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Some ways to enjoy a Michigan vacation

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    An unplanned vacation in Michigan turned out to be a lot of fun. Although the Traverse City area is very upscale (in other words, expensive), reasonable lodging can be found just a half hour or so south. One thing that’s true about Michigan - there are lakes everywhere. LISA PRICE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    An unplanned vacation in Michigan turned out to be a lot of fun. Although the Traverse City area is very upscale (in other words, expensive), reasonable lodging can be found just a half hour or so south. One thing that's true about Michigan - there are lakes everywhere. LISA PRICE/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published June 22. 2018 11:02PM

I was a bit slow to warm up to the state of Michigan, probably because I’m a Penn State fan.

Real and imagined wrongs from past football seasons may have prejudiced me against the state, but it didn’t take long for me to let bygones be bygones.

I didn’t plan to vacation in Michigan. One of my dogs was to be in a dog show there, much to his dismay. (I can always read the disappointment in his body language after a long drive when I open his crate and swap the orange collar for the thin show lead – his shoulders literally slump) I had planned to drive to the dog show, turn him over to a professional show dog handler, and drive back to Pennsylvania, picking him up the following weekend.

But the professional handler’s vehicle had broken down. I scrambled through a consignment store in Saginaw, Michigan, grabbing four ill-fitting dresses and a permanently pigeon-toed pair of used sandals. I got pantyhose at a dollar store (just putting them on I got “racing stripes” down each leg) but somehow earned two points for my dog in four days at the show.

He was also entered in a Michigan show the following weekend, just two hours away. Where to stay, what to do, for the four days between the shows? How could I be in Michigan and not fish? Or at the least, stay on a lake? Sometime, if you’d like to assign true meaning to the phrase “exercise in futility”, drive far away and seek lodging when you’re traveling with five big dogs.

I stopped at each motel, hotel, RV park and campground between Midland and Traverse City. Near a small town called, kind of alarmingly, Mesick, I saw a sign for Pat’s RV Park, Cabins and Campground. No one was at the office but despairingly I called the number on the sign, no answer, left a message. I hadn’t driven a half mile before Pat called me back.

Sure, they were pet friendly, the dogs were no problem. There were four cabins available and all were unlocked. I could just check out each of them and let him know which one I wanted. Three had running water, bathrooms, a gas cook stove and power. One was on the lake, no amenities – that’s the one I took.

Before the day was over, I was thinking that I’d drop TV service back home. I woke to the calls of geese, loons and swans. I found a small combo hardware and outdoor shop, got a fishing license ($30 for 72 hours) and minimal gear. I caught four nice small-mouth bass during those 72 hours, including one unlucky bass which basically accidentally snagged itself on my hook by the top of its tail fin. Made for an interesting fight – seemed like the fish was going to be much bigger than it was, swimming directly away like that as I reeled, the drag slipping, my mind traveling to images of a monster walleye.

So, I got to thinking - $280 for a cabin on a lake, $30 for a fishing license, plus about $20 for gear – was it worth it? It’s so quiet here that the scratch of my pen on notebook paper is audible, in fact, at night I think I can hear my pulse. I’m making coffee on a campfire, using an old percolator that was in the cabin – each morning I think, this might be the best coffee I’ve ever had. Maybe it’s so good because as I drink from the heavy crock mug, I hear loons, geese and even swans.

Here are some things we’ve all gotten too far away from: a campfire as companion at breakfast. Long walks exploring new paths with old dogs. And the peace that comes with fishing without optimism, or regrets, just for the peace in a connection with the water. Turns out I might love Michigan, well, except on certain Saturdays this fall.

P.S. My dog got another three points at the second show.

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