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Finding that slice of America I’ve been looking for

Those following along last week are well aware that my family’s mini-vacation to northern Michigan was thrown into chaos Wednesday night when a campground flat out told us they yanked our RV rental and we were out of luck. I spent that night looking for an alternative and the best I could come up with was two nights in an Oscoda, MI cabin and a night at Great Wolf Lodge so the kids could go nuts in the water.

In true Screencaps fashion, we made it work. In my mind, it worked out even better than the original plan as we were able to see a slice of America I probably never would’ve found if not for that campground lady pulling a bold canceling my reservation so some other customer could have it.

As we pulled into Oscoda Friday night, I saw a bunch of Port-o-Lets lined up along US-23 right by the Au Sable River and as an Au Sable River canoe trip veteran, it could mean only one thing — it was race weekend.

Later that evening I roll into the Office Lounge Bar & Grill in downtown Oscoda — it’s pretty much two blocks with a DQ, an independent ice cream stand, a one-screen movie theater, a weed store, a couple of general stores, and banks — to grab a pizza and Mega Billions tickets and the bartender told me it was indeed race weekend. She said there would be thousands of people showing up Sunday for the canoes to come in after racing 120 miles from Grayling, MI all the way to the finish line just upriver from the shores of Lake Huron.

I was a little surprised by the “thousands” proclamation because the town is rather sleepy.

Then we showed up Sunday morning — the kids had the free pancake breakfast along with hundreds of other kids — and there were thousands of people lining that river to see paddlers cranking through the Au Sable River in the 74th running of this race. Race t-shirts were flying off tables. The local radio station was there to provide music as the canoes came in. Beer was available. Military veteran booths were set up on the bridge. Locals sold crafts.

It was a festival to watch canoes finish a 120-mile race and it was perfect. It was America. It was small-town America. It was summer in this incredible country that will bitch and moan with one another on social media and then will come together to cheer on Canadians Steve Lajoie and Guillaume Blais win this beloved race.

After that, we packed up the wife’s sled and we trekked 140 miles west to Traverse City to suck down more Pure Michigan®.

Canadians Steve Lajoie (bow) and Guillaume Blais (stern) win the 120-mile 2022 Au Sable Marathon with a time of 14:36:17.

Up North® observations:

• I’m sorry if you guys are tired of the Up North reports. There are just so many areas to explore four hours from our house and it’s an area that hasn’t been infiltrated by scumbags. Let’s just say there’s plenty of area to spread out without dirtbags unloading 20 kids and four dogs to take dumps all over the beach like most state parks along Lake Erie.

• My 9-year-old son picked up kayaking in approximately 2-3 minutes.

• Costco sells smores kits that wives will love. Mrs. Screencaps couldn’t have been happier with that organized box I picked up the night before we left.

• That sunrise off Lake Huron is no joke. It felt like sunrise was at 5 a.m.

• I might have to start a search for America’s best dive general store. Northern Michigan has so many competitors.

• Verizon service is almost non-existent for what felt like 100 miles along Lake Huron. It’s definitely the area to visit if you don’t want to receive calls from work.

• East Tawas, MI is a hidden gem. I could easily spend more time there in July.

• The same goes for Empire, MI over on Lake Michigan. We stayed there years ago and it’s time to go back for several days. The pace is exactly what I’m after.

• Lake Huron was surprisingly not as cold as I was expecting. It was warmer than the water we encountered in Empire.

• The 5-year-old decided he was ready to ride big water slides. We’ve officially crossed that bridge and now he’s all-in. It was a beautiful sight to see his face light up after that accomplishment.

• The 5 a.m. “technical issues” fire alarm at Great Wolf was a nice touch. That was followed by the 7 a.m. “lightning in the area” alert from my wife’s iPhone.

• Don’t listen to all that talk about this country being one giant shithole that is going down the drain. Go out there and find your Oscodas and small-towns that continue to be the backbone of this country.

And keep telling me about these adventures. I might not make it to that paradise, but you just might give another reader an idea for a travel destination.

Now I have to get back to work. And I have a Zoom call.

The cabin that made up for RV park lady canceling our reservation / Oscoda, MI
Look at that waterfront location. No major drops off the back patio like many parts of northern Michigan and plenty of water to launch kayaks.

Email: joekinsey@gmail.com   

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Written by Joe Kinsey

I'm an Ohio guy, born in Dayton, who roots for Ohio State and can handle you guys destroying the Buckeyes, Urban Meyer and everything associated with Columbus.

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