It’s a different world up north — sort of

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

I ventured out of my little corner of the world for the first time in awhile this past weekend (my whirlwind day trip to Washington, D.C., in June doesn’t count) and we made the trip to Houghton Lake for a couple of days.

I haven’t been to Houghton Lake since I was about 10 years old. My sister lived there for a few years when I was growing up and we’d spend a few weeks in the summer at her place right on the lake.

Fishing, swimming, searching for Petosky stones and riding on her pontoon boat were highlights of those times. But going back there after all these years was an eye-opening experience.

First of all, Houghton Lake grew up in the past 35 years. It’s no longer the sleepy resort town I recall. The main strip is now a five lane road with all the modern amenities like fast food, department stores and nice hotels. Many of the old, hometown businesses are still there, but things have changed.

I talked to the owner of the Dairy Queen there as we stood under the awning in front of the store and ate our ice cream during a downpour and he apologized for not having a drivethrough. But he said the road has encroached so much on his property the long-standing ice cream shop has no room to expand. To me, there’s nothing wrong with getting your ice cream at the window and eating it under an awning or at a picnic table. We can get drivethrough ice cream at home, this is a vacation.

Homes around the lake have changed a lot since I was there last. Gone, in many cases, are the little cottages which once dotted the shoreline.

Many have been replaced by big, luxury homes which occupy much of the space they’re built on. My sister’s old place is one of them, torn down to make way for something “ bigger and better.”

Roads and traffic have also changed a lot.

The laid back resort town atmosphere has given way to the hustle and bustle we are used to here. We actually saw a local tailgating and blaring his horn at another driver (and us too, I believe, since we were sort of in his way) who was puttering along. Sorry, we’re tourists and we don’t know where we’re going. Though I suppose the locals get sick of tourists driving slow and holding them up — even though it is the tourist industry that supports that area.

Perhaps the most amusing thing I saw were road signs warning of “Rough Roads Ahead” and so we braced for the worst — only to discover a couple of bumpy patches in the asphalt. If we used those signs in the Flint area, you’d see them every 50 feet, but it was polite to warn us they were coming up.

The trip was, overall, a lot of fun and I found the area there to be enjoyable and quaint. I just hope Houghton Lake and the surrounding area can hold onto that resort town atmosphere awhile longer, despite the rest of the world encroaching upon it.

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