Father’s Day triggers a lot of thinking about family and leads me to dig into memories of holidays past. So in this post I’d like to write a bit about my dad, one of the original champions of back roads and byways.
If there was a less-traveled road to anywhere, Dad would find it. I spent a good deal of my youth traipsing up and down dusty stretches of gravel with names like Struble, Westbrook, Stone, Crandall and Nickel Plate. Most of the time it was with Dad in one of several Fords he owned over the years.
Often we were on some errand or another or on the way to an odd job to which I often lent a hand. But a good many of those trips were to seine minnows (minnies as Dad called them) in the small creeks that crisscrossed Michigan’s eastern Ionia County.
We used them as fish bait on our frequent trips to Loon Lake, a small private lake on a farm northwest of Ionia. I remember so well stopping at the farmhouse to pay our fifty cents for the privilege of unloading our small aluminum boat onto Loon Lake’s mirrored surface.
Even this brings back memories of roads traveled. The road down to the lake was Fenwick. Ironically, my brother bought and restored an 1883 house on Barnes Road, just north of Fenwick Road and Loon Lake. Strange how things work out, eh?
Dad was a simple, hardworking man. Raised by a stern father after his mother died early in his childhood, Dad never had the benefit of a gentler woman’s touch during his formative years. So sometimes he was a little rough, a little gruff to sensitive and impressionable youngsters. But he was a kind and caring man.
Money was scarce so we didn’t travel much. Restaurant meals were rare, and present-day commodities the likes of ice cream and soft drinks seldom graced our refrigerator.
I can still feel the excitement when, on a warm summer evening, Dad would unexpectedly toss me a dollar bill and say, “Run over to Steve’s and get some ice cream.” I was out the door and down the driveway almost before he had the words out of his mouth.
Most of my recollections of childhood travel were to the area around the straits of Mackinaw. Dad had relatives who rented tourist cabins, and we would occasionally “go up north” and stay a few days.
As soon as I sniffed out word of an impending trip north, I would pack a little black satchel I had, often days in advance, and set it beside the door. My sisters always made fun of me, but it didn’t matter. I was excited to be headed north, and I didn’t care who was laughing.
In 1965, we traveled to Oregon to visit an uncle – five of us in an eight-foot truck camper. Then in 1976, I took my parents to Alaska. Getting there was Dad’s lifelong dream. He caught a grayling, marveled at Mt. McKinley and saw a grizzly bear. Not bad for a simple, hardworking veteran from Muir, Michigan.
It’s been more than a dozen years since we welcomed Dad for a holiday. He died long in advance of Trips with a Twist and before he truly understood my fascination with the open road. If he were here today, I think he would be proud.
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