Farmer Style

 

The Show Pony

Imagine two American icons converging at the tip of Michigan’s mitten

at the Straits of Mackinac, where Great Lakes Huron and Michigan are defined by the Mackinac Bridge, a massive suspension bridge.

This is precisely the spot where a group of Airstream owners rendezvoused with Captain Adam, master of all that is pirate, this past summer.  Salty sea dogs, rogue pirates, and even Captain Adam have mothers.  I affectionately call him my “Show Pony” and cashed in all my chips to get him to load his 30’ Boston Whaler on its triple axle trailer to haul it 300 miles up north for my Airstream rally.

Ok, so I promised to bake him his favorite chocolate cupcakes too.

Throw in a visit to the historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island

and you have a combination of epic proportion.

Big boys (and girls) with toys! 

We called our rally, “Exploring Under the Bridge” and advertised that there would be an opportunity to salmon fish and joy ride on a private boat.  What catapulted this rally over the top was the Whaler and the added adventure it could provide.   Airstreaming families rolled in from GA, OH, IL, MO, OK, MI, IN and Canada!   For many, this was their first experience on big water.

Our attendees were able to go back “Somewhere in Time” to Mackinac Island and sip lemonade on the porch of the Grand Hotel.  We took full advantage of the twin 225 Mercury Verado engines as we explored under the Mackinac Bridge.  We docked in time to catch happy hour at the island’s Pink Pony Saloon.

Here’s the not-so-secret secret:  Airstreaming and Boston Whaler boats are a state of mind and have become as common and well-loved in the culture of America as blue jeans and tees. 

Airstream’s silver-bullet travel trailers have been streaming down the nation’s ribbons of highways for more than 75 years Founder Wally Byam began the enterprise in the 1920s by selling plans for building trailers, which led to the design and launch of “The Clipper” in the early 1930s. The company makes travel trailers primarily, but also produces its Interstate touring coach with full amenities. Airstream has produced about 140,000 travel trailers and motor homes since it began, and roughly two-thirds of them are still making trails. Airstream is a subsidiary of Thor Industries. 

Salty sea captains and die hard Whaler owners like my son, Adam, are secretly pleased with themselves for thinking outside of the box.  Owners of both of these iconic American brands have an elevated understanding of style, durability, and value without being snobby about it.  Was that snobby?  We feel responsible for the life of our boat or trailer–knowing where she’s been before, if buying used (as many of us do) or if she’s been restored.  Those leaving a dealership keep meticulous records to pass down one day–if that day ever comes.

Airstreamers are an industrious lot; many had researched the Boston Whaler website and learned how unsinkable they are.  Those who could not swim or were afraid of water donned life vests and threw caution to the wind.  By the rally’s end, we heard so many nice things about the Whaler’s creature comforts and how she handled the 2-4’s in the Straits and how unafraid folks were.  That speaks volumes about qualities that are built into the Boston Whaler and how tasty my chocolate cupcakes really are!

 


Wrestling a “Johnson”

Always kiss a fish on the lips!

An 11 pound walleye is tough.  A 6 lb. smallmouth bass is tougher.  Wrestling an 18 lb. Great Lakes salmon is as easy as reeling in a wide open, 15 horse Johnson outboard engine…it isn’t coming in until it is out of gas. 

Learning that you are not the fisherman you THINK you are is hard to accept.  Knowing that a rod has been in my hand every summer since my second birthday made this realization painful.  Salmon fishing kicked the living snot out of my “living country strong” …er, motto.  Come to think of it, have you ever heard a Chuck Norris fact involving salmon?  I didn’t think so.

The day started out well before dawn when the only sound on the water was the mystical clinking and clanging of gently rocking buoys strategically anchored throughout Grand Traverse Bay to mark a channel or navigational hazard.  Cutting through the water at night, depending only on radar and your captain’s skill, is like riding a roller coaster with no hands and no lights on.  A thrilling free fall.

Big water air smells fishy-fresh and fills your head.  Twin tsunami waves originate, rise up, and roll away from the port and starboard sides of the vessel as the bow cuts the water in half.  If the moon is full, a hint of white boat wake sparks at the stern.  Getting up at 4 a.m. is easy when this is the reward. 

With 25 miles to the nearest fuel dock my son, my Captain, started to wince and the thought crossed my mind that he was puckered up and trying not to crap his pants.  He was consterpating real hard, focused, and having a catasterstroke, flipping switches on the console in a last ditch effort to milk the engines.  When he couldn’t hide it any longer, he confessed.  We were running on fumes.  A smirk slipped out as I was thinking that my adventure just got bigger when fire shot out of his eyes and burned a hole in me that said, “Knock it off Lieutenant Dan.”

