Adventure for Champions

Yesterday I packed my kids into Minnie (our black van) and took off to Kalkaska, Michigan for a speaking engagement at a women’s retreat held at a church.

Where is Kalkaska, Michigan, you ask.


Kalkaska is on the top knuckle of the ring finger of Michigan.


Seriously. Do you know how cool it is to live in a State that looks like a hand?

Yeah. It’s pretty awesome.

Well, Kalkaska is about 2 hours, 15 or so minutes from where I live.

That is, if I made the trip alone.

With no stops.

And no pleas for chocolate milk.

Okay. Fine. You caught me.

I was the one who wanted the chocolate milk.

Anyway, I had planned two extra hours to make the trip. You just never know. And I didn’t want to cause any undue anxiety over a few extra potty breaks.

The trip started out great. I listened to a little Gotye. The kids watched “Follow That Bird”. We stopped at a gas station about an hour into the drive for a snack and the aforementioned chocolate milk. Then a quick stop in Cadillac as a result of that chocolate milk.

Smooth. Well, accept that once we passed the middle of the State, 9 out of every 10 radio stations were Country (which I’m not all that into).

We celebrated when we saw the sign that welcomed us to the Village of Kalkaska. The kids wowed over the enormous Trout Fountain.

Yes. A fountain shaped like a trout.

Norther Michiganders don’t mess around.

They love trout.

We drove along. My three city kids excited about being in a small town.

I kept driving.

And going.

“Hey, a funeral home,” I thought.

I’m writing a novel about funeral directors. I’m a little obsessed right now. Don’t worry.

“Arriving at destination on left,” my English GPS stated.

“Sorry. That’s not a church,” I whispered. “It’s a funeral home. Silly GPS.”

“Off route. Redirecting.”


She led me back to the funeral home.

I drove past again.

“Redirecting.” That time, I was sure I heard an edge to her tone.

I turned down the radio.

“Hey, Mom!” My daughter bounced in her seat. “I’ve never been this far north.”

“Yup. Okay,” I said. “Shh…I’m trying to think.”

“Think about what? I like to think. I think all the time. Like about butterflies and unicorns and math. Math is a fun game. When I’m in school I’m going to be so excited. I think I’ll wear my purple dress for the first day. Can I wear my necklace? Do you think that purple is pretty? We have the same favorite colors. When it’s raining, what color is the ocean?”

“Please! Please, honey. I need to focus.” I pulled into a gas station.

“Off route…”

I threw the GPS and her smug little British accent to the floor of Minnie.


A girl stood outside the gas station. She wore a smock that matched the sign. I assumed she worked there.

“Hi,” I said, rolling down my window. “Do you know where Kalkaska Church of Christ is?”

“You know, there was this guy looking for that church yesterday,” she said, hiding her cigarette behind her back.

“Oh. Well, that’s great.” I looked at her. A little afraid that she would ignite. “So, could you please tell me where it is?”

“Nope. Sorry.” She smiled.

“Well, do you know where South Cedar Street is?”

“Yeah. No. I don’t know.”

“In 100 feet turn right.” Stupid GPS.

“Great. No problem. Thanks.” I pulled away.

“I liked her hair,” my daughter said. “What was she hiding behind her back? Why do people suck on those things? I like to use straws when I drink milk. That chocolate milk was good. I think I want some for lunch….”

“HONEY! Please…”

I drove. The GPS yelled at me. I drove past that ridiculous funeral home over…

And over…

And over….


Finally, I pulled over into the parking lot of a different church to call my Mom (who is the keeper of all knowledge and facts).

She didn’t answer her phone.

Or her work phone.

I left a voice mail.

And kept driving.

45 minutes before my workshop started.

I found a woman walking to her mailbox. She seemed nice.

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “Gosh, that church moved, dontcha know. They’re in this brand new building. Just beautiful. So, you gotta go that way, then the other way. Then I think you gotta make a right and left before that one street. Okay?”

I nodded. Then realized that I didn’t really listen to her at all.

