Thanks, Dad, for the lessons of the roads we shared

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.

Memories along childhood’s roads

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.

Longer, loftier roads

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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Article Comments

Iva says:

I agree that Dad would be proud. And though he may never have said it in so many words, he was very proud of you. I have heard him bragging to the relatives. He also used crickets as bait. Do you remember my helping you catch crickets to sell for bate?
I’m not sure I ever got paid!!

Bill says:

I do remember catching crickets and sort of remember you helping. I think the going rate for the hardware where I sold them was something like 50 cents a hundred.

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