The RV is now parked along the street next to the loading corral for the S.S. Badger, a ferry that criss-crosses Lake Michigan between Manitowoc, Wisconsin and Ludington, Michigan. The street sign beside the road reads “Overnight Parking Permitted.” For the first time in a month, I have a few hours alone, with nothing I have to do, and nowhere I have to be, and fatigue has not yet overcome me. The lake breeze blows through the screen across my legs, quenching the cabin heat from a long day’s drive in the sun.Nearly a month has passed since I last recorded anything of this trip, and much has happened since then; I’ve done a lot and seen a lot and thought about a lot without having the time to write down anything. About a third of the trip has gone undocumented, including the ultimate aim of the trip, The National Wildlife Federation trip to Yellowstone with grandson Blake. After I went to Charleston to bring him back to Denver by plane, I was busy driving and making deadlines and doing whatever else needed to be done. This upcoming ferry ride (Saturday, July 2, 1:55 PM), for which I made a reservation a couple of months ago, is the last deadline of this trip. From here on, I plan to get there when I get there.
July 2, 2011On the S.S. Badger, in the middle of Lake Michigan, land is not visible in any direction. I am always amazed at the size of the Great Lakes. I remember when I first saw one of the Great Lakes – I believe it was Lake Huron – and was amazed that water extended all the way to the horizon; land was not visible on the other side of the lake. As a child, I was used to lakes that were visibly surrounded by land.
This is a coal-burning steamship, and the heavy, gray smoke drifts aft where most of the passengers are seated in deck chairs or around tables in open-air canteens. I have moved four times trying to find a seat away from the inside heat but not in the smokestack’s down-draft, or in the din of a bingo game hosted by a loud, over-jolly, would-be comedian.I watched as they loaded the RV onto the bottom deck through the maw of the ship. This is the only ferry I’ve taken where others drive the vehicles into it. It is certainly an act of faith to leave one's keys in the car and the door unlocked for several hours, in the parking lot and on deck. It reflects both the honesty and the trustfulness of these Midwesterners – Michiganders and Wisconsonites - living on both sides of this huge body of water. I believe this naive honesty is what I miss most about the Midwest of my childhood.