Home > hitchhiking, travel > Up North part 6: terminal ride

Up North part 6: terminal ride

My next ride came quickly, before I was really settled in at the newest on-ramp, and I immediately knew it was the terminal ride when the driver said he was going to Manistee. He seemed reluctant to tell me when I asked where he was headed, but he had asked me first. He was older, a retiree, and a little gruff, and maybe having some buyers remorse about such a long ride with a stranger. His mood totally lifted though, when he asked me what I did when I wasn’t hitching Up North to get some space in a troubled marriage, and I told him I was a social worker by trade but between jobs right now. I told him about my last job in case management with adults and children with developmental disabilities and a job I had applied for working with adolescent refugees from Africa who were settling in Lansing.

“Oh, my son sees one”, he said, quickly adding: “Of course he’s adopted you know.” He was frustrated that it is so hard to get an appointment and then they just end up cancelling at the last minute. I told him one of the reasons I had quit was my caseload was too big and I didn’t have any time to help anyone like they really needed.

After opening up about his son he revealed he was going to Manistee to fix up his third home which he was hoping to sell. He knew the route well and mentioned several likely places to camp and suggested getting supplies in Naubinway. I broke out the steno pad and wrote on the last page:

Lake Michigan Campground

Brevort Lake

Hog Island State Forest

                                Campground

Black River State Forest

                                Campground

Naubinway

We were already across the bridge and driving west on Route 2 when I started taking notes. I started dreading my hitch out as we sped along Route 2, me thinking how similar it seemed to Old 72 I had walked 9 miles down, without getting so much of a hint of a ride. The now friendly driver suggested I go on with him all the way to Manistee and detailed its virtues. He said he had seen wolves, heard them howl, he knew the difference between them and coyotes he told me. I nodded agreeably but turned down the ride to Manistee. I could tell he just wanted the company and Naubinway is where I wanted to be. Miles and miles closer to the interstate in case I had to walk the whole way out because of the new fear.

He let me out in Naubinway which is really just a wide spot in the road with a post office and a half a dozen shops mostly selling smoked fish. I left my Up North Please sign in his van. I didn’t need it anymore. I was here.

I walked over to the post office and leaned my pack against the wall on the side, out of the way, as it was the middle of the “town” and I wanted to do all the shopping I could before heading into the wilderness. I walked down to the pay phone to let folks know I was safe and where I was. It was dead. I walked into the dried fish and hunting supplies shop, but they didn’t have any fire starters. The fish lined up behind the glass stared at me with their dead eyes, and I left without buying anything. I walked into the next shop with more than a little unease. It was a gift shop and I was hoping to get some postcards, especially as the phone was out, so someone would eventually know where I was at. A stiff older woman quickly greeted me with an icy “can I help you?” It felt more like she’d said ‘what do you think your doing here dirtball”.

Her postcards stank so I quickly left and went for post card stamps at the post office. “That your pack out there?”, the postal worker asked when I entered.

“Yeah.”

“Better move it before someone calls the State Police and your in a heap of trouble. I’ve already gotten a call about it,” he added, though I’d been in Naubinway for probably less than six minutes.

“Sorry”, I said. “I forgot times have changed. I just wanted to pick up a couple of things and didn’t want to lug it all over town. Well I’d better get my post card stamps and get my gear moved.”

After the stamps I lugged my pack up to the grocery/smoked fish/gas station to stock up on some groceries. Count Chocula was on salel and I picked up a box. Comfort food for a world of fear and distrust, and they even had soy milk.

I  lugged my pack and the groceries to the gas station and picked up some smokes. I lugged my pack and the two bags of groceries to the DNR office at the end of town and confirmed that Hog Island State Forest Campground is still open.

I started walking the five miles or so back east to Hog Island down the side of Route 2, with my pack and a bag of groceries in each hand. No one stops. For some reason a blue beater caught my eye speeding along west and I noticed the passenger looked like Moses or some kind of Mountain Man. I prayed that a car would not cut over a lane and strike me dead as I watched cars pass at 70+ miles per hour. Everyone was driving so fast, passing where no sane person would pass.

I got off the road a couple of miles east of Naubinway at a quaint old rest area. I drank crystal clear water that was pouring out of an old stone fountain. I felt refreshed both body and soul of the bad energy of the speeding traffic and small town paranoia that had left me a little shaken.

I started back walking until one of the grocery bags ripped. I consolidated to one bag stuffing the excess into my already full back pack. I started walking again with my left thumb out, in case walking in the middle of nowhere with heavy packages is not enough indication that I would appreciate a ride. The blue beater I had seen earlier heading the other way pulled up in front of me. As the old man in the passenger seat made room for my bag and it and I started to get in, the driver made me promise I was not wanted and that he wouldn’t be reading about me in tomorrow’s paper.

I started to tell him his reverse lights were out as we accelerate, but at around 45 mph the car started shuddering and it was obvious it wasn’t going faster, and I decided to bite my tongue. The driver asked me what I was doing and I explained I hitched here to camp at Hog Island and escape the talk of war. The driver asked how old I was and after he guessed 26, I told him I was “33 but doing stupid shit keeps me young.”

The driver said, “it hasn’t helped me any”.

The old man agreed saying he was 58, and he looked about 70. As we pull into the campground the old man became emotional and apologized for trying to talk the driver out of picking me up. “I was scared”, he said. “The terrorists did a good job”. He told me he was frightened for me and hoped I at least had a bottle.

I told him “nope” and he gave me the last Busch out of the 12 pack, and I was alone. I had no time to sit back and drink the beer and enjoy it though. I had to get cracking to make camp before dark. Hog Island is in fact a peninsula and most of the sites are right on Lake Michigan. Terribly beautiful, truly sublime, but windy, so I took site 3, located squarely in the woods. I of course had the entire campground to choose from.  I laid down my Mylar coated tarp, I had trash picked a couple of years previously, and pitched my tent on top it.

I walked down to the lake shore and looked at the lake. I thought about watching the sun set into the lake but decided to make a fire and cook instead. I picked some wood out of some of the other sites and made a fire. I cooked some food, ate, and took my weary ass to bed in spite of it being quite early. I was tired and dishes could wait until morning. I looked up to see so many stars.

Categories: hitchhiking, travel
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