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Driving through Michigan: As Good as It Sounds

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THE HIGHWAYS OF MICHIGAN — The past two weeks were spent shuttling between my on-site workplace in West Michigan and Chelsea’s abode, outside Fort Wayne.

Driving on a flat highway for 5 hours may sound redundant, but when you’re in Michigan, there’s never a dull moment to report.

Here’s my story.

  • The speed limits on Michigan highways is 70 mph, but Michiganders are keen in the ways of magic, and break through that nature-imposed “limit” and found out how to drive 90. But they do understand that construction happens — and it did — so they will honor the workers on the side of the road and slow up to 85.
  • Gas stations make a fortune on 20-oz bottled beverages. Centimeters away from those tantalizing fridges are soda fountains. Typically a 44-ounce caffeine fix will run you about $1.50, whereas those money grubbing bottles are about a dollar. And there’s no point in buying a 20-ounce bottle because those tiny mouths make it dang gum near impossible to whiz in them later.
  • Another soda option is to purchase a combo meal with a large drink at a common place like McDonald’s, then refill it all that day at locations where you can fill your own drink.
  • I drove by Climax, Michigan. Suffice to say, this was the high point of the drive. After passing Climax, the trip kind of went downhill.
  • Suddenly the cars ahead of you slam on their brakes. It’s amazing to see cars go from 90 to 0 in a few seconds, but we’re in Michigan. They know how to do this kind of thing. After swerving back and forth in my lane to see what the raucous is, I see no sign of crumpled metal or severed body parts. At least that’s what I thought, but then I saw it. The flesh and blood was in a pile next to the concrete median, and it was quite gruesome. Then again, it was a deer. You’ll have that in these parts. Traffic keeps moving.
  • So much driving will make your bladder try and escape out of your lower torso. At times like this it is wise to not piddle in your own seat, even if it is a rental. So after my urethra pulled a Scotty (“I cannot hold it much longer!”) I found a nearby McDonald’s, breathed a sigh of relief while releasing my trail of warmth and went back and refilled my McDonald’s cup.
  • I saw a Michigan driver use the turn indicator. My kingdom for a camera.
  • More construction was had in — of all places — a downtown metro area. When the four lanes whittle down to one, you do the classy thing and get in that lane as soon as possible. And when Porsches speed by you to get to the front of that queue, you do the classy thing and chuck your 20-ounce bottle of whiz at it.
  • There are way too many cities in Michigan that sound similar:
    —South Haven
    —Grand Haven
    —Grand Rapids
    —Big Rapids
    —Medium Rapids
    —Tiny Rapids
    —Nonexistent Rapids

    (I sincerely wish those last three were real. It would make that journey north on U.S. 131 much more amusing.)

  • In the evening hours, I was low on soda but high on optimism. I pulled into the McDonald’s drive thru, and after ordering a large fry I asked if they would refill my McDonald’s cup. It worked. In short, I acquired three large Diet Cokes for the price of one. (Hey, I have to pay for Chelsea’s meals somehow.)
  • So many of these small towns parade themselves as being historic villages. In short, we don’t have much, but we have been around 200 years, and some obscure Native American once took a dump in our nearby forest before he fought valiantly against the White man. So we have that going for us.
  • A Mazda 6 makes for a great rental car, because you can easily keep up with the Michigan highway tempo, and not worry about its long-term abuse. Moreover, you can probably outdrag another vehicle, which brings me back to my point about those bottles of pee…

Matthew T. “Matt” Sussman is a traveling software guy who always pretends he’s Chris Farley in “Tommy Boy” when driving around Michigan or Indiana. Just wait ’till he talks some waitress named Helen to fire up the fryer just for him.

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  • Entertaining – my memories of Michigan driving are a sequence (at least 14) of roadkill – we drove up from Milwaukee last Thanksgiving, and it was hunting season too.

    Didn’t reach Climax, though

  • Nancy

    My experience in Michigan is limited to driving from Ohio to Lansing; perhaps I just went thru the ‘bad’ part of the state…the only thing more boring was driving through Ohio. At least Michigan had rest stops & they were marked accordingly. Every single one in Ohio was closed that day, presumably for cleaning.

  • Then maybe you weren’t doing it right.

  • Note, No. 3 was in response to No. 1.

  • Nancy

    I’m sure I wasn’t, Matt: we were too busy looking for a rest stop, & then being overjoyed when the grand state of Michigan promptly provided one. I understand the UP is quite lovely.

  • Nancy

    Oops – simultaneous postings; didn’t get to read Matt’s explanatory.