A place where the air’s a little clearer, the water a little colder, the leaves seem a tad greener, and life slows down for a little while. That place for me is known as “Up North”. No doubt you’ve been there too. Here’s a few things that exist in my “Up North”
The “Party Store” Oh yeah we’ve all been here. Tiny little building in the middle of nowhere, but oddly, a seeming beehive of activity. Outside of the place always seems to be plastered with all sorts of posters and banners. In fact, I suspect most haven’t been painted in a hundred years, the owners just tack up another beer poster when an old one wears off. The parking area is usually full of water filled pot holes, some of which seem large enough to serve double duty as swimming holes for the local kids. If the place has any exposed windows, they won’t have seen Windex in at least the last 20 years, and will be cracked and pock marked by BB holes.
Once inside most appear as if an entire Wal Mart store has taken up residence. I swear it seems as if anything you could possibly need is jammed someplace between the walls. There also never seems to be any rhyme or reason to how things are stored on the shelves. The method of stocking shelves appears to be if there’s a hole, jam something in it. Honestly, the most amazing thing to me is that the guy behind the counter actually knows where everything is located. You can walk in and ask for a screw in fuse for your 1946 Airsteam trailer and good ole Sam behind the register will tell you “Why it’s end of the aisle between the motor oil and feminine hygiene products. Simply amazing!!
I can tell you, from personal experience, in places like this it is a good idea to check the expiration dates. More than one time I’ve grabbed a sandwich, and about ½ way thru eating it I happen to see on the wrapper it expired in 1994. Guess I should have wiped the dust off the label first?
Up north motels can be quite an experience. Now I’m not talking about the big named places, nope, referring to those mom and pop places. You know the ones, got a line of about a dozen rooms. All the doors are painted alike, but usually the coordination ends there. I’ve always figured a lot of these places being just a touch above a 1900’s era trapper’s cabin. The walls are usually so thin you can hear a fly walking around in the room next door. Floors, always carpeted, right from the 70’s and a clear path worn, headed right to the bathroom. The bedding accommodations are always the same. Mattress has a valley in the middle so deep takes you 15 minutes and 20 feet of rope to climb out in the morning. Though I must say the pillows are always the cherry on top. Just slightly thicker than a piece of notebook paper. Almost as if the pillow itself has run off leaving you a note on the pillow case.
Another “Up North” thing is the vehicles you often encounter. Not many big shiny Caddy’s up there. Most are pickups, and few have all their original body panels. Not at all uncommon to see 3 or 4 paint schemes on one truck, most common being some shade of dusty rust. Folks get pretty creative with bungee cords too. Seen many that look as if the bungees let go, there wouldn’t be much left but a frame and a driver’s seat.
The absolute best “vehicle’ I have encountered was a contraption I saw cruising the roads up near Wolf Lake in NW Michigan. That thing looked like a mix between a semi tractor and a pickup truck. I got a chance to get an up close and personal look at the ride when the driver happened to stop in for a bite at the same restaurant we were frequenting. Again, an amazing vehicle. The windshield was a piece of plywood, with a 2 foot square piece of plexi-glass in the middle. The engine, well, no idea what it came from, but the only thing remotely clean was a gleaming chrome alternator. She sat atop a 4×4 chassie with dual wheels on both front and rear axles. How in the world he turned that monster I have no idea. On the back he had a wrecker boom, complete with cable spool and a HUGE hook swinging at the end of the cable. I don’t even want to imagine what had been suspended on that hook over the years.
The hands down most amazing thing about this gentleman’s rig, was the exposed driveshaft. Yes siree, you sat in a nice bucket seat, and the driveshaft was completely uncovered, whirling around right next to your right thigh. Whoo boy, pretty sure you wouldn’t want to forget and put your arm on the area where the armrest should have been. Hmmmm….. pretty quick like I bet that driveshaft would have reminded you of your error.
I did get a chance to “see”, or as my daughter in law says, “creep” on the driver of this mighty woods cruiser. Found out his name, at least what the locals called him, was ……Madd Max. Could not have picked a better name for a man who would first drive such a beast, and lastly, set right next to that spinning uncovered driveshaft. Max was an interesting character. At first blush I thought he was wearing a pair of brown jersey gloves, but alas, no gloves, just very “well used” hands. He had on a heavy Car Hart jumpsuit, that probably at one time was that usual light brown color. Now however it appeared to be about the color of automotive grease, no doubt as a result of the numerous showers of “stuff” coming off that driveshaft. The highlight of Max’s attire was the set of bright red stereo head phones he wore, stretched over his dark colored stocking cap. Ole Max was just about as interesting as his vehicle, and I figured anyone who could drive such a contraption deserved my respect.
Up north……………. I love it.