I can just see the sneer on the faces of some old seafaring salts when they hear descriptions of how a storm savaged the coast of northwest Michigan a few days ago. At best they smile indulgently when someone talks about nasty storms on Lake Michigan or any of the Great Lakes.
After all, everyone knows that the so-called Great Lakes are polite cousins of the mighty oceans like the Atlantic and Pacific. Everyone knows it, right?
Well, maybe so, but only until a few days ago when Lake Michigan brewed up a storm that shook the coast of northwest Michigan around Glen Arbor and Sleeping Bear Bay like a terrier dispatching a trespassing rodent.
I was there.
I felt like that rodent as I watched chairs, lounges, and even a glass-topped table develop wings and go flying down the seashore, only to crash and smash 20 to 50 yards away on the neighbor’s property. I was sure I was next.
A storm with good manners? Winds of up to 100 mph ripped up trees and hurled them at nearby houses and across roads all around Glen Arbor and well inland into the Leelanau Peninsula. For a while there was no way to get into or out of Glen Arbor. The falling trees took down power lines, with the result that almost the whole area was without electric power for almost the whole week.
Walking around Glen Arbor soon after the storm was like being on the set of one of those Apocalypse movies so popular nowadays. You know, where Denzel Washington battles the new savages, or if you really go back, Charlton Heston mows down the nuked freaks who want their old lives back. Well, all right, a bit much, but it was something to see leaves and limbs all over the streets and parking lots, or big trees leaning against restaurants and cottages. At one point, the sense of desolation was enhanced by two women riding their horses through town in the early morning. The tech age is gone. Cars are kaput. I could almost hear someone holler, “Roll ‘em!”
A waitress at Art’s Tavern, which stayed open the help of a huge, noisy generator, told how she and her black Lab attempted to drive through the storm and got nailed by a falling tree. No injuries, but the car was a goner, she said.
There were also heartwarming tales of inns and cottage owners allowing stranded vacationers to use their showers. And then someone told me that a gourmet restaurant cooked up some fancy meals (duck breasts and lamb chops) and served them to storm refugees at the township hall. Always good to hear stories like that.
The Latreille clan was just settling into its annual summer vacation week on Lake Michigan when the storm hit. Our headquarters for the last 25 years has been the Green House right on Sleeping Bear Bay, with some of the family also renting space at various bed-and-breakfasts or at the Homestead Resort. Four of our five offspring—Sharon, Dan, Steve, and Amy—now live in Chicago, while daughter Carolyn teaches school up north in Michigan’s Alcona County.
Our grandchildren, some of them in college now, have grown up looking forward to the Green House vacation every summer. A time to get to know and interact with uncles and aunts and cousins and even the grands.
Unfortunately, with no power, there was no refrigeration, no cooking except on the gas grill outside, no lighting, and no working bathrooms unless you hauled water in from the lake. Not much hope of recharging your cell phone, laptop, or tablet. Not to mention the unavailability of hair dryers.
With no restoration of power expected for several more days, several families hit the road early to salvage what they could of their only planned summer vacation. Barbara and I headed home a day and a half early. But one tough family—Dan’s—stayed to the not-so-bitter end. After all, in the end it turned out to be one heck of a camping trip.