I am a fully paid-up member of the travelling public.
So, when something interesting crosses my path, I am entitled to stop and check it out.
When I was travelling north from The Soo near the end of June, I checked out Agawa Crafts at Pancake Bay. I fought my way through scores of fellow travelers to buy a book and an ice cream. At Old Woman Bay, I checked out the cliff face on Lake Superior to see if the old woman was home. Not that day. Chatted up an older couple who were frolicking on the immense sand beach. Few people know about this sacred spot.
At Wawa I had to drive into town because the store would not come to me. Still, hundreds
of people every day find Young’s General Store and linger longer than they imagined they would.
I knew about Young’s General Store, so I deliberately broke my trip to enjoy it once again. How my fellow travelers found it, is beyond me.
It is the dream of every highway community in the country to compel the travelling public to stop and buy stuff. Some communities, such as Wawa and Pancake Bay, succeed big time. Others fail big time, even if thousands of people are driving by every single day.
Young’s General Store is a combination curiosity shop and museum. Before you step up to the front porch, there are dozens of artifacts to draw your attention. And, if you’re so inclined, a couple of old-fashioned privies to relieve your most pressing needs.
Inside is a wonderland of useful stuff mixed with a hodge-podge of never-buy-
it-in-a-million-years bric-a-brac. You edge yourself carefully down the crowded aisles because you don’t want to break anything that you never planned on buying. When you come across a bear climbing up a pole, you ascertain quickly that it poses no threat.
If you feel you have a thirst, there are beverages. If you feel a hunger pang, there is every kind of confection including a stocked hard ice cream bar.
Outside again, I wandered through an acre of artifacts which were silently succumbing to the weather and neglect . Most of the stuff I couldn’t even put a name to, but it was still interesting.
Before I left, I bought one item. I didn’t need it, didn’t want it, but I felt I owed the proprietors something. I bought a jar of Backroad Country gooseberry jam. I don’t recall every having eaten gooseberry jam, but I am open to a new experience.
Young’s General Store cannot be accused of being parochial. It probably imports most of its stuff from far-flung corners of the globe such as Dhaka, Bangladesh and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The gooseberry jam came from Amish Wedding Foods in Millersburg, Ohio.
You can’t buy gooseberry jam at Old Woman Bay. You can’t buy anything at all at Old Woman Bay. All you can do is enjoy the magical place and, if you know it, recall its history. If the mixture of sun and cloud cover is just right, you will see the old woman’s face in the cliff face.
Those colleges that are turning out professional tourism coordinators ̶ they should have field trips built into the curricula. Compel students to visit highly successful tourist businesses such as Agawa Crafts and Young’s General Store. Compel them to visit magical places such as Chippewa Falls and Old Woman Bay. And while they’re visiting the latter, their assignment should be to design successful marketing strategies for them.
Compel the travelling public to stop a while.
I’m not so sure, though.
I kind of like a magical place without too many people.