Good Friends. Strong Drinks. Long Post.

It has been a week filled with love, laughter, and tears – tears of happiness, joy, and some sadness and fear. There has not been a lot of traveling and zero camping. Since leaving the U. P., I have spent most of my time in Grand Rapids, MI and Cincinnati, OH. As most of you know, I do not have a lot of close friends, especially close female friends. Of those that I do have, only a couple live in the Fargo/Moorhead area. Most of my friends have moved on to “bigger” and some even better things/places/people. They have started families and broken with families. They have had many loves and many losses. I am lucky enough to have been a part of all these changes with them. In return, they have also been with me through my struggles, hardships, loves, and joys. I think that these bonds that have been formed throughout the years are what anchors someone to our lives – well at least for me they have. If it were not for the support of my friends and family, I do not know who I would be (or if I would be) today. This is why I feel so blessed to have spent the last week, not exploring my surroundings as much as planned, but reintroducing myself to my ladies.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, after staying the night in Indian Lake State Park (outside of Manistique, MI), Charlie and I took a long hike around the lake to stretch our legs before another five and a half hour car ride. The lake and trail were beautiful. Charlie enjoyed discovering the different scents on the trail and sniffing out the squirrels. He is also a people dog; therefore, the handful of different people we saw while hiking were very rude to not want to be his friend. Although it was not a “rugged” trail, it was well-forested and full of native wildlife. The weather was perfect – a balmy 55 degrees, clear blue skies and low humidity.

Following the hike, we packed up the car and headed across the UP to the Mackinac Bridge which connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. The bridge is just shy of 5 miles long. This, I discovered, is just shy of 5 miles too long for me. I had been planning to take video while crossing the bridge as it is beautiful. Alas, a nearly overwhelming sense of dread, anxiety, fear, and nausea took over my entire body. The vice-like grip I had on my steering wheel was evident once we arrived on the mainland . . . there are still fingernail marks on the wheel and bruises on my palms. By the way, I have NEVER been afraid crossing bridges before this. Why this time? Was it because the water below was well over 250 feet deep and if I drove off, I would surely kill me and Charlie? Nope. I did not even know that fact until today when I looked it up. Perhaps it was because Charlie was super scared and I could feel his anxiety? Also, no. It was my fear that freaked him out. Honestly, I don’t know the reason(s) – it happened, and I do not plan to drive that bridge again, so I won’t try to psychoanalyze it anymore.

The state of Michigan is beautiful. Hills and trees and blue skies surround you, but that is where enjoyment (for me) ends. The roads are terrible and the drivers are not much better. I do not think they know the definition of tailgating and why it is a rude habit to have. It did not matter how often I tried to get away from certain drivers, they continuously ended up being within feet of the rear end of my car. I think they wanted me to set the speed. That’s fine. Just STAY OFF MY ASS!!! If they were not tailgating, they were weaving in and out of traffic; however, there wasn’t much for traffic, so why drive like this? Why cut someone off when you could just pull into the lane a few seconds later – after you are more than a foot in front of them? I do not understand.

When I got into Grand Rapids, I was completely – – underwhelmed. The city reminds me of an extra-large Jamestown, ND. I drove in and immediately felt like I needed a shower. The air was thick with . . . something. I can’t say smog as it didn’t feel that way. It also did not feel like a city – you know the city feeling, the hustle and bustle and excitement that comes with urban life. It wasn’t there. In fact, all I noticed were a bunch of terrible drivers trying to maneuver on roads that the city, county, and state government (say nothing of the Federal government) could not care less about maintaining. I did see a lot of Nestle plastic water bottles in the medians and sides of the road though. Go figure.

People of Michigan, I am sorry. I am sorry that as a country we don’t really care what is going on in your state as long as the corporations that are invested there can continue to give their money to those in government. I am also sorry that you do not know how to drive. Thank you for being friendly though!!

I arrived at my friend Joy’s house that evening. I have known Joy for many years and am always so thankful to have her in my life. She is truly my sister, not by blood (but we do look alike! See pic below), but by shared life experiences. I am quite sure that we are leading the same lives. (I love you, lady and cannot wait to see you again. Thank you so much for the hospitality and AWESOME steak dinner!).

