State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.


by Natalia

Northern part of Michigan is rural. An attractive version of rural, where agriculture takes a form of orchards and vineyards. Nestled between lakes Michigan and Huron the land has moderate climate suitable for growing temperate zone fruit. We sample local plums, late raspberries and various preserves including exotic thimbleberry. I find that I can almost forgive the irreparable change to the environment for a cherry pie (but not for cornflakes).

Fruit trees are everywhere. Why would Nebraska import apples from Chile this time of year instead of Michigan? It has to be price. While not expensive local produce can’t beat offering from South America.

The region is charmingly provincial. One morning Damian overhears a conversation in a motel lobby. The owner, barely in her thirties, recalls the trip to Las Vegas taken with her parents when she was just a girl. The description of a dangerous place where people get randomly murdered on the way to a fast food restaurant follows. It sounds as if they are talking about Beirut. Another lady vehemently agrees. I have absolutely no interest to see it, she proudly announces. Well, it is quite picturesque around here, but probably not that much that we would not risk a slight chance of mugging on our way to Grand Canyon.

In addition to temper the climate the lakes serve as a tourist destination with requisite boutiques and golf courses. I find shopping on vacation, or golfing for that matter, to be a form of cruel and unusual punishment, but I do appreciate restaurants and coffee shops that follow tourists. We catch tail end of the leaf season: pretty but chilly and, most importantly, empty. Vacation homes abound but low temps keeps seniors at bay. There is little danger of Michigan becoming the second Florida with its beach skyscrapers. Hopefully locals will continue to make enough money on fruit to resist the lure of trading farms for subdivisions. Recession may help to that end.


Despite all the talking about inevitability of its flow, time is actually quite a flexible concept. We are driving east on the interstate 90 and out of a sudden there is a sign: Central Time Zone. We didn’t cross any state borders and - judging by the total blackness on both sides of the highway - we are in the middle of nowhere. And without much warning one hour of our day is gone. I suppose middle of nowhere makes sense for a time zone change. And the hour that we just gave up wasn’t ours to keep. We borrowed it in July when driving through similarly empty Texas. Although why in South Dakota the time zone change line isn’t straight is beyond me - there are only 4 states in the Union with fewer people per square mile.


I am driving admiring the scenery in Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio when suddenly rude and insistent honking startles me. After reading that sentence you might be surprised that there is a national park in Ohio. I know I was. What’s more Cuyahoga Valley is practically in Cleveland. There are highways, houses and urban sprawl just about everywhere. To call it the national park is a stretch. They don’t even charge admission.