De Tour Village & Stalwart, MI
De Tour Village, as its name implies, is not a town you are likely to pass through on your way to somewhere else. Situated on the furthest eastern point of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, it is the seasonal home of perhaps 420 people, and certainly many fewer in the winter. The only place further east in Michigan is across the passage by ferry to Drummond Island.
We are here to visit with our friends Charlie and Lynn, fellow Airstream owners, at their home on the north shore of Lake Huron. Our Airstream is tucked neatly next to their house within about 100 feet of the lake, so that we can hear the waves at night. De Tour is a place for that sort of recreation. The “things to do,” by traditional tourist brochure definition, are scarce. You have to be happy with playing by the lake, relaxing on the deck, socializing … that sort of thing.
Our big activity of the day was to drive 20 minutes through scattered Timothy hay fields to the Presbyterian church in Stalwart, where an all-day “Thanksgiving” supper was being held. I was amused to see how much it was like the church suppers I remember from growing up in Vermont: lots of white-haired people sitting at round tables with paper plates loaded with country staples, a buffet line staffed by cheery volunteers, racks of different homemade pies for dessert, no music, and plenty of “Good to see you!” type conversation. We each loaded up a plate with turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and vegetables, and proceeded to stuff ourselves. Then we went back for dessert. Our choices were chocolate cake, mixed berry pie, chocolate pie, and raisin cream pie, but there were many other flavors.
Just a few steps from the church was the Stalwart County Fair, a 100+ year tradition, and probably the smallest county fair you’ll ever find anywhere. No rides, no midway, no vendor area, just the classic agricultural elements of county fairs many years ago. We walked through the cow barn, the horse barn, the crafts & food exhibit, saw the rabbits and chickens, and then (all of 10 minutes later), emerged at the oval track just in time to catch some of the horsepulls.
Now that’s an impressive sight. These massive horses pull heavier and heavier loads across a dusty track. We saw teams of two pulling over 6,000 pounds of concrete, and they hadn’t hit the limit yet. Judging from the crowd in the grandstand, this was the popular event of the County Fair.
Now, for tax purposes, I should probably mention that we are not wandering through Michigan just for fun. If we were, we would have stopped at many places along Lake Michigan’s shoreline on the way up, and we’d be making more stops in the Upper Peninsula on the way west this week. But we are actually following a fairly rigid schedule of meetings with various people for magazine purposes. This schedule will draw us to Minneapolis in a few days, 500+ miles away. Normally we’d take several days to cover that kind of mileage, but circumstances deem that we rush to meet the schedule. This doesn’t make any of us happy — too much time in the car, not enough sight-seeing — so my compensation is to remind any future tax auditors that this is all a business trip. We’ll still try to have some fun this weekend, because having fun is not a violation of IRS rules yet.
By the way, we spotted yet another egg-shaped fiberglass trailer on the way through Grandville on Friday, appropriately called “Egg Camper.” It joins the Casita, Scamp, Burro, and Oliver trailer crowd, as well as the now-defunct Boler, Trillium, and Bigfoot, and many other brands of fiberglass RVs. These things are a cute and aerodynamic option for folks who want something a bit different from the white boxes. I’ve always liked the rounded fiberglass trailers and almost bought one before we got our first Airstream. Even today I like to see them. Their neat and tidy shipboard look is appealing, plus the durability of the streamlined fiberglass exterior. Perhaps I’m just pining for our Caravel to be back on the road.