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An Up North Commute




Recently, I changed my employment venue from Traverse City to Charlevoix. While my satellite office is in Boyne Falls, it's a humble privilege to work for a school district whose goals and mission are totally about helping special needs children grow and thrive in our beautiful up north environment. While that could be a whole blog entry in itself, it's a special enough experience to save for its own time. It's the commute from home in Traverse City to my Boyne Falls office that's captured so much of my attention. I'm actually enjoying the 68-mile one-way drive.

If you're reading this from a larger metro area...and have a long commute...the term "enjoyable commute" may be something of an oxymoron. At least in downstate Michigan, commutes of one or two hours one way are not uncommon, punctuated by packed parkways filled with bumper-to-bumper traffic of all shapes and sizes. Winter can make that experience even more challenging -- even dangerous (some more pessimistic forecasters are already predicting this to be another bitter cold, messy season this year).

While a long commute is sometimes unavoidable, especially if you live and work in wonderful places that are separated by many miles, there can be a marked difference in the experience. Enter...'the Up North commute.'

Mine finds the car winding its way down the west side of West Grand Traverse Bay in Leelanau County, around to East Grand Traverse Bay, then on up US-31 along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Just this side of Atwood is my turn-off, taking Essex Rd east through the stable village of Ellsworth, built by honest, hard-working Dutch Reformed immigrants who settled the area around a small lake and rolling farmland. Locals call this stretch of road, "The Breezeway." In fact, they even erected special road signs designating it as such for several miles of scenic winding country roads.
Further along is the quaint community of East Jordan, also built around a lake and home to the world-renowned East Jordan Iron Works (their products are literally sent around the world from this century plus year old factory). Cruising further north and east, the countryside turns dramatic; the hills climb higher, and the valleys descend lower and become more spread out. The scenery is nothing short of majestic; breath-taking even. An hour and 20-minutes on, I'll arrive at my office nestled a little north of the Boyne Mountain Resort. I can see the eastern face of "the mountain" from my office window, imagining the now-green slopes to be filled with skiers darting in all directions.

Albert Camus, the French-Algerian Nobel Prize winning author, journalist, and philosopher once wrote: "Autumn is like a second spring, where every leaf is a flower." With the colors of the leaves developing and changing by the day, we know it won't be long before they fall, giving way to a barren landscape prepared for the predicted deep snows of another Up North winter. This time, it's an even greater privilege to take in this special season from the cockpit of the car on my daily
commute, even if it follows a road less traveled in a place we know and love called...Up North.