Thursday, September 15, 2011

Upper Michigan: A True Story

April 2007. Three girls headed on a car trip from Northern Illinois to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It was me, my sister Katie, and our bff Michelle. Our destination? Ontonagon, MI...a small touristy town right on the edge of Lake Superior. We just wanted to take a road trip...somewhere we'd never been before, somewhere pretty, lots of trees, do a little hiking. We drove up through Wisconsin and as soon as we hit the U.P we noticed a drastic change. Tall, ominous trees; narrow, winding roads; small and completely desolate towns. Every store, rustic and cabin-like, had a CLOSED sign hanging from it's doors...this included gas stations. We remember one thing that didn't seem that important when we were doing our trip research: October through May is "off season" in the U.P. Now we realize this might be a problem. One supremely eerie thing we notice: every town has several taxidermy offices. If you've ever seen the movie "Wrong Turn," this is what all of Upper Michigan reminded me of. We half expected cannibalistic men to come out and get us. It takes about an hour and a half to drive through the UP until we hit our hotel. The setting of the sun and arrival of darkness of course makes things even weirder. Finally we arrive at our hotel, relieved it's on the new/clean side and check in. While in the lobby, my sister gets out her phone to let our parents know of our safe arrival. Failing, she looks to the clerk at the desk, "There's no cell reception here?" All the girl does is laugh. Interesting. We sleep well for the night, eat a stale complimentary breakfast in the morning and head out the door to start our day. We had arrived so late and it had been so dark that we notice something now...our hotel is right on the shore of Lake Superior and it's absolutely beautiful. This starts our day off with good attitudes and we end up having the prettiest hike of our lives! Hours later, we are spent and hungry. Luckily our hotel has a restaurant attached...something with "pub & grub" in the name. We order some food to go and while we are waiting for it to be ready, we walk down the road to a building donning the name "General Store" that surprisingly has an OPEN sign on it's door. We go in to buy something to drink. The store is empty. There is an overwhelming stench of cigarettes and armpits. The old, green carpeting is stained. The shelves are sparingly lined with typical convenient store food, all covered in a layer of dust. There is a tv on in the corner of the store...Jerry Springer is on and the volume is quite loud. We grab our sodas out of the refrigerated shelves and while doing so, we realize that several of these refrigerators are dark, and warm inside. Oh, well...it's just soda...it doesn't really need to be cold right? We are still waiting for the store clerk to appear. Then we hear something weird. A woman's voice. It's coming from an answering machine. We find this odd. An answering machine at the check-out counter of a convenient store? "This is your wife! Where are you??" the impatient woman asks. She actually calls twice while we're there. We tell Michelle to go check to see if there's a back room and that we might find someone there. "No way! I'm afraid I'll find a dead body!" is her logical reply. We pick out some postcards and, sick of waiting, we decide all we can do is leave a note with some cash on the counter. We walk out the door and along-side the building we see a suspicious man who acknowledges us, "Were you in the store?" We tell him what we took and about the note and the money while watching the suspicious man chaining his garage dumpster shut. "So the bears don't get in." But he couldn't fool us. We knew he had taken that store owner, murdered him and locked him in the garbage!! Anyway, we went back to the restaurant, got our "grub" and went down by the lake to eat. Katie takes a sip of her beverage and makes a face, "something is wrong with this." We all examine our bottles and learn the sodas had expired. A year ago. This last meal in the U.P. was the perfect punctuation to our weekend.

the end

2 comments:

  1. ah. great memories. and i believe the restaurant was PORKY's Pub & Grub. remember how on our hike the bathrooms were also "closed for the season?" very troubling.

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  2. Stephanie-did you ever find out what happened to the store owner-I totally think he was in the DUMPSTER!!!! It is a mystery story in the making. I know how you can get that Hobby Farm!! Publish a book or two or three!! You already have the start!! Jill

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