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Book details
  • Genre:BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY
  • SubGenre:Personal Memoirs
  • Language:English
  • Pages:120
  • eBook ISBN:9798350953589
  • Paperback ISBN:9798350953572

Letters Home

A Memoir of Michigan's "Up North" Country

by Tom Leonard

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Overview
A true coming-of-age story of the 1960s: two mid-teenage boys undertake an eight-hundred-mile bicycle travel adventure through northern Michigan wilderness. They visit all three of the upper Great Lakes. They encounter, now vanished, remnants of Michigan history and view firsthand the changing face of their home state. When they return home they have learned powerful lessons about friendship, self-reliance, and the world they live in.
Description
A memoir of a long-distance bicycle trip Leonard and his best friend undertook in July and August of 1965, when they were fifteen years old, riding and camping from Lansing, Michigan, through the northern Lower Peninsula and into the Upper Peninsula to Marquette, then Menominee, then across Lake Michigan by ferry to Frankfort, Michigan, and back home. Eight hundred ground miles were covered by bicycle alone, and more than a hundred additional miles by ship. The author describes in considerable detail the friends' adventures and misadventures, routes and detours, geographical and historic features, some local history, and the people who offered them help and encouragement along the way. Telling his story in a sympathetic, often comical style, the author recalls the physical rigors and hardships endured, the sacrifices made, the mechanical failures and other obstacles overcome. He describes camps made in state park campgrounds and back yards, rooms in seedy hotels, and an overnight stay in one of the world's most spectacular and prestigious resort hotels, the renowned Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island—a national historic landmark. He documents a stormy nighttime crossing of Lake Michigan on the Arthur K. Atkinson, a car-train ferry ship serving the historic Ann Arbor Railroad line—all consigned now to the realm of memory. The memoir recounts how the boys' companionship is ultimately shattered by a heartbreaking mechanical breakdown, and how the author was forced to complete the final 150-mile homeward journey alone. In a bittersweet epilogue, the author speculates how and whether such an adventure would succeed if it were to happen today. He lays much of the credit for its success at the door of the helpful strangers who befriended them. Finally, he reflects on the meaning of the experience (and the friendship) within the context of his life, from the vantage point of almost sixty years' time.
About the author
Tom Leonard is a lifelong resident of the upper Great Lakes basin. After graduating from Michigan State University, he became a social worker specializing in services to the mentally ill. Changing careers in midlife, he emerged as one of Michigan's leading advocates for environmental causes. He lobbied for public policy improvements in air, land, and water use. He defended wildlife habitat and was an early proponent of climate protections and sustainable business practices. Now he is a memoirist and writer of fiction. His work examines the American mythos. Legally blind, he writes with the help of assistive technology. He lives with his wife Susan and their two cats, Ursula and Theodore.