Every year, about this time, we get to go on a walkabout.
Now, this is not in the traditional Aussie-aboriginal sense, you understand. That s all about dreamtime, prolonged wandering through a sizzling outback, and sleeping rough under the stars.
No. This is definitely walkabout home-style when the family comes up and takes over the cabin in the north woods, while we have a whole week off to do anything, go anywhere.
Three years ago we packed up the Honda CR-V and drove all of 100 miles up the road to Les Cheneaux. That little group of islands on Lake Huron s northern rim. Around Cedarville and Hessel.
We stayed in a lakeside 50s-style resort, went kayaking with an eco-tourist guide, and explored an area that takes its conservation very seriously.
The following year we ferried for two hours into Lake Michigan, out of Charlevoix, to little Beaver Island, one-time kingdom of eccentric breakaway Mormon leader, King James Jesse Strang.
We had rooms in a lovely lakeside lodge, discovered the island s flora and fauna with a local biologist, and took part in rowdy sing-alongs at a local Irish bar in St James, the island s only town.
Last year, it was the Sleeping Bear Dunes, with an overnight in a pretty little bed and breakfast in Beulah. And then several days with high school friends who have a lakefront perch north of Northport at the tip of the Leelenau Peninsula where we ll be spending next year s walkabout minding the Grand Traverse Lighthouse.
Just as well for Lake Michigan sailors, perhaps, that it s now an automatic light, and all we have to do is to show people around, tend the gift shop and mow the grass.
Anyway, this August our hearts were set on the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, after reading some most appealing reviews. But when, after two weeks, we still hadn t heard from the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce, which had promised to send us their complete information package, we got a bit miffed and changed course to a complete circumnavigation of Georgian Bay by car, of course.
We keyed on the town of Tobermory because it brought back some wonderful memories of a stay on the Scottish Isle of Mull. But then, in one of those curious epiphanous moments, induced perhaps by the alignment of the planets, we switched plans once again and decided to visit the Canadian Maritimes, and Nova Scotia, in particular.
It was a destination that we d often looked at before, and we already had several guidebooks, but for some reason we d never actually made the trip.
So with just a week before our departure date, an urgent call was made to our travel agent, who snagged us last-minute seats on Northwest s Airlink to Halifax, a rental car for a week, and a room for the first and last nights at the downtown Cambridge Suites.
As our guidebooks were also by now seriously outdated, we also went online and ordered up speedy delivery of Frommer s Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and Lonely Planet s Canada s Maritime Provinces.
On the appointed day, and after slaloming our way through orange barrels down to Detroit, our plane took off, only slightly late, from Detroit s McNamara Terminal destination Halifax, just 2 hours away.
Our arrival there was less than auspicious. The rain was pelting down and the sea wind blowing hard. We had an unfamiliar car a midsize Pontiac Grand Am an airport in the act of closing down, and 40 minutes of uncharted landscape ahead.
But, apart from a few white-knuckle moments, we made it safely, and less than an hour later we were sitting pretty in Maxwell s Plum, a noisy, gregarious student bar, with peanut shells covering the floor, confronting enormous platters of fresh Nova Scotian fish and chips and a pitcher of locally brewed Alexander Keith s Indian Pale Ale.
And thus, in the province of doers and dreamers did our own Maritime walkabout begin.
How appropriate is that!