Last report,Montana: this one from Michigan.
I may or may not work backwards through North Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota, but certainly not today.
Road themes: Skies. Road lengths. Things that stand up high above the horizon and earthly surrounds (cell towers, grain elevators, water towers, honking big electrical grids, small power lines. Cemeteries (although some are called memorials — or are roadside rests which turn out to be memorials).
The last theme turned out to be our most memorable outings of the last couple of days.
But those who die and are publicly lauded along northern routes turn out not to be victims of great battles, military men and native Americans of various tribes (although they too died, I’m sure), but rather workers of the world, miners and bridge builders. Some, for example, are memorialized at the viewpoint for the Mackinac Bridge — the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere.
[Ed. note: We call comments of this sort — “The longest…” etc. — Wikipedia moments, since neither of us could think of a single suspension bridge elsewhere in the world. But the likelihood that we will actually remember to check this out is fairly remote. Go ahead and google it if you like].
At any rate, the monument at the Mackinac Bridge memorializes 5 workers who died, including one diver, in the making of the bridge.
Gaining knowledge about the making of these bridges, whether the Brooklyn (on a documentary Netflix) or this Mackinac, makes me not want to cross them. I like looking at them, but had there been a ferry I would have taken it. They (Mr. Vanderbilt and company) thought about making a bridge for crossing this wild bit of water in 1886 but it took until 1957 to actually complete it. And it was about 20 years in the actual construction [another Wikipedia research I’m not going to do tonight]. The workers’ memorial also names the unions that were involved in the making, a bit of history I was proud to see.
The other bit of memorializing of the dead came earlier in the last two days, in Wisconsin at a roadside stop. The stop was a “Scenic Viewpoint” of the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, but just across a swale was a lovely little cemetery.
No identifying signs for the cemetery were visible and there was no visible entrance. We walked the length of it and back, checking out the headstones for interesting sculptures, reading the names, looking at the floral arrangements and dates, noting the bushes and trees that grew up and tilted the headstones, and admiring the tidiness of a burial ground that wasn’t an obvious part of a municipality or congregation.
Then we noticed two things: names that were not Anglo or very Germanic, like Kero and Koivisto and Payette and Dubay and Viviano. And then there were the pervasive Madonna statues:
There were the inevitable poignant bits: the rough wooden cross, with no identification:
And the sunken gravestone:
But later, as we stopped at more roadside markers and rest areas, we realized that this was iron ore country — Iron Mountain, Iron City (memorialized for us in the beer), Iron River, Ironwood — towns along the Gogebic Range where vast quantities of iron were discovered and mined. We stayed last night in Escanaba, where a folk song sings of ‘the red iron ore.” And this cemetery is a kind of memorial to the workers who came from Finland and Scandinavia and Italy and elsewhere to work the mines. Catholic countries, it seems, although not necessarily a Catholic cemetery.
So once again, we note that we — and this trip — came about because of the work of those who came before, some written on grand statues, some buried with gravestones, and many undoubtedly simply gone. But their work lives on.
On a more mundane note, part of the absence of this blog has to do with our forgetting that we had to cross Wisconsin. Wisconsin got its revenge, and we pulled into our motel last night at 8PM after driving over 400 miles. Totally against the rules of cats and travel.
However, the hotel delivered our dinners, the Olympics carried on, and I slept late this morning. Today’s trip was under 200 miles, and this internet connection is actually working. Jer reports he can’t get the NY Times online, but I told him that the news wouldn’t have changed any since last week, so he took a nap. And now it’s off to dinner. We are in Petoskey, on Lake Michigan, along with thousands and thousands of others. It’s high tourist, high children, high dogs, high vehicle season. We are grateful for the room, for the internet, for the restaurant across the street (provided the traffic doesn’t get us as we cross), and for those living and dead who made all this possible. More when energy, internet, and brain allows. –June