Lost in Fremont

I travel for a purpose. Generally, that purpose is to get to a destination. Sometimes, however, for my son’s sake, I travel for distance. For pleasure. To lose myself in the rolling roads dividing the countryside into rows of waving cornstalks and fields of bucolic cows chewing endless mouthfuls of grass. Usually there is an Aaron Copland sound track playing in my imagination.*

 

Recently, however, I had this experience backfire…and go hilariously bad. The tale ends up with a life-saving intervention from the Michigan DNR and a ‘Hail Mary’ airport pick-up. Join us for the missed-flight entertainment, if you dare, on the adventure I am calling:

F*ck the Road Less Traveled

It all begins with meeting a friend from afar.

*

Like most heroic quests, ‘Jay’ comes a long way to meet me. (Okay…technically she is visiting family, but still, meeting me is the added cherry on the trip-from-Japan Sundae.) Unlike most of my ‘internet friends’ who are likely market-research algorithms with questionable profile pics, Jay is a real live person.

Jay is so terribly cool, she met up with me at the nearby Panera for an hour of lovely conversation–despite juggling jet lag, a toddler, and the joys of accommodating myriad family obligations to meet up with someone she only knows in the digital sense from Nanowrimo.**

Jessica and Me 3
Little Jay, Big Jay, and Bunny and Me, yukking it up at Panera!

I was geeked. Her dad joined the venture–mostly because he was her chauffeur–but he was an engaging story teller who kept the conversation rolling. When our time together ran out, he invited me to come up to the family reunion scheduled for Saturday next.

“Sure.” I say. “But I’ll have to leave in time to get my mother-in-law from the airport.”

“I live in the woods, so, when you get up there, just call me and I’ll meet you so you can follow me back to the house.” He assures me.

“Oh, I have GPS. I’ve been up in that area before. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

FAMOUS.

LAST.

WORDS.

Saturday rolls around and I cram my kid in the car and we’re off winding the back roads of beyond because I haven’t yet figured out that my car’s GPS has been avoiding highways on purpose. We arrive with only a few rural/off-map detours. (Okay…we got lost three times finding the house. But for me, that’s ONLY three times.) This makes me unbelievably cocky. If you don’t know me well, know this…if anyone can get lost going someplace, it’s me. But, I’ve come to rely on my son’s innate desire to travel to get us where we want to go.

Mistake.

BIG MISTAKE!

IMG_3006
Here is my personal GPS Giant playing next to Jay’s sweet little munchkin.

 

Jay is warm, her daughter is adorable, and her father is welcoming. A yard full of strangers don’t question me or my giant son’s right to be there. The picnic is a nice, if brief, interlude at someone else’s family reunion. Before long, it’s time for us to leave to meet a plane. I tender our regrets clutching the scrawled map Jay’s father painstakingly wrote out for me to follow back to civilization. Upon leaving, I immediately take a wrong turn and don’t figure it out until it is far, far too late. Much to my son’s delight.

If you have never been to Fremont, Michigan, I highly recommend you visit. Especially if you want to become part of the witness protection program. Because, I promise you, once you move there, no one will find you again. Ever.

We are in the car, driving in the wrong direction, down a dirt path and I’m alternately swerving to avoid trees that are apparently just growing in the middle of the track we are following and I’m questioning whether the map is wrong or I am.***

It’s when we finally hit tarmac that I make my worst mistake of the day. There is an option to turn left or right. A quick glance at my dashboard GPS is of no help. So, with my son as the designated navigator we turn left. The most mistaken 50-50 shot of all.

This is where the paved road ends…

Newaygo Road Sign2
Not the actual road, but this is basically what it looked like. I didn’t know at the time I should be making a visual record in case they ever found our bodies…

When asked whether we should turn around or keep going, my son’s intrepid response?

“Straight!” He barks from the back seat.

I eyeball my GPS doubtfully, tap the screen and gauge how far it is through the unmarked green area to the road it depicts on the other side.

“Well, it doesn’t look like it’s too far…about half an inch.” I think to myself. “How far could that be?”

Those of you who have ever taken a snowmobile trail are probably laughing your heads off at this point. I, however, haven’t a clue.

And into the woods we go…

IMG_3008
About fifteen minutes in, I decide I’d better start taking note of landmarks…not that they were much help, to be honest.

Need I mention it is a one-lane track?

IMG_3012
It took me wayyyy too long to figure out my GPS was just turning in circles because it either had lost a signal or was metaphorically throwing its hands up in defeat.

 

 

And that we need to hit Highway 31 pretty darned quick if we are going to have a chance to make the forty-some odd miles back to the airport in G.R.?

IMG_3015
There were all these helpful posts. What a shame I had no internet connection so I could look up what they meant.

Pretty soon, things get a bit desperate. We’ve been in the woods for at least half an hour. We are definitely going to miss the flight we were scheduled to meet!

Who do you call when, at fifty-one years of age, you are lost and need assistance?

*Gets cell phone*

BEEP.. BEEP.. BOOP.. BEEP.. BOOP…

“MOM? HELP!”

After a frantic conversation in which I fear signal loss almost as much as I fear the drones of mosquitoes following our car like we are to-go container they are trying to figure how to open, Mom comes to the rescue…

Insert appropriate theme song here

…of my mother-in-law anyway.

“I’ll go.” Mom promises. “But you owe me! I was already in my pajamas for the night!”

We keep driving. The huddling clouds overhead limit what visibility we do have beneath the canopy of the old growth forest we are traversing.