Trimming tabs, finding the RPM sweet spot, and getting every ounce of juice out of his twin Merc 225 Verado engines was Captain Adam’s only focus at this point.  He’s my man in the foxhole and, somehow, he pulled it out when the gauges gave up.

After three days of good weather, steady fish, and hitting the hay by 7 p.m. in my Hen House, it was time to pack it all up and head home.  Adam is staying up north to tournament fish so we said our goodbyes and I rolled out of Traverse City.  Merging on U.S. 10 in mid-Michigan, I saw another Airstream to my left, just behind.  I settled into the right lane and slowed down to wave and let them pass.  Imagine my DELIGHT when ANOTHER  16′ DWR (Design Within Reach) Bambi EXACTLY LIKE MINE pulled up, port side (we are land yachts, after all).  Airstream only made 66 of these units and here we were:   two of them rolling 70 mph, side by side.  The only difference was that mine was loaded with a ginormous cooler of iced salmon and lake trout!

The Sharpie

 

 Two of the greatest qualities in life… 

1. Patience

2. Wisdom

 

Hammer Time

The Dynamic Duo, Adam and Bryce, headed to the Meijer Store for supplies.  Antifreeze  for my camper and new windshield wipers for the “Sake-Sake” (a little Mitsubishi mini truck) were tops on our shopping list yesterday, before the big storm set in–predicted to be a real doozie.   

That’s generally how all their shenanigans start, just the turn of a key guarantees a diesel turbo kicking in.   As they were unloading their cart in the parking lot, Bryce noticed an orphaned case of beer in the bottom of an abandoned cart.  Miller Light, his favorite.

Thinking that someone forgot their empties, he went over to investigate. A sinister grin spread across Bryce’s face when it dawned on him that The Beer Gods were shining down…it was a FULL CASE left behind by some poor, sorry son of a gun. Holy Hangover, Batman!
Bryce looked to the left and to the right. He assessed the risks, took a deep breath, and looked for possible witnesses.  He weighed his conscience –and the devil won.  He shot Adam a crafty look, snagged the booty, and Adam, ever intuitive in all things suspect, swung open the tailgate for the the score…professional partners in crime.
TO THE BAT CAVE, IT’S HAMMER TIME.   

With such a great day going and luck on their side, Adam shot Bryce “the look”.  It was time to check out Sake-Sake’s 660cc, 4 speed, 4 wheel drive camo capabilities in the deep, snow covered fields.   He reasoned that a little drift busting would break her in right.  Sake has a ladder rack and fold down sides on the bed.  She’s a real work horse despite her puny 1/3 ton rating and she is one of the slickest toys we have on the farm.  Adam thought the time was right to “pop her cherry.”

   A virgin field was selected as a prime testing ground–where all the maneuvers and (hopefully) aerial acrobatic feats that are borne from power shifting, speed, neutral drops, and testosterone  could be explored.  The snow had to be deep, the terrain had to offer opportunities to “catch air” and a deep water hole were basic needs.  This spot was “Golden”.  Now the bets were placed.

Beating (I mean driving) new toys is a given around here.  Sake-Sake’s steering wheel is opposite American vehicles.  You sit on the “passenger” side yet still shift in the middle, using your opposite hand.  Adam put the pedal to the medal and ripped down the road to the chosen field.  He rounded a corner on two wheels just in time to see a Mundy Township cop sitting at the end of the road, slurping on a cold latte and downing the last of a pink donut.  After crapping themselves, our Dynamic Duo regained their composure and parked at the end of a road, pretending to be hunters.  They got out of the truck and walked into the woods and “hid” until early signs of hypothermia began to set in.  Thankfully, the officer left after a little bit so the real games could begin!  Another bullet dodged.

Five minutes behind the wheel, and Adam had “the truck you can’t get stuck” buried up the axles. He rocked it back and forth, cussed it out, blamed Bryce, until it finally dawned on him that Sake-Sake was da winna.  Not expecting this, and wearing only light clothing to go grocery shopping in, they both had to jump ship and walk back to the farm through the wet snow, in street shoes, to grab a tractor and a bunch of chains.  They would show her who’s boss.   Little Sake came out easy, but not before both guys froze their petooties off.

Sake-Sake is outfitted with an outboard engine and a boat.

My Baby

 

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