I am not exactly worldly, but I’ve been a few places. Hands down, my favorite place to go is L’Anse. Most people around here don’t even know that you can travel nine hours and still be in Michigan. I was telling one of my patients about it and she asked me if it was by Traverse City. Um, no. L’Anse is a small town located at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
My great-grandfather’s family was from Calumet. Before I was born, my grandparents were visiting the Upper Peninsula and my grandpa pointed out the house on Bayshore Drive and he said, “Aunt So-and-so lives there. She’s the luckiest person in the world!” My grandpa was disappointed when the house was sold outside of the family. A few years after, the house went up for sale again. My grandma was taking her daughter (my aunt) back to Northern Michigan University and he made her promise to go see the house and put an offer in. He wanted it for a vacation home. My grandma did not want the little house, nine hours away from home, but she did as my grandfather asked, she went to see the house and put in an offer. A very low offer. It was so low that she never thought it would be accepted until it was. She was shocked and dismayed. I never asked my grandpa how he felt, but I bet he thought my grandma was the best wife ever.
801 Bayshore Drive
I believe they bought the house in 1984. From then on, we travelled the nine hours to L’Anse every summer for a week’s vacation. I have so many memories, I couldn’t possible write them all down.
My first memories of L’Anse are from when I was maybe 7 or 8 years old, driving up north and staying at the little house on the bay with my parents, siblings, uncle and cousins. There had to be more than ten of us in the cabin that can’t be more than 600 square feet. Five of us kids slept on the “pull-out” couch which was not actually a pull-out, they simply pulled the cushion off the couch and placed it on the floor next to the couch frame and that’s how we slept. We had so much fun skipping rocks down by the bay, putting on talent shows, going to Second Sand Beach, learning to play Cribbage, walking through town and playing at the park. I remember being terrified of the Charlie McCarthy puppet that resided at the house. At some point over the years, the head fell off the doll and then we had fun hiding the head in different places to scare the next visitors to the cabin.
Part of the experience is the drive. I spent most of the rides in the “way-back” of a station wagon or a Windstar minivan singing songs and playing games with my siblings. But there was one year that we drove up with all the kids in the back of grandpa’s Dodge Ram. It was the 80s, so not only were seatbelts optional, but actual seats were apparently not required. At least the back of the truck was covered, so there’s that. We had packed some of our stuff in garbage bags that year. The whole time, my sister was complaining that the bag she was lying on must be filled with garbage. My mom kept yelling back from the cab, “It’s just my train case (yeah, she STILL has that train case!), stop complaining!” As it turned out, it was actually garbage that had accidentally got put in the truck with the rest of our “luggage.” I think that was the year that we saw a black bear on our travels.
I would guess that I’ve been to L’Anse at least 20 times in the past 28 years. Most of the time we do the same stuff: skip rocks by the bay, walk around town, visit the Bishop Baraga Shrine, summit Mt. Arvon (I refuse to go there anymore. I’m pretty sure I have already written that story and I will post it to this blog if I can find it,) go see Canyon Falls, watch the sun melt like butter into the bay at the end of a long day, spend a day at Second Sand Beach, cookout at Kirwood Park, play Cribbage, and now that I’m an adult, I get to hit the casino and play Three Card Poker with Grandma Kitty. And in the last 12 years or so, we’ve had to stop by the Visitor’s Bureau to ask about the anchor.
The anchor appeared one day at the Waterfront Park. My grandpa went to the Visitor’s Bureau to ask where it came from, the lady didn’t know. He bugged her a few more times and he was shocked to find out that he was the ONLY person who had ever asked about it. He ended up doing a little research and gave the lady some printed information regarding the origins of the anchor. From then on, grandpa was always looking for a sucker to send into the Visitor’s Bureau to ask about the anchor. The lady would always start laughing and ask, “Where is he?” The year my grandpa passed away, I went in and asked about the anchor. The lady looked like at me like she had seen a ghost and got a little teary-eyed. When I told her that I was his granddaughter, we laughed together and she told me that we are still the ONLY people who ever ask about that anchor.
I’m not sure what it is about L’Anse that draws me in. Maybe it’s because it makes me feel close to my grandpa, or because the town has hardly changed in the nearly 30 years that I’ve been visiting it, or because I had so many happy childhood memories there. I just love it and it’s my favorite place to escape to.
We’re leaving to go there in less than two weeks. Pretty much the whole family is going to attend my brother’s wedding there. My kids won’t get the full experience though; they will be safely strapped in carseats/boosters in the back of a van with all of modern life’s luxuries: iPods, tablets, smartphones, and DVD players. They will have actual beds to sleep in, not couch frames, in a spacious condo that we have rented. (I’m suddenly worried that my kids won’t be as tough or as cool as me because their childhood has been considerably less gritty.) I’m really looking forward to rediscovering my favorite place through their eyes. Mark has (reluctantly) agreed to make the drive at least every other year, so I know we will be making many more memories.
And I already have plans on taking Brady to see the anchor and then sending him into the Visitor’s Bureau. Grandpa would approve.