About travelers

I had been on the road just shy of a week, and gone hundreds of miles through four states when we stopped to eat breakfast at a place called The Bear Trap.

We were on a wooded highway in the middle of nowhere along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. 

We were hungry.

We saw the building and stopped.

 When I walked inside, I was surrounded by enough hunting trophies to keep the local taxidermist in business. 

There were several deer, and a 400-plus-pound black bear which won a guy the Big Bear Award.

I sat down, and a great waitress with an unmistakable Upper-Peninsula Michigan accent asked where we were from.

When she heard Alabama, she said, “Wow.”

I had a homemade cinnamon roll and Frank’s Special — three scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and what they called American fries. I call them home fries, and they were delicious.

It was the best breakfast I’ve eaten above the Mason-Dixon line.

I could see the bar from where I sat. There were already several people there enjoying their own breakfasts. 

They appeared to be regular Joes, engrossed in conversations about the weather and a camper show in Escanaba.

A trio of men sat at the end of one side of the bar, and they hollered across to another man who sat alone at the end of the other side.

He wore a red T-shirt and a pair of jean shorts. He was a big man, and his voice carried through the restaurant easily.

He shot the breeze with the other three men, who kept their seats long after they’d finished their food.

I guessed they were all Yoopers — people from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. 

I was captivated more by their accents and their dialect than their conversation.

The three men finally left, and the big man turned his attention to a waitress.

She told him two of the men he’d talked to belonged to a family of 12 children, and only three were girls.

The man seemed surprised, but he quickly changed the subject.

“I gotta go turn da air on fa Lilly,” he said.

He left as fast as he could. His phone and wallet were still on the bar next to his plate.

“He’ll be back in a minute,” the waitress said.

She was right.

When he returned, he said he thought his dog must be the world’s only climate-controlled lab.

Then he laughed at his own joke before he noticed another man, who’d sat at the bar the entire time and drank his coffee without a word.

He was younger. He had brown hair and a thin beard.

He spoke for the first time when the big man asked what brought him to The Bear Trap.

“Been on the road for five months,” he said. 

The response intrigued the big Yooper.

“You’re traveleen,” he bellowed. “What do you do for a livin’?”

“I quit my job for this,” the traveler said with a smile, as if he knew the reply would trigger an avalanche of questions. “Just decided to go.”

A joyful interrogation followed, and I learned a lot.

The traveler is 29 years old.

He believes the worst drivers in the country are in Boston. 

He hails from California, and his hometown is on fire.

Since he left, he’s driven 11,000 miles through 22 states on a small, white motorcycle with suitcases on both sides. 

The motorcycle has taken him through the United States, Mexico and Canada.

It would have helped him get to France, but France would have added another month to the trip so he decided against it.

The Yooper asked the traveler where he was headed.

“Somewhere in Wisconsin,” the traveler said. “I couldn’t tell you.”

When the traveler finished his coffee, he paid with cash.

He pulled his jacket from the back of his chair and zipped it up.

“Nice to meet you all,” the traveler said as he left. 

I told him to have a good trip on the way out the door. 

He was still standing by his motorcycle when we pulled onto the highway.

Wherever the traveler ends up, I hope he enjoys the journey and I hope the roads in front of him are free of drivers from Boston.

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