“Thanks!” I drove away.

“No, Mom! She said to turn right…I’m kind of sure.” My daughter usually has a solid memory.

Maybe she didn’t listen to the lady either.

“Off route! OFF ROUTE!!!!” My GPS was about to have a panic attack.

I pulled over. Called my mom again.

“Well, I sent you the directions to the new building,” she said.

“Yeah. I’m sure you did.” I wasn’t in the mood to admit that I probably deleted that email.

“Then why can’t you find it?” She knew. She wanted me to admit it.

“I don’t know. Can you please tell me the address?”

“Just a minute.”

40 minutes before I needed to speak.

“Okay. Ready? Do you have a piece of paper?”

She told me the address. I entered it into the frazzled GPS. Thanked my mom.

“In 400 feet turn left.” The GPS reclaimed her stiff upper lip. Good old gal.

Well, at least I thought she was good.

Until she led me into a cemetery.

“Am I in the Twilight Zone?” I asked.

“Yeah,” one of my boys said. “I think so.”

He’s four.

My daughter started to cry. “This isn’t fun anymore. Where’s the trout?”

“In 100 feet turn right.” Seriously. I detected malice  in the GPS’s voice.

She wanted me to turn right into a headstone.

I made sure to turn her off before throwing her to the floor that time.

Maybe she was just upset that I made her work while the Olympics were in her hometown.

“Okay. Don’t cry. We’ll get there,” I said.

My little girl didn’t stop crying. Heck. I didn’t even believe myself.

We turned around. Drove out of the cemetery just as the grave digger dude was driving in with a back-hoe.

At least I assume that’s who he was.

But one never knows in a small, Northern Michigan town.

I turned left. Then right. Then that way and before the highway. Another way.

Sorry. I wasn’t even paying attention to my own directions there.

Somehow, though, we made it.

Pulled into a parking spot. Breathed deeply.

25 before my workshop.

“Mom! Hey, Mom!” my daughter sang, unbuckling her seat belt. “That was the best adventure ever!”

Gotye. Big Bird. Chocolate milk. Giant trout. English GPS. Girl at the gas station. Funeral home. Cemetery. Grave digger dude (hopefully). Arriving at the destination. Kalkaska.


It was an adventure.

An adventure for champions.



19 Comments on “Adventure for Champions

  1. Loved the story and I can just see you and the kids now! Yep, gals tend to get lost (with the best ones) but we’re not afraid to stop and ask for directions. I’m sure Jeff and Erin could relate some grand adventures we took; like the trip to Washington D.C., the Smithsonian museum, or the Springport race track over on the east side of MI. No, we didn’t end up in the Atlantic Ocean as Tom feared but we did see the same cow 5 or 6 times on the way to the race track in Spring Port.


    • You know…I should write up the story of when Jeff got us lost on the way to our honeymoon. It was our first “married” argument. I still shake my head over that one! 🙂


  2. C’mon Susie… the church is across the road from the little league fields which are right before you get to the middle school which is before the road with the high school on it!!! I wish I were there to help you. Did you enjoy my hometown? 🙂


  3. LOL So sorry you’r GPS gal didn’t get our forwarding address, Susie. Glad you got to come to Kalkaska and share with the Northwomen!


  4. Susie, You never cease to make me smile.. well except when you make me cry. 🙂
    Thanks for the laughs!! I especially love Es run on verbal expressions. I just love how their stream of consciousness runs out of their brains through their mouths in one very long sentence.


  5. Oooooh Dear!! Did the kind people not give you an address? Is that not the thing to do over there?
    I feel your pain. I am VERY impressed. Travelling with children is an adventure in itself.
    And our car is called Sally.


  6. OK you need to read this one at writers’ group for Adam. Because it is funny, not sad. Except for the crying. Which I would have been doing by that point in the adventure. Love that little girl of yours! Great story!


  7. At least your GPS wasn’t outfitted with Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape voice and vocabulary. I think I would have been reduced to tears.


  8. Pingback: Dirty Laundry « susiefinkbeiner

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