Chris Smith: Summer 2.0

Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Summer II 2019 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.

"Honey, what’s the schedule on this fine, warm Saturday?”

“Pretty light — only three open houses and a wedding.”

“I know we just woke up, but please pass the bourbon.”

If you reside in northern Michigan — where folks salivate for the chance to blow their precious vacation time — and you have kids in high school, then summer doesn’t really start until mid-August. About the time graduates move their tassels from one side to the next, our schedules fill to the hilt with open houses, weddings, anniversaries, Bar Mitzvahs, hasty camping trips to celebrate Junior not getting kicked out of school (again), and the inevitable trek to Disney World before southern temps melt your face like that bad guy in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

July rolls around before you can say, “farmer tan,” and it’s vacation season; but not your vacation. Since our locale is numero uno on the getaway hit list, we entertain. Every brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle and illegitimate relative not seen since the last family funeral descend upon us like lemmings flocking to the sea. Their free time becomes our free time, regardless of the job we desperately cling to. We’re wine, beer and cider experts; golf aficionados; paddle board enthusiasts; fishing guides (OK, that one isn’t so bad); water and jet-skiing lunatics; hidden-beach connoisseurs; and gourmet chefs.

The entire month spills over into early August as a blur of activities, each one of which should be relaxing. But jam-packing them all into a five-day marathon makes you wish for a small cabin on the third moon of Jupiter.

Enter Summer 2.0. It’s the gigantic reset button locals jump on with both feet, reverting life back to the slow, meandering flow we crave. “Fudgies” retreat to their homes down- and out-of-state, feverishly stocking up on school supplies and wading through piled-up work put off while recharging their own batteries “Up North.” Although vital to our community, their absence allows us to enjoy — with a little more peace and quiet — the area we love, while there’s still time to love it.

Water temperatures, bolstered by summer heat, make swimming comfortable, and parking at “secret” beaches isn’t so tricky. The beverage joints aren’t standing-room-only affairs as spouses warily agree to “date nights” without them taking all evening. Golfing doesn’t require half a day to complete.

Local stream trout look up less at the business end of tubers and more at my fly offerings. The roar of watercraft on the lakes and bays no longer rivals the Blue Angels at Cherry Festival. Crossing a river to reach a favorite beach — normally crowded enough to be performed on the heads of small children — is now only interrupted by a procession of September salmon boats.

We get to enjoy the primary reasons we live here, to be tourists in our own home, with enough time before the leaves change and snow flies to do it right. Increased traffic, long restaurant lines, and Aunt Edna’s annoying 7-year-old twins are all tolerable because we know that Summer 2.0 awaits.

So stop reading and git goin’!

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