At the Valley Motel, somewhere east of Manistique, on Michigan’s Northern Peninsula, the peripatetic Jane Kansas talked Dave, the proprietor, into a cut rate of $30 for this beauty. Later, Dave and his twin daughters showed up with a dinner of steak, real fries, shrimp, rice, cheese, and olives.
“We thought on your walk you might not get many home cooked meals,” Dave explained.
Before bedtime, the girls returned with a banana and a doughnut for dessert.
To the people Jane encounters on her epic walk across the American Midwest, she must seem the oddest of strangers: a short, sunburned woman in late middle age, pushing her travelling gear in a wheeled cart across half a dozen US states – big ones, smack in the heartland. By any normal standard, it’s a cockamamie venture.
And yet, again and again, as Jane documents in her blog at The Coast’s website, people you might expect to have nothing whatever in common with a wandering eccentric respond with a combination of curiosity, concern, and kindness that quickly morphs into friendship. They give her meals, rides, beds, advice, lore, places to camp. She responds with her trademark witty banter and the sort of genuine interest in her hosts’ lives that cannot be faked.
Jane is on the Northern Peninsula in quixotic hopes of catching a ferry to Drummond Island, and then caging a lift across North Channel and the Canada-US border to Manitoulin Island, where her sister has a summer cottage.
The guy at the fish store assures her this is impossible. The guys on the ferry share his opinion.
But an elderly couple in a golf cart direct her to a guy named Tom, whose boat isn’t in the water, but who suggests she try the Thomases or the Zelnicks, just down the road. Tom also gives her a place to camp for the night. At the Zelnicks, next morning, she meets Helen, who invites her in for coffee, and husband Dave. They send her next door to see Jim, and before you can say, “Homeland Security,” Jim, Jane, Helen, and Dave are in Jim’s powerboat, gunkholing along the bays and islands of northeastern Michigan en route to Richard’s Landing, Ontario, and a brunch of eggs over easy, home fries, bacon, and toast. Simple as that. Simple and astounding.