I’m not exactly panicking…yet.

But I’m thinking about it.

Last Seen Wearing...
Last seen wearing…turquoise sweater and eau du desperation!

 

 

When along comes the cavalry…

I have to unroll my window in order to ask for directions.

The mosquitoes, at least, were deliriously happy.

IMG_3009
Cavalry not picture–I promised not to include their sacred images if they would tell me how to get out of the labyrinth I wandered into by mistake.

The nice young men from the DNR—wait…doesn’t that mean Do Not Resuscitate?—correction, the Forest Service Department of Agriculture (it says it right on the door, Kiri) give me some directions on how to get out of the woods.

“You’re gonna come up on a fork in a bit, take it to the left…then you follow the road until you see the exit to Highway 31. It’s not that much farther.”

I thank them, and slap at mosquitoes trying for a second pint of blood, before I hastily close the window to depart.

Our vehicles squeeze past each other like fat ladies wearing hoop skirts moving through a narrow hall.

And then we are back on the trail, slightly more confident that we will make it home.

But first….

There’s the fork…

IMG_3013
I so would have taken a right here had I been given a choice.

And more trees than you can shake a stick at.

And then we come to what looks like another choice…

IMG_3017
All that sunshine gave me the deluded hope our trials were at an end.  But no!

This turns out to be a random opening in the forest.

“What the actual hell?” I am cursing young men who think they gave detailed directions but obviously skipped a few steps.

If I knew how to use Google Earth, I’d check to see if our little blue Prius was captured in the center somewhere.

IMG_3020
I dub this wasteland: Donutsville. Because that is the obvious pastime of most who come here.

While it is possible to go left, that way seems certain doom based on the quantity of wild flowers and stumps in the way.

We veer right and hold on to a waning hope.

The GPS is now openly mocking me.

It dances in circles around and around but never moves toward Highway 31 and freedom.

IMG_3018
This seriously sucks.

We pass the dusty roundabout, heading right.

Pretty soon, we see a verdant meadow, puffy clouds, and dream of escaping this wildness nightmare.

But those fantasies are dashed by what looks like the burial site for other lost travelers cleverly disguised as a “Coastal Plain Marsh.”

IMG_3022
So close…
IMG_3024
You can almost taste the asphalt…
Three Rocks
But NO! It’s back to the woods for you!

Leaving the erstwhile, granite grave markers in our rearview mirror, I can’t help but feel like the forest is trying to tell us something.

Keep Out!Keep Out 2Keep Out 3

But what could it be saying?

Eyes Right!
“Eyes on the Road, Mom!”

 

Apparently, it’s telling us it is time to go home.

There, in the distance, it beckons us.

The way out!

Going the Distance

Ahhhh….civilization…or as close as it comes in rural Michigan.

Civilization 1
It may be the middle of nowhere…but at least it’s a well-marked nowhere.

As we drove home…we admired the sights we thought we’d never see again…

Civilization 2
Highway construction–a sure sign of civilization if I ever saw one!

Even traffic cones were a welcome sight!

We passed the bakery with the oddest name ever for a location smack in the middle of an alluvial plain.

Civilization - Hill Top Bakery
HILLTOP BAKERY? HILL? WHAT HILL?

 

And then, like the plains of Africa in the song by Toto, the rains came.

Bedraggled and drained, we make it home in time for dinner.

And it’s going to take a lot to drag me back to Fremont unless I’m giving a guided tour, perhaps by a team of strapping forest preserve on-call rescuers? For emergency purposes only, of course.

Until then, I grow restless, longing for some solitary company…and a song to sing me home.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*I mistakenly Googled Erin Copeland and got a completely unsuitable track the first time. #NOT MY MUSIC.

**If you do not know what NANOWRIMO is, we are apparently not as close as my imaginary internet friends.

***Hint, it’s not the map.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Lost in Fremont

  1. I’m both real AND imaginary. Also both silly and profound. Your adventure reminds me all too well of all to many of my own. Happily, most of them were in the company of my mother, who loved to explore, so only some of them were dreadful. I recall one solitary adventure that involved stopping the car and weeping aloud. I truly believe that GPS devices are programmed by zombies intent on leading us to their wasteland lairs. Wherever they take you, DO NOT GET OUT OF THE CAR.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. HA Ha ha ha ha!!! The rock I hide under actually shook from all the laughing 😀 Didn’t you know “Newaygo” is a eupehemistic slightly-reworked version of the area’s original name, “No WAY Go!”?

    Impressed, as ever, by your writing, and impressed by your calm in the face of potential disaster of epic proportions. (My own spawn, if lost-in-a-wilderness-achingly-adjacent-to-civilization, would do me the favor of waiting until they were very VERY hungry before devouring me.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. First of all, that’s an excellent Copland selection, thank you.
    Second, I, too, have online friends who are, in fact, actual human beings and it is delightful to meet them, so YAY!
    Third, GPS is great when it works and the absolute worst when it does not. And shame on the DNR Ranger. Shame.
    (But great storytelling!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Do you mean to tell me not only did I originally spell his first name like a lady’s but that I had his last name wrong too? *hangs head in shame.*

    But I truly do get inspired by wheat fields and rows of undulating corn. I find myself humming Fanfare for the Common Man whenever I go past farmlands. (I really should learn the words someday.)

    I can’t really blame the forest people (as I keep referring to them in conversation) they were right—eventually. I just had enhanced expectations for what “not much farther” meant, is all.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s