The Honeymooners: Adrian of Grayling

In the last chapter, we left off in Newark Liberty International Airport, waiting for our flight to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, where we would venture to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for our spontaneous honeymoon.

Joseph Campbell would designate this moment as the “call to adventure” as part of the hero’s journey. Although the saga already kicked off, the wheels of this figurative vehicle have really started to move. We’ve crossed the threshold, and what lied ahead was not Odysseus’ Mediterranean Sea but a vast stretch of highway and uncertainty.

And The Sirens.

Here we are in Newark Liberty International Airport, enjoying some Appleton Estate rum on the rocks. No Jamaica? No Appleton Estate tour? There’s a way to make the best of it. However, this was the first and last purposeful tie to the islands.

As previously stated: There’s no such thing as coincidences. Joseph Campbell would refer to such instances as supernatural aid.

Welcome to Detroit

Upon arriving in Detroit, the plan was simple: wait for Katey’s parents to arrive with the car and drive as long as we could before settling down for the evening. A huge thanks goes out to them for making the almost two-hour trip to save us from having to rent a car and shell out more money. Of course, there was a cost — not a monetary one. Just remember how smoothly the beginning of the trip went.

My mother-in-law rolled up to where we sat outside the airport. My father-in-law, who was following her in Isaac’s truck, wasn’t behind her. He was waiting for us at the gas station down the road, where we’d drop his wife off.

I think he took the wrong exit, said my mother-in-law. He was behind me but who knows if he was paying attention. He did know where we would meet, at a Shell gas station. However, after 10 minutes, he was a no-show at the destination. He, as it turned out, didn’t have his cell phone on him either and to make matters worse. However, the three of us still waited on the corner of the gas station’s lawn and looked out for the truck with California plates.

We called Isaac to brain storm ideas on how to find his father. Our first option was to wait, and that was not panning out as hoped. The second option was to drive around and try to find him. The third option was for Isaac to use his phone to locate his vehicle. To use hands-free capabilities in a car, a person has to pair their phone. Like myself, Isaac has an iPhone, which has the ability to find where the vehicle is. I use it all the time when the situation arises, like in Seinfeld, when I forget where I parked in a lot or city street. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an option at the moment.

The fourth option was utilizing OnStar. In order to make this work, Isaac would have to reach out to the company and then relay the information they provide to us. All out of options, this is what we went with.

Katey is not only a triathlete but a NASCAR driver. While her mom and I white-knuckled the oh-shit handles of the car, we meandered around cars and pulled illegal U-turns across four-lane highways. It came to the point where we spotted the truck coming toward us on one of the main roads — I cannot remember which — and we quickly turned around.

Traversing the Sea of Cement

My father-in-law was following close behind his wife but missed the exit on accident, overshooting by one ramp. He was, in fact, paying attention but followed the wrong car. By supernatural intervention, the other car he followed was the exact model and color of his wife’s SUV. And so began his quest to find us.

I can only imagine how long he was driving aimlessly or what was going through his head. When we caught up with him, he was quiet and shaken up a bit.

Stopping for directions was inevitable. Cue the Sirens. In mythology, Sirens are half-bird and half-woman creatures that belt out sweet, beautiful songs to lure sailors toward them. Coming in contact with the beautiful creature would guarantee death. Odysseus and his crew came across a couple during the journey but were cautioned by sorceress Circe. As his ship drew closer, the crew poured wax in their ears and, per his instruction, tied Odysseus to the mast. He wanted to hear their song but knew he was too weak to resist.

Notice the piles of bodies in the lower righthand corner — yep, dead sailors.

“The Sirens and Ulysses” by William Etty (1837)
Joy of Museums Virtual Tours | joyofmuseums.com

In this real-life scenario, the sirens were a bunch of Michigan dudes, err, let’s say bros. They were probably wearing flannel shirts because all the cool guys wear flannels nowadays. At least one had a mustache but the majority donned facial hair, a day’s growth to a full-blown beard. Instead of consuming human flesh and blood, they were standing in a circle and talking about cars.

My father-in-law asked how to get to the airport, and the bros told him to go down the road and make a “Michigan Left” and go straight. Unfortunately, making the left threw the guy for a loop.

What he came to suspect, having California plates on the truck probably made matters worse, highlighting him as easy to be led astray. Needless to say, my father-in-law had his blinders on with trying to get to where he needed to be, where we were. With that said, he never saw us pass him on the four-lane highway, see us pull the illegal U-turn, speed way the hell up, and pull up next to him at the traffic light.

Nor did he see Katey get out of the parked car. What did surprise him was her slapping the passenger door window and then the hood of the truck, telling him (and pointing) to pull to the nearby parking lot — a parking lot of a liquor store.

The Road to Grayling

Moving away from mythology, an adventure wouldn’t be an adventure without some kind of Arthurian allusion. Yes, this references King Arthur, his Knights of the Round Table, and his quests (including the search for the Holy Grail or Queste del Saint Graal). The grail, the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper and the same vessel Joseph of Arimathea used to collect Jesus’ blood at his Crucifixion.

I hate exposition but its necessary to explain myself a little bit.

After the slight delay, we headed up north toward Gaylord, Mich., our ideal stop for the evening. The following morning, we’d head up to St. Ignace to take the ferry to Mackinac Island. Katey and I held hands in the car, looked at each other with loving eyes, and expressed our delight that we decided to do something instead of going back to Syracuse.

