After our time in New York, we drove west for Ohio Part One and made sure to arrive with plenty of time to attend Mike’s Granny’s 90th birthday celebration! It was a great time, made especially great because almost all of the huge family was in town to hang out and celebrate. The highlight for me actually came before the party even started: watching the entire family come together to work as a big team and decorate the whole place for the shindig. It was a really heartwarming sight to see.
Before we arrived, I found out that an old work friend of mine whom I knew from California and had moved to Findlay years before, not only still lived in Findlay, but lived in Granny’s old house, which is right next door to Granny and about four houses down from Mike’s parents’ house (where we were staying). So we had insta-friends in Findlay! It felt serendipitous.
After a couple of weeks in Findlay, we made it to our next big stop: Mike’s family’s cabin in Michigan. 50 years ago, Mike’s grandfather (on his mom’s side) bought a small hunting cabin in a remote part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Since then, Grandpa completely converted it, building it into a summer hangout that can comfortably fit the extended family. Everyone on that side of the family has spent a lot of summer weeks there. I was a little nervous to go because I hadn’t been there before and we were going to spend an entire six weeks living and working there. I knew it was fairly rustic, but wasn’t completely sure what to expect.
My main concern was that I’d feel isolated and anxious: the cabin is on an island that you can only get to by boat. There are no vehicles/roads/sidewalks, the water is pumped directly from the lake, the power can be unreliable, and occasionally there’s a storm that’s bad enough to strand you there for short periods. According to basically everyone in the family, the cabin is a place you either love or you hate, and I didn’t know which I’d feel.
My secondary concern was whether I’d be able to effectively work there. There’s no cell service, and (until Mike took up the task) only unreliable and slow internet. My work requires decent internet, particularly for my client video chats. If we weren’t able to get it, we would’ve had to cut the trip short and head back to Ohio, which would have been a huge disappointment.
Despite my fears, we had both been looking forward to a period of quiet, and of staying in one place for a while. It had been a crazy few months, bopping around the East Coast with basically no stopping. It would be nice to be in one place for a little bit longer (relatively speaking).
Turns out my fear of feeling isolated was very far off, not the least because we actually had visitors for most of the time we were there! At different times during the six weeks, we had Mike’s parents, Mike’s uncle and cousins and their kids, Mike’s grandparents, and the friends who live in Granny’s old house. It was a blast.
While we were there, I also had to take two trips to California for work things I couldn’t miss. The entirety of the local airport was one big room with a single gate, and two flights in/out a day on tiny little planes, on which I always felt like we were about to drop out of the sky.
So, all in all, not actually very much time alone. Except poor Mike, who was left at the cabin all by himself when I flew to California, and suddenly felt like he was in the beginning of a scary movie and an unfriendly serial killer was going to launch from the pitch black woods, bust through the window, and murder him. (I still don’t know what he thinks I could possibly do if I were there with him, but I don’t envy him having to feel what it’s like to be completely alone in the middle of nowhere.) He did survive.
The other thing I had clearly forgotten about myself is that I do actually really like being alone, so I don’t really know what I was worried about to begin with. Also, Mike rigged up what might have been the best wifi in the Upper Peninsula by installing large antennas on the boat dock to pull in an otherwise-unreachable LTE signal. So work and contact with loved ones was as easy as ever. Fears allayed.
I did end up loving it there. The highlights for me were the sunsets and the butterflies. I made a promise to myself to never miss a sunset (if the sky wasn’t covered in clouds), so every night I’d go out and sit on the dock as the sun went down. They were some of the most beautiful sunsets I’d ever seen.
As for the butterflies, the adventure started right at the beginning of the trip when Mike’s parents were still there with us. His mom pointed out the milkweed plants right outside that were absolutely covered with monarch caterpillars. I spent the next few weeks following all of them, watching them get fatter and then slowly, one by one, building their chrysalises all around the property. Every day I would go out and check on them and see which ones had turned into butterflies. Many of the newly hatched butterflies would still be outside sunning their wings before they could fly away. I even saved a few from waves or spiderwebs. Near the end of the summer, there was one left that I knew would hatch any moment, so I went outside every few hours to check on it. I ended up sitting outside, drinking my coffee and watching her from the moment she cracked open the chrysalis to the moment she flew way. It was magical.
The only thing that did get to me after a while was just that things, understandably, are all harder there. For example, groceries: wait until Monday because the store is closed on Sundays, get in the boat (hopefully the weather is good), start the boat (which is sometimes a challenge), 15 minutes to the public dock which hopefully has spots open, tie up the boat, walk three blocks to pick up the RV, drive four blocks to the grocery store, shop, pack up the RV, drive to the dock, drop off the groceries at the boat, drop off the RV, walk back, boat back, unload the groceries from the boat. It’s an all-afternoon affair. If the weather’s bad, you’re out of luck. Once, we got separated with Mike at the cabin and me on the mainland, and we couldn’t get to each other until a gnarly storm passed a few hours later. It’s definitely a different life.
Sometimes it felt like something broke every day and had to be fixed. The water pump, the clothes dryer, the boat motor. And you can’t just get a handyman to drop by. You either fix it yourself, or wait a week and pay someone to boat over.
Overall, the beauties definitely outweighed the challenges. But I think the challenges would be a lot easier to take for a week or two, instead of six straight.
I also couldn’t help chuckle to myself every time I had a client video chat. If only they knew I was calling in from a cabin on an island in the UP.
When we left the cabin, we stopped at his cousin’s place outside of Traverse City. These were some of the same cousins and kids we spent a few days with at the cabin, and we had an absolute blast with them. Traverse City ended up being one of our favorite towns.
The cabin was a peaceful joy, and it also warmed my heart to see how much the place meant to Mike. It was one of his lifelong dreams to spend an entire summer there, and it was awesome to get the opportunity to at least partly do that, because who knows if we ever will be able to again. Hopefully, we will have many more visits there in the future!
After the cabin and Traverse City, we head back to Findlay, Ohio, where we’ll be for a month!