Trying to make up for lost time, and not all that keen — no offense, Chicago — on driving through the Windy City, Ace and I strayed from John Steinbeck’s route again and got from Michigan to Wisconsin by ferry boat.
Had we driven, circumnavigating Lake Michigan, it would have been 275 miles, about about five hours and nearly a tank of gas. Instead, we rode in relative comfort on the two-and-a-half hour trip across Lake Michigan — he in the car, me in a cushy seat.
It came with a price though — $92 for the car and $85 for me. Ace rode free, as dogs do on the Lake Express.
By taking the high-speed ferry from Muskegon to Milwaukee, we bypassed Chicago, where Steinbeck boarded Charley at a kennel and spent a few days with his wife at the Ambassador Hotel.
I, having no spouse with whom to rendezvous, didn’t even consider replicating Steinbeck’s stay there. The Ambassador runs $139 to $309 a night, and allows only small pets.
The Lake Express seemed pretty dog friendly — although pets are not allowed in the ferry’s seating area, or on the deck. They are welcome in the passenger lounges in the terminals at both ends of the trip, and they are permitted to stay in the car during the crossing.
While Coast Guard regulations require all windows to be rolled up, that doesn’t seem to be too strictly enforced. In fact, a member of the ferry crew suggested I leave the window cracked, and, after meeting him through the window, was also kind enough to promise to check in on Ace from time to time.
The ferry has kennels on board, available for free on a first come, first served basis — but I figured Ace would feel safer and more comfortable in the car, as it has become his primary home over the last five months.
I, meanwhile, took a seat and worked on my laptop until the ferry got out of port. Once it did, the waters were a little rough — enough to keep me from working or reading. It was, however, just the right amount of slosh and sway to fall asleep to. So I did.
The ferry travels at about 35 miles per hour, making going on the top deck, at least on this day, a little too cold and windy to be enjoyed. It doesn’t have the romance of other ferries I’ve been on — at least I didn’t see it — and is more like a trip on Amtrak, only with no stops and side-to-side sway.
I’m told the ride can get quite hairy during bad weather; fortunately, though, we only had some “slight chop,” as the captain put it, and it got smoother once we were halfway across the lake.
Not too long after that, the crew member I’d met when boarding came and sat down across from me, asking questions about Ace and our trip. She reported that he was watching everything intently down in the cargo area, and admitted that she’d been sneaking over to pet him and give him treats.
There I’d been, snoring away for most of the trip, while Ace was working his magic a deck below — from the sounds of things flirting up a storm, all but conducting a shipboard romance. If I took a few tips from him (he has always had a way with the ladies), maybe I’d have someone to meet at the Ambassador Hotel, preferably someone who could afford it.
By the time the ferry docked in Milwaukee, we were back in the car and waiting to pull off. I was looking for the cigarette I was anxious to smoke once we cleared the boat. Ace was sticking his head out the window, desperately looking one way and then the other for his new crew member friend.
I didn’t bother telling him she was wearing a wedding ring.