East from Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo, it's a straight shot across Michigan on I-96 or I-94 respectively. Further north, however, and going east-west puts you on the mercy of many state roads and many small towns. Some routes are better than others.
Friday afternoon I had to drive off to Midland MI for Saturday's Michigan Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers Fall conference. US-131 north to M-46 east to M-47 north to US-10. It's most of two hours -- at least an hour-and-a-half -- on M-46. Lots of harvested fields, though there are still many pale wheat colored stands of drying field corn. Many small ponds and lakes, all with floating rafts of ducks and a few geese.
In The Cold And The Rain
Edmore MI lies about halfway between the north-south routes of US-127 and US-131. When we'd drive back and forth to the U.P. and West Michigan, we'd come down the spine of the Lower Peninsula on I-75/US-127, then cross over on M-46. We'd stop at the Burger King in Edmore, which was by the big Edmore Industrial Park. Alas, their big factory closed a few years ago, but there's a McDonald's on the other side of the road now.
As I drove into Edmore around 4pm on Friday, I saw a sign for DETOUR M-46 and was by it. Huh. Well, if I had to turn around... But instead of finding say a Bridge Out or a Road Closed ahead, I started seeing people stream into downtown Edmore, bundled up and carrying umbrellas. It's an October weekend in mid-Michigan. It's Homecoming time and the town is going to close the main drag for their Homecoming Parade. Yay, small town living!
On the other side of US-127, I ran into another town -- Wheeler? -- setting up for their Homecoming Parade. The stretch of downtown street parking places were all sporting upside-down plastic recycling bins to prevent people from parking. But they hadn't closed the road yet. An enormous green John Deere harvester of some description, gleaming and decked out with signs, was making its way to the east end of town and the start of the parade route. Just missed having to detour.
At Merrill, though, I wasn't so lucky, and followed a line of cars and trucks through a few back streets as the latecomers streamed in towards M-46 and the parade was all lined up and ready to go. It was all very orderly and well-done. So small hometown and yet with the drizzle and the umbrellas and the enthusiasm, it was wonderful. I'd have parked and watched if I hadn't wanted to push on...
A Morning Surprise
Stayed overnight at the Midland Hampton Inn. Needed a nice room and WiFi to do my PowerPoint presentation. (grin) There was a parking spot right by the front entrance, so I just parked there and brought in my gear through the drizzle rather than park under the overhang and then have to re-park.
In the morning, as I rolled my gear out the front door the sky was blue and the sun in the East was blazing bright. I'd moved the squeegee out from by the tailgate to the back seat of the Blazer the day before, figuring I'd need to shed the water to see -- but those big drops of water were not liquid. Yup. Hard freeze overnight. Took three yanks to get the driver's door open as the wet on the seals had frozen up. Defroster, rear wires, scraping, washer fluid, and after 5-10 minutes of effort, it was time to head south to the Dow Science Center and the MIAAPT meeting.
An Early Escape
My talk was scheduled for 9:45, but we were running late. "Meet Me On Facebook: Social Networking For Supplemental Office Hours" / Philip Edward Kaldon, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo MI. Talk went well, got good feedback.
The Dow Science Center was hosting the meeting, which is usually at a college or high school, because they had brought in a major Albert Einstein exhibit. I was going to stay for the museum show, but following a number of people out to the parking lot to unload our gear, I realized that the weather was still nice, but clouding over, and it would be nice to go through all the myriad construction zones on M-46 and US-131 in daylight. So I didn't do the exhibit. Pity.
But I had a good drive home, made good time and was able to get in an hour nap before dinner.
A win-win all the way around.