Joy lives with her husband, a daughter, son-in-law, and three grandkids. Charlie was ecstatic! He loves children. I was ecstatic – I did not have a 75 lb dog on me all of the time!

After a wonderful visit with Joy, Charlie and I headed south to visit my old college friend Angie and her family. The drive took us through Indianapolis – which surprised me. Perhaps I should start looking closer at my maps and relying less on my GPS. Doesn’t matter. It was a beautiful drive. The further I drove, the greater the feeling of peace that came over me.

When we arrived in Cincinnati, Charlie and I had a few hours to kill. We headed over to LaBoixteaux Woods. I was not expecting the maze of trails in the middle of the city. I hadn’t properly prepared for it. Setting out with one bottle of water, my car keys, and the dog . . . not hat, no sunglasses, no way to give Charlie water, and nowhere for me to pee (had been driving for the last five hours), we finally found a creek from which Charlie could drink. I moved down stream a bit and relieved myself in the bushes (not poison ivy, thank goodness). Imagine – peeing in the middle of a city, pants around your ankles, squatting with your bottom out for the world to see. As a woman, this really does not happen in a city (yes there are plenty of exceptions, but I am not one of them); however, it was not urban. I could not even hear the traffic in these woods. I did not see one person until we finally ventured back into “civilization”, just a half mile off the trail.

My first impression of Cincinnati is beautiful, old, clean (when compared to most urban places), diverse, friendly, and cheap. The houses are much cheaper than the Fargo/Moorhead area. Rentals range from low to mid-priced (in comparison to what I am used to). The job market appears to be good with livable wages. I will definitely keep this city in my back pocket as a future home.

Angie and I were able to take an evening out for ladies’ night. We shared a wonderful meal of chicken and waffles at Arnold’s Bar and Grill. If you are in Cincy, check it out. The cocktails were delicious and the chicken and waffles were absolutely superb! The wait staff was more than accommodating as we not only asked to be seated in the building after originally being seated on the patio (this ND girl could not deal with the humidity out there) and sending back a $15 drink that wasn’t what we liked. They replaced the drink with another one (SO DELICIOUS!) and then took pictures of us so we did not have to look like the silly middle-aged women trying to take selfies.

Following Arnold’s, we headed over to Japp’s which specializes in cocktails from the 1700’s – 1950’s. Wow! Smoothest bourbon I have ever had. The building and bar were beautiful; however, the clientele were a bit too much for us. We realize that we are getting older; however, we were still a bit too young and too poor for the upper-middle aged yuppies. Our bartender, whose look brought me back to high school with her Courtney Love-like bleached blonde hair and babydoll dress, told us to head up to the Northside. We followed her advice.

Junkers Tavern gave us cheap drinks, karaoke, dancing, a fairly clean, yet scary bathroom and all of the quirkiness one would want from a dive bar. It was WONDERFUL!! Friendly staff, welcoming customers, and strong drinks (including Jameson) were flowing freely. Before we even walked into the bar, we met a lovely couple outside the bar. Colleen and Kevin met a few months back on Tinder. Neither Angie nor I have ever been on Tinder, so we decided we should check it out – well, we decided that I should check it out. Tinder app downloaded. Picture uploaded. Between the three of us girls, many swipes were made (mostly to the left). Pretty sure Angie and I will go back to Junkers (OK – Angie will and I will too if I get back here); however, the Tinder app will probably be deleted. I don’t need that crap right now; however, if I meet a handsome man while hiking mountain trails . . .

Angie has a beautiful family. Charlie was so happy to have her son Conrad around with whom to play. For anyone who has a problem with bully breeds and their potential to be dangerous, you need to meet Charlie. Of course, he could be dangerous. He is an animal and any animal can attack; however, Charlie seems to have a deep love of children. I could not even pretend fight with Conrad without Charlie pushing me away! Pretty sure Angie and Adam will need to get their own Charlie pup sometime soon😁

Tomorrow morning I will be heading north again toward Niagara Falls. I will stop and see another friend for one night, but after that night, it will be tent city for the next 5 – 7 days. Our final nights of camping (for the North East part of the country) will be in Acadia National Park. For those of you who follow this blog for nature photos, keep following. They will be coming! I hope to include some videos too if I can figure out how to attach the GoPro to Charlie. I think his videos would be much more interesting than mine.

Until next week, be safe, be well, be happy.

-H

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