As the sky grew darker, we started calling motels in the city of Gaylord. We weren’t planning on spending over $200 for a night’s stay and focused on the places in the desired price range of free to $150. Free would have been finding a rest stop on the highway and sleeping in the car. The more calls made, the rest stop seemed more likely to happen.

The vast majority of the hotels we called were booked. It was unclear but presumed that capacity was affected limited due to the pandemic. The reception desk attendant at one motel — we cannot remember which one — said they had three rooms available. We were elated; however, there were a couple more places in the desired vicinity we wanted to give a ring.

After a few more no-vacancy calls, we redialed the motel with the openings. In the five minutes that had passed, the three rooms were no longer available. At this point, we we really didn’t know what to do. The gentleman at the hotel, however, wanted to help us out. What’s the phone number to reach you, he asked. I’m going to make some calls.

And he did. This is why I’m bummed I don’t remember the name of the hotel he was with.

Moments later, he called back. I found you a room at Pointe North of Grayling. When you check in, the woman’s name is Adrian. Let her know that you’re the couple I was speaking to. She has your name.

We called Adrian at Pointe North and spoke with her. She had a kind, albeit gruff timbre. The room was going to be $90 for the evening, a very fair price. Directions she gave were perfect and a GPS actually wasn’t necessary (but we used Google Maps anyway).

As suspected, Adrian of Grayling is our Lady of the Lake. Although she didn’t rise from the water and bestow magical sword Excalibur to us, she was a saving grace and gave us shelter.

Pointe North proved to be one of the coolest motels we’ve ever stayed at. My personal experience: The coolest and cleanest motels ever. Adrian runs a tight shift with her house of rest. The bright white building with blue accents is reminiscent of a home or bed and breakfast (but without the culinary amenities). The entrances have porch aesthetics and complete with fencing, exterior wall lamps on both sides of the door, wreaths, entrance mats.

Inside, the paint and color scheme is consistent, but he walls of the hallway are filled with newspaper articles, various decor, baskets, shelves with chotchkies, and even dressed-up mannequins. To enter the main office, we had to ring the doorbell and Adrian let us in. Her dog, a pointer named Louie, also greeted us. The pup spent the time walking back-and-forth from the living space to the front desk. He often stood on his hind legs, put his face between his front paws on the counter, and stared at us adoringly.

Adrian is a conversationalist. Her deceased husband — whose name was Chris — ran this hotel for years. When Googling them, they’re pretty much staples in the community. We chatted about a lot of things, of course about the wedding and honeymoon, but mostly life in general for simple human connection.

There was a no-show, so Adrian gave us a bigger room — the Honeymoon Suite, she joked — and we thanked her for the gesture. The room was larger than anticipated and exceeded expectations on an aesthetic level. The room felt like a country den with floral wallpaper, hand-painted/designed decor, a corner table with a basket flowers and Bible, a boxy television, and a cow shower curtain. The bible was open to the Book of Romans.

Stormy Weather

We left early the following morning to give us enough time to get to St. Ignace and catch the ferry over to Mackinac Island. The rainy morning set the tone for an uncertain experience; however, we couldn’t be more excited. The ferry took looped us around the great Mackinac Bridge, a 4.9-mile suspension bridge that is 25th largest in the world, according to Wikipedia, and third largest in the United States. To get to St. Ignace, we had to cross beautiful “The Mighty Mac” and it was for the second time in my life. We were allowed to cross for free — normally $4 — because a kind human driving through paid for the following eight other cars to cross.

The Mighty Mac from the ferry [Photo by C. Malone]

As we approached Mackinac Island during this gloomy, rainy weather, I was grateful to not have caved in to looking up photos to spoil the grand reveal. It came across as a quaint little island, lined with unique houses and bed and breakfasts, the Grand Hotel and Fort Mackinac sat high up and in the distance. The natural landscape of this 8-mile island in circumference was begging us to explore by bike, hike, and kayak. No cars were allowed on the island, hence the island is famous for biking and horse-and-carriage rides.

Still, there was this quasi-creepy appeal. It seemed too perfect, too quaint. Whether it’s cinematically or literarily, there was something that screamed murder mystery. As we came to learn, there are many things that hint at subtle racism, especially the fact the island is essentially an Indian burial ground. That’s the U.S. for you. Thankfully the island, accepting and not ignoring the circumstances and history with head-on acknowledgement, has moved gracefully forward. There’s no sense in trying to erase history but, as it should be, learn from it instead.

With ear-to-ear smiles, we headed to Haan’s 1830 Inn Bed & Breakfast to check in and avoiding piles of horse poop along the way. As the two caretakers diligently cleaned, we decided to attend mass at the historic Ste. Anne’s Catholic Church. Why not? Aside my being a bad Catholic, attending mass and religion in general, especially during this uncertain time during a pandemic, is comforting. Mass, religion, spiritualism is incredible for someone’s mental heath.

We stepped into the beautiful structure, which was constructed in the late 1800s. The presence of the Catholic church was established in the 1600s, as we learned during the brief history lesson leading into mass, but the building we sat in was constructed a couple hundred years later. We finally relaxed after our road trip and appropriately in this holy place.

When the priest came out, we smiled again and exhaled an even greater sigh of relief. Our desire for adventure, our spontaneity, and our path where again validated —

Our priest was Jamaican. We found our Holy Grail.

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