motel about 20 miles out of town.

I had enough veggies for 3 salads, so I chopped them all, made one salad, and put the rest in a baggie in the motel refrigerator, telling myself that I better not forget them there.

(I did forget them there, by the way.)

The motel seemed a bit overpriced given its distance from the city and the fact that it had a truck-stop feel to it. But I didn’t regret my choice until I realized that the place was adjacent to train tracks, with freight trains going by every hour or so.

Pulling over early to get some extra sleep wasn’t looking like such a good idea after all.

But then I had a brilliant idea. Before going to bed, I turned my iPhone’s WhiteNoise app to the setting which simulates the sound of a train. This way when a real train went by, it wouldn’t wake me up.

You just have to be smarter than the object you’re up against.

It worked like a charm, and it wasn’t till morning that I woke up to the sound of a train going by. The train kept going as I slowly woke up to its sound.

And going.

And going.

“Wow, this is a really long train,” I thought.


Quebec City – Canada

September 10, 2010

Tarte de Lapin.

Or Rabbit Pot Pie.

That’s what I had for lunch when I arrived in Quebec. It was on a great little street, not in Old Town, but with lots of old buildings. It seemed like a trendy spot for the locals. I just lucked into it.

After lunch I went to a cafe, blogged, and found a motel online that would accept Kettle. I also found an evening yoga class.

The motel was on the outskirts of town. I would have plenty of time to get there, then drive back downtown for the class.

Unfortunately it was rush hour, it was raining, and there was road construction going on all over the place. (If Canada had a stimulus package, half of it must have gone to roadwork in Quebec City.) So by the time I got to the motel, I had little time to spare.

I like to take yoga classes while traveling for three main reasons:

1. It’s how I workout.

2. It’s possible, however unlikely, that I’ll meet one of the women I’m contorting myself with.

3. It’s something that locals, rather than tourists, do.

I was feeling like feeling like a local. So we jumped in the car and back on the freeway.

The Quebec City freeways are difficult. They all have multiple numbers and there are interchanges everywhere. There was road construction and detours, it was dark, and I was trying to navigate myself with my iPhone. It was pretty darn challenging. But I was on top of my game. I was making the correct last second freeway lane choices, and when I didn’t, I recovered quickly.

And the radio was playing some great songs. I was fired up.

When I got to the correct neighborhood, I found that they were doing roadwork all around the studio, and they had torn out the pavement. There was a sign that said “Local Traffic Only.”

No problem, that’s me – I’m going to my yoga class. So I drove past the sign and parked right around the corner from the studio. I had just enough time to quickly walk Kettle, and I got the there with 5 minutes to spare.

There are times, not often, when I do things well.

There was no yoga class.

The studio was closed for the summer. The schedule on the web site was for the fall season which wouldn’t be starting until the following week.

So this was not one of those times.

No longer a local, I went to the walled Vieux-Quebec and walked around with Kettle and the other tourists. The walk was beautiful, of course, and the Chateau Frontenac Hotel was stunning. We probably should have just done this in the first place.

Back at the motel, I almost went to bed, but the adjacent bar was playing really loud music, so I went to investigate. I spent the next hour watching French Canadian men singing Karaoke.

Those crazy locals.

My view with le Tarte de Lapin

Chateau Frontenac and a possessed dog

Wall around Vieux-Quebec

Quebec City Parliament Building

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