Before we left Ann Arbor, we turned the wrong way looking for a post office and instead stumbled upon the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. They are managed Matthaei Botanical Gardens by the University of Michigan and feel surprisingly far from nearby Ann Arbor. The Gateway Garden was displaying a glorious profusion of flowering plants, all of which were native to the region. There's also a walking trail through the forest, including a pond complete with bullfrogs, a wooden bridge, explanatory signs, more blooms, and a few summer insects. We missed the indoor conservatory, as we got there too early in the morning!
We picked a path that avoided Flint and Lansing, occasionally taking a dirt road past thriving farmland. We drove through Saginaw and Bay City, and noticed the big plant where they make drive trains for GM vehicles. Our truck purred contentedly. We also got to musing about the relationship of prosperity to different kinds of industry. We imagine that workers in the auto industry are not well paid, but perhaps we're wrong. Is there a relationship of annual income to the amount of brain power used on the job? And if so, do econometricians then calculate a brain-to-brawn ratio as a measure of a local economy?
Suddenly, as we rounded the curve of Saginaw Bay, the nature of Michigan changed. Southern Michigan has lots of cities and plants and universities and workplaces and suburban homes, while Northern Michigan is where Michiganders play. We saw boats and motels and hunting and fishing camps and resorts A Michigan Personal Vision and golf courses, large and miniature. Northern Michigan has far fewer farms, and more extractive industries, including lumbering and quarrying.
The motel clerk was chatty; he had just come up from Key West, where he married an English girl who had overstayed her visa. He was getting his Captain's license, so he could take out fishing parties, but then the couple was going to Amsterdam, where her uncle was going to lend them an apartment for a few months, then on to Perth (Australia, not Scotland), where he hoped to use his Captain's license to make money. No doubt if we had stayed at the counter longer we would have heard more.
During the evening the power went off. The next morning we heard that the English wife had driven into a power pole. She was unhurt but had taken out most of the electricity in Au Gre, Michigan.
Continuing northward, we visited the Lumberman's Monument inside the Huron National Forest. Much of the area was clearcut in the nineteenth century, and later reforested by the CCC, with the support of the Kiwanis Clubs. The Lumberman's Monument was paid for and engraved with the names of those who ran the old timber operations, including companies, partnerships, and quite a few entrepreneurs. The lumber boss with his notebook stands between the sawyer and the log roller. World's largest limestone quarry
We walked to the overlook, where we were treated to a lovely view of the tranquil reservoir, with an island in the middle and two small boatfuls of fishermen. As we drove down the river road we passed a campsite which we estimated to contain five hundred vacationing campers.
We've read that there are more boats in Michigan than any other state, and as we drove north we came to believe it. Not a cabin or camp seemed to be without at least a small fishing boat, and every lake was lined with boatramps. Highway signs exhorted boaters to designate a sober driver. Michigan reminded us in many ways of Louisiana, another state full of waterways and boats, where fishing and hunting are the preferred way of life.
Rogers City was a pleasant stop for two reasons: we observed the world's largest limestone quarry, and we had homemade apple cobbler for our lunchtime